Every parent searches for signs, even as we joke about it. Argumentative? She’ll be a lawyer. Strong arm? Decorate with NFL wallpaper! My daughter glows when singing, dancing and reciting lines. My son, meanwhile, finds himself in a quandary.
His lifelong ambition has been pro baseball. Lately he suspects he might not take Jason Varitek’s place behind home plate one day. It is possible he could end up there, but there have long been signs his life could well take a different path.
He doesn't play against the backstop every day. His friends are not the ones whose worlds center on sports; they play instruments, do magic tricks, make up games, read books, play Risk and play on computers. This summer he chose to sail instead of extending the baseball season. He loves baseball, deeply, but it does not gnaw at him until he cannot ignore it.
What does gnaw at him, whether he knows it or not? He art-directs casual photographs: “Take the picture of me in my catcher’s gear from the other side of the fence at the field. I’ll push up the mask, hold the chain link, look into the distance.” Best photo I ever took of him. He happily dished out long-hoarded cash to co-purchase a digital movie camera and editing software with me. He plays drums. He may not dedicate daily practice to syncopation, but he quickly figured out how to play “Who Are You” like Keith Moon, and he got up on stage with a real band once to jam. There is more, but you get the idea.
When I was his age, I wanted to play Carnegie Hall. My piano teacher smiled, in private telling my father my love of music would be lifelong and my talents lay elsewhere, an insight shared with me only after I quit lessons. In high school, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I studied biology, chemistry and trig, and did a fascinating, bittersweet internship at an animal hospital.
Decades later, as I write this post, a red binder sits near my feet in a milk crate shelf against the wall. The oldest piece in it is a two-act Easter play I wrote at seven. There is an elementary school fiction competition entry, and a fairy tale I wrote at thirteen. Pages and pages, handwritten and typewritten, long before computers. Sometimes, perhaps, it is clearer from the start than we know.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007