The Meaning of Life (4/1/2013)

So this is a bit of a counterpoint to last week’s gloom about dementia and the inevitability of people you love coming to an end. This is about wonder.

Number two sithling is a bit of a charmer and a bit of a fireball. He’s seven and lives entirely in the moment. Not all children are like this. Certainly number one was more measured even at that age, but for number two the world is either one vast apocalyptic calamity as far as the eye can see or else it’s a single massive candy-park entirely made of awesome. I rather envy him how everything is all right here, right now. He’s also disgustingly cute, with big brown eyes and the sort of lashes that women kill for and dimples when he smiles that annihilate all cynical thought within fifty paces.

It is entirely possible that some degree of parental bias crept into that last sentence.

Anyway, the sithlings and I went and found one of these leisure centre swimming pools with windy-bendy waterslides. Number one sithling has much love for waterslides and so do I, but number two was scared of them, and since he’s too young to leave on his own that’s always been the end of that. This time we showed up to find the place half empty. We could see right away that the queues were going to be really short. It took a while but eventually we persuaded number two to at least climb the tower so number one could slide. He wasn’t much impressed, but it was obvious what was going to happen next, because when you’re a younger sibling, there’s no way in hell your big brother can be allowed to be better at anything. So we watch number one sithling vanish into a tunnel and number two sithling asks if maybe he and I can slide together, and I say OK, and do we get up to give it a go, only as we’re about to slide, he lets go without me and he’s off, and I hesitate and then I know that if I follow now, he’s going to be floundering in the water right there at the exit and I’m going to hit him like an express train and it’ll be all kinds of bad. So I wait, ears pricked for the terrified wails coming out of the tunnel. Nothing. As soon as it’s safe, I dive in. At the bottom I find him waiting by the splash-pool with a bemused look on his face. No sad-clown face at least (he can still do the sad-clown face when he’s really upset) but I’m fully expecting to take both barrels of parental guilt as he demands to know why I didn’t do what I said and slide with him and keep him safe.

Instead I get the big wide eyes and the baffled what-the-hell-just-happened look, and everything hangs in the balance.

“You OK?” I ask. He nods, so bite the bullet. “How was it.”

And that’s the moment. The moment when his face lights up and a huge grin rips across his face with all three dimples turned up to ten. “It was awesome.”

We spend the rest of the of the afternoon running up the tower and sliding down. And it was, indeed, awesome, but what I still carry with me is the moment he lit up. The moment of discovery when what was forbidden or barred or too frightening to approach suddenly snap-changes into a whole new world of possibility. When I was younger, I used to think the meaning of life lay in those moments, in crossing the boundaries of my own fears, but now I think I only had it half right. It lies, truly, in watching someone else take to the wing and knowing you had a part in showing them their possibilities.

We should give each other wings, not cages. And water-slides too. Because water-slides are indeed awesome.

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3 Responses to “The Meaning of Life (4/1/2013)”

  1. Marion Pitman says:

    That’s excellent. Thank you for that.

  2. E L Jasmine says:

    How unfortunately for me as a child growing up to have never been on a water slide? Well granted, there are none in my country where I live, so not much else I can do about that situation.

  3. Stephen says:

    Really? Where do you live?

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