Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Who Are You?

by Hannah

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.


kristen spina said...

Oh Hannah, I love this post. I also wrote many many pages as a child, but never once considered I'd become a writer. I wanted to be a buyer for a department store and travel all over the world and be entertained by famous designers. Thank god I was saved from my own ambition and wound up here!

Lisa said...

I love this too. I always wanted to be a writer, all the way through high school and then -- it wasn't practical, it didn't seem realistic, where would the job security be -- etc. After working those kinds of jobs for my whole adult life, and getting to the point where I can start thinking about shifting gears I was thinking about all kinds of ways to do something more meaningful for about two years and it was frustrating because I'm interested in so many things. Finally, it hit me that it was writing and always has been writing. Writing allows me to do something I love and it also lets me explore just about anything on the planet!

Lisa said...

Oh, and I'll definitely report back on To the Lighthouse -- I didn't feel too bad about admitting I hadn't read any HP, but it's hard to admit I've never read any Virginia Woolf.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Okay, you made me cry. Happy? This was lovely, Hannah.

Larramie said...

While our hearts always know the destination, it's our minds that may lead us off course for a while. After all life -- like writing -- is a journey.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

You were going to be a vet; I was going ot be a surgeon. (But, of course, I thought I could go to med school by majoring in English!) Thank God I bombed my first college chemistry class and my mom had saved all those notebooks full of poems and plays and stories that were shoved under my bed.

What was it John Lennon said--life's what happens while you're making other plans?

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Lennon was a very wise man, wasn't he?! Funny how often the truth was there all along. Glad to know so many of you also had other plans even as the pages piled up under your own beds!