Thursday, February 05, 2009

His Name Is My Name, Too

Last Saturday we took the kids to the Museum of Science in Boston, where we have a membership. They have a "Discovery Center" where the younger children can play, and that's always a favorite with The Boy.

In the Discovery Center The Boy got into a box of magnetic construction toys. When he resurfaced, he stood up holding a blue plastic rod with a ball stuck to the top. The Wife saw him first, and she wondered if he'd made a lollipop or an ice cream cone.
Turns out she was wrong on both counts: it was a microphone. The Boy raised it up under his chin and broke out into song — not any of the Beatles songs I've been impressing upon him lately (though he professes to like "Baby, You're a Rich Man" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" very much). No, the song that leaped to mind for The Boy was "John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmidt." Of course, right? And before he'd hit the first "Jingle," he was marching, high-stepping across the room, waving his free hand in the air, bringing down the house.

This was pure impulse. This was a little boy doing just what he wanted to do at that moment, without any self-editing, any regard for context, propriety, dignity, the sensibilities of anyone else in the room — all these things that preoccupy adults all day long to the point of paralysis. He radiated exuberance and was consumed in The Moment. He was joyful.

As a rule I can't abide listening to parents go on about how their children "changed their lives," how "nothing is ever the same," and so on. When I didn't have kids of my own, the ranting, the fire in these people's eyes — it all made me think these parents had joined some kind of cult. And now that I am a parent, I don't particularly need to have what I feel all day long described to me.

But despite these reservations (and this is sort of the gist of this post, anyway: that as adults we're brutalized all the time by reservations) I've been meaning all week to write about "John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmidt," because I don't think any adult can remember that glorious time in our lives when we were able to experience that purest distillation of joy that comes from just not giving a crap what anyone else thinks.

It's a beautiful thing, that kind of joy, and I hope The Boy hangs on to it for as long as he can.

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