As a writer, I often retreat physically. As a parent, retreat is impossible. I am always being drawn out of my lair. Even though I like to practice benign neglect and don’t chaperone my sons through their free time unless absolutely required, my children are constantly catapulting me into the world.
Part of it is their sheer physicality. Galumphing and noodle-limbed, I can’t resist watching them move. Yesterday was a school holiday so we went to the gym to play basketball. For some reason, the gym was populated by a dozen members of the Chicago Bulls. This is only a slight exaggeration. Picture a handful of ill-coordinated small boys (my own included) playing with a crew of teenage smooth-shooters. It was pretty hilarious. At one end, there was my youngest son ducking and swerving as if caught in a bombing raid. At the other end, there was my eldest flailing his arms around like a crazy semaphore flagman. (Eventually my eldest stopped moving entirely and just stood in the middle of the gym, slack-jawed with eyebrows hiked to his hairline.) I was dumbstruck, too. For the next hour, I sat back and watched the big boys leap around while a booming hiphop mix played in the background. I’m going to go out on a hyperbolic limb and say it was transcendent. Really, it choked me up—the dancerly grace of the young men, the buoyant rhythm of their high-tops on the court, the arcing arrow’s flight of the ball… What especially got to me were the faces of the young boys in the room, each one tracking the big boys as if they were watching wizards in motion, or dreaming of themselves in ten years time.
I spend so much time with words, I can’t tell you how transporting it is to watch things that are essentially wordless. Yesterday was a reminder that an active body is as worth admiring as an active mind.
(Picture: “Leap into the Void” by Yves Klein, 1960.)