We were playing together in the apartment we lived in for 2 years between Carbondale and the Evanston house. Mom was getting dinner together. You were, I think, 3 years old and we hadn’t been living in Evanston for very long.
We had a toy, some kind of ball. I don’t remember much about it, but I remember that I was bouncing it on the living room floor and it was behaving strangely. I found this greatly amusing and laughed with you–again, here was a moment when we were just being present, together. Nothing special, nothing transcendent, just the two of us finding this ball really amusing. Something happened that distracted me and I walked off. When I came back, you made sure you had my attention. You picked up the ball and tried bouncing it again. You wanted to reproduce the strange behavior.
But the ball wasn’t cooperating. You grew frustrated, almost panicked. Eventually, you melted down and wept.
At the time, what I knew but you didn’t know, was that you weren’t really trying to make the ball do what you wanted it to do, you were trying to make us laugh together again. You were crying, not because the ball died, but because the fun died and you wanted it back.
At the time, I thought it was cute the way you didn’t understand that a ball doesn’t make fun. Really young kids always find something fun or funny and then want to do it a million times. They don’t understand that repeating something over and over again strips a moment of its spontaneity, and it loses something. That’s where my mind was. And I wasn’t wrong.
But where my mind is today as I recall this, is on the obvious desperation with which you fought to get me back. Having me present with you was so important, that when you thought you’d lost it because of some stupid, jerky, misbehaving ball, you were devastated.
Somehow I missed that. But I get it now. Right now, I get it. And I’m here.