Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A million splashes


Our new place is a short walk to a park with a fishing pond. As we walk along the road to the pond, Addison and I fill our pockets with little flat stones. Skipping stones is a new skill that Addison is keen to learn. As I skip a rock, she counts the splashes: "One . . . two . . . threefourfivesix!" And when she tosses her own rock like a shot-putter hurling a cannonball, she waits for the single massive splash and shouts, "Whoa! A MILLION splashes!"

We go to the pond almost every day. I scan the ground for likely candidates as we walk. My heart skips a beat when I pick up a really quality skipping rock, something with a comfortable heft and a nice place to curl my finger around it. The kind of skipping rock that's so beautifully formed, so perfect for its purpose, that you save it for last and then don't want to use it after all. Because in the end, the very best skipping rock is the one that skips the farthest and then sinks into the depths, beyond recovery. Such great potential paired with the heartbreak of such a singular moment, a brief triumph that can never be repeated.

As I watched my daughter bend down to pick up stones in the dirt shoulder of the road, I considered her little self. So perfectly formed. And her hand fits so perfectly in mine. I kind of just want to keep her in my pocket and never let her go.

But really (I have to keep telling myself this), raising a kid is like having a perfect skipping stone 
that's MAGIC. You throw it out, and it skips incredibly, beautifully across the surface. And then it comes BACK. It always comes back. So long as you've treasured it, cradled it in the palm of your hand, loved it with all you have. So long as you pause a moment before launch, breathless, preparing yourself mentally for all that will come. If your throw is true and pure, imbued with the experience of many past successes and many hours of practice. If you've earned the stone's love, it comes back.

And then, one day, the stone will learn that it can throw itself. All those times when you launched it out there with your heart in your throat -- they were all for this purpose. So that someday, even when you're not there, the stone will keep throwing itself out there, and keep skipping gracefully, magnificently across the surface, and never sink to the bottom.

"Whoa! A MILLION splashes!"




10 comments:

  1. What a wonderful, well-written piece. The metaphor at the heart of this is solid and lovely and, well, I wish I'd thought of it. Very nice prose. You're doin' it right, Neal.

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    1. Thanks, Bill. Sometimes the sappy just flows right out of me like . . . sap. But sap can be truth, too.

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  2. I read this and wish that you had more time to write and draw. It's so lovely and worthwhile. It makes me think of so many "splashes" our girl has already made in our world and how many more she can make in the broader world. I just hope she can stop trying to launch herself too soon -- how do we get across that she's only 3?

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    1. Somebody should totally pay me to craft silly comics about my daughter. I think you should give me a stipend.

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  3. Captured so well. Reminds me of a favourite quote: "A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing in mind the image of a cathedral." Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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    1. That's a great quote. I don't know who Antoine is, but now I'm googling him.

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  4. I am feeling awe and wonder at your ability with words. Also, at capturing those feelings that so many of us as parents but can't put it into words. Even though my sons are now grown and using those wings I so carefully fostered, I know they love me and will come "skipping" back.

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    1. Donna, thanks so much! There's something therapeutic about carefully trying to put something to words after spending most of the day scrambling to put out metaphorical fires and trying to keep a belligerent little person alive.

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  5. I just found your blog today care of Ask Your Dad's share. Now I'm binge reading every blog entry and comic. Thanks for this, really. Your writing voice is so close to my internal monologue that I can digest so much so quickly - and it all rings true for me. My daughter is only a year and a half and I can't wait to have the interactions that you have with your daughter. I look forward to reading everything.

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    1. Devlin, thanks so much. It's cool to get this kind of feedback, and justifies the many hours it takes me to complete something and post it, time in which I guess I could have been building a hovercraft or something. But we all make sacrifices . . .

      Anyway, congrats on dadhood, and best of luck with your own little one!

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