As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m working toward licensure to fost/adopt parent — I want to be a dad. Things seem to be going well with the new agency. During the homestudy interview my contact kept looking though the paperwork for anything amiss, at me to see if I was furtively hiding dismembered body parts or whatever in random closets, and eventually adopted a kind of “what the hell” expression — as in “why did they boot you from the game at the five yard line?”
Not sure, and not really relevant; it’s just background. A few months back, hanging out at the locally owned café, I made the acquaintance of the weekend dishwasher, a teen kid with whom I connected, entirely and totally, after about nine to eleven seconds of conversation. The interdigitation was strong and a little eerie in its depth.* He’s how I hope my future son will be, very bright, very sweet and just a good kid all around.
Where he works there isn’t a pair of dishgloves that fit him — the set there is too small. So when he takes them off at the end of his shift, they wrinkle and fold back on themselves, and end up in a disordered heap on the rack, in a way certain to irritate the store’s owner. He can’t help it, and being a teen is a bit scatterbrained, so he tends to forget the state of the gloves.
A few weeks back I was in the café, and there were the gloves, disheveled and hopeless in a rubbery heap where he’d left them the night before. I smiled to see them, thinking of the bundle of energy and life that had touched them last, thinking of nothing else in particular, and then realized that what I was seeing was a deep lesson — that a rumpled pair of gloves would be meaningless, anonymous, just a bit of noise to most observers; but they meant something to me — they were a cipher whose code I could read — and that the world is actually full of this noise.
Everywhere we look there are little personal traces of identity, little nudges of the set and setting we can’t see, but which are beacons in the eyes of those who can see them, signs of the presence of a friend, a mind, a beloved one whose shape and energy in the world has made the world a better place. A known place, a place full of anonymous graffiti that announces each individual reality. Monuments as genuine as an edifice, as ephemeral as a heartbeat.
All around us, if we could but decode the message, is a signal of love, a constant low key reality that allows our separate perceptions to interconnect and enmesh in unexpected, hidden ways. Love. Love. This world is alight, is glowing, is radiant with hidden love.
And then I realized that my boy, my future son, was leaving these same marks in the world right now, that I might have already walked past them, seen them but not remarked on them, observed but not known that the love of my life, the future unknown-as-yet treasure of my heart had left bits of himself for me to see, like a sock tossed casually on the sofa cushion or a smear of mud on the soap bar in the downstairs bathroom — and that every one of us, every life that we are, every person we know, was once this sweet little bubble of tears and smiles, laughter and anger, joy and fear we all are, and the very real personal child we used to be is still there; children don’t grow up, don’t lose their sweetness. Their parents just lose the illusion of what they wanted their kindergarteners to be when they’re in their thirties.
And you know, that’s not the fault of the children.
It’s strange, you know, to love a pair of gloves so much.
* I have this way with kids, especially the ones who are supposed to be trouble. It’s spooky to watch. It’s spooky for me, and I’ve had it all my life; it’s spooky for the parents — and it’s even spooky for the kids. I’ve seen a few of them actively withdraw, wondering why the hell they like me so much, so fast. Talking to my mom about it a few months ago, I called myself a kid whisperer as a joke, but she said, “You are.”
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