May 24, 2006
Here is the thing nobody tells you about being a parent... well at least no one told me: One morning you will be up at the grim hour of 5:43AM and through a miasma of sleep you will see your smiling son pick up an apple with both hands and begin to eat it.
It is the detail of the hands that, in an instant, triggers a concentrated rush of memory. In a wink you are not some groggy 39 year old guy standing in his boxers in the middle of his kitchen watching his son eat an apple, you are a kid excited to be holding that sticky apple, turning it round and round with both hands as you nibble away the bitter skin to extract the sweetness inside. You are inside this moment and it conjures up an entire era you had long forgotten. The smell of your mother's kitchen. The brown carpets of the 70's. How you used to start eating apples standing up, but would eventually plop down cross-legged concentrating on the task at hand. Suddenly stingingly awake and awash in an extreme almost overwhelming empathy you feel very much alive. It is 5:46AM.
These leaps in time happen with discombobulating regularity and are always triggered by the tiniest things: our son waving his fingers against the fading light at bedtime just before he slips into a dream and the hand falls to the pillow, two kids on the playground crouched down over a fallen pigeon's egg, the collection of pine cones, or the way his mother holds his head comforting him when the world is not going his way. Each little flashback not only connects you to your kid reminding you to be a little more patient and a little less harried, it connects you to yourself, and that is the most surprising thing of all.