Thursday, June 20, 2013

Believe in Dragons

"Mom?" pipes my eleven-year-old from the back seat of the car. I am waiting at a stop light and idly inspecting my eyebrows in the rear-view mirror. The sunlight refracted through glass doesn't do them any favors. How wearying, the chronic need for maintenance of one's aging self.

"Hmm?" I murmur, while trying and failing to pluck a stray hair between my thumb and forefinger.

"You know what I love about summer?" he asks, leaning forward in his eagerness. "That the days go so slowly. There's so much time," he says, and sighs that sigh of his, the one that escapes when he's eating chocolate, or ice cream.

"Yes, I remember that feeling," I tell him, and I do. Summer days so long they sidled up to painful, boredom as infuriating as it was exhilarating. "Celebrate it - it doesn't last. The older you get, the faster time seems to move. It's Christmas. I blink. And it's Christmas again."

"Why is that?" he presses. He's not one to let things rest.

"Well...," I think. "Maybe it's because as we get older, we have a stronger sense of our own mortality. We're that much closer to the end of our lives. That, or maybe it's because adults always have so much to do. Empty hours, for us, are rare."

It's true, but there's more. I don't know how to reconcile how busy I am with the relentless sameness of the jobs I do. I've parented for quite a few years now, and sometimes I fear that if I have to figure out how one more dinner will find the table, I will scream and scream and scream some more.

But we march on, out of necessity and habit.


I find that I am unable to read fine print. I buy reading glasses with stronger and stronger magnifications. I wonder why one turns forty and on a dime loses close vision.  I know no one over forty who's exempt from this particular malady. Maybe the universe is telling the middle-aged something important:

Stop looking close. Start looking far.



We are nearing home, my son and I. He has lapsed into a contented, dreamy silence. What is he thinking about? The books yet read, games yet played, friends yet made, lakes yet swum, cotton candy yet eaten, fireflies yet caught?

I am despairing over our next meal. Do the children have to eat so much, and so often?

The little girl at the end of the street is standing in her front yard. Her arms are stretched high, her head tilted up toward June's sun. She is yelling. I open the window to listen.

"I do believe in dragons!" I hear. Her tone is fierce, brooking no dissent. She is preaching a sermon to the sky.

My son and I burst into laughter. The little girl has enchanted us both. "That's it!" I cry. "Time goes on forever as long as you believe in dragons."

My boy cocks his head, nods nearly imperceptibly. "That's actually true," he muses. "Serious-true, not just silly-true." We look at each other, silenced by the moment. Suddenly I want to cry, not sad tears but the tears that come from being moved so thoroughly that you are unable to keep yourself contained.

"The problem is," he finishes, "Once you've stopped believing in dragons, it's really hard to go back to believing in them." "Yes," I affirm, and our eyes meet again, acknowledging truths small and large.

My son tumbles out of the car in search of his basketball, and I lope into the house and set about making dinner, which just now does not feel like a chore. I am light. I am outside myself, imagining how it would feel to believe in dragons. I am looking far.


Hannah said...

Oh, Sarah. Now I'm all teary-eyed. This was just beautiful. One of your best pieces, I think.

Emily said...

If I were Molly Weasley, I would use my wand to set my drainboard to be self-emptying. That thing fills up way too fast.

Amanda said...

I loved this. These times, the seemingly unremarkable moments with a child that suddenly shit to something more, like spiritual marrow.

Fin said to me the other day, "If you hadn't come, you wouldn't have seen." So while we cannot sustain the belief like we did as children, these wrinkles in time and faith let us slip in and out. Thank you for sharing your dragons and tears with us.

alejna said...

Wow, did this ever resonate with me with where I am right now. I was just having a conversation with a friend about the passage of time, and how it goes too quickly as we get older. I was saying that I thought that a lot of it is because so much of each day, both time and energy, is spent doing things we must do but don't enjoy (food prep, laundry, dishes, and household and work obligations) that some part of us only wants to count the remainder, the time we spend engaging with things that feel more satisfying, as "real" time.

You know what else is funny? Just yesterday, Phoebe was telling me about the dragon she found in our neighbor's yard. She said it looks like a big rock, but it spoke to her in her heart, and she saw its muzzle and toes. She wanted me to believe in it with her, but I fear I disappointed. She could tell that I was really just playing along, and not believing in the dragon.

I envy the long hours and days of summer that she will have ahead while I seek to hoard my stolen minutes.

De said...

Once you've got the existence of the dragon in your mind, dive down into its smoking nostril into its belly and become the dragon - eternal, powerful beyond description, ageless - with eyes that see beyond the horizon.

Anonymous said...

Well said De. Beautiful piece.

Mary Gilmour said...

How true. And how beautiful. And after fifty years of running a house, I truly dread the dinner hour planning.

InTheFastLane said...

This is why Puff the Magic Dragon always makes me cry.

krista said...

sweet jesus. i just came back and reread this and for some reason it hit me harder than the first time. perhaps it is because that little girl sounds so much like my daughter. your son sounds like what i want my own kids to become. and i am turning 41 in eight days. wondering how the hell that can possibly be true when i just finally figured out puberty and fairy tales. sigh. your words are such a treat.

Yolanda said...

What an absolutely great piece of writing. With so many layers that hit me directly in the heart.