Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Magic of Boats Without Motors

If boastful this seems then boastful it might be, in which case I just ask for forgiveness. It will pass soon enough, for he has grown up so fast.

What did you think? the coach asked.

The boy and I were sitting on the deck by the lake — he putting on his shoes after having finished his rowing routine with three other boys in a quad, I stretching in a puddle of sweat after a run with the dog.

I noticed that he was in the bow of the quad when they returned. And being a parent, I confess I took some pride in that but quickly contained it and returned to my stretching. Now, evidently the coach was wanting to see how things had gone.

How things had gone?

It was good, he said.

What is this it, I wondered, keeping my nose as close to my knees as I could (which is to say, not very close). Was there something after all to where he sat in the boat?

Thanks for sitting at the bow, the coach said.

Thanks for asking me sit there, he answered.

And then they talked about the logistics of the row, about who had helped and who had hindered and how things get weird this close to the end of the semester.

Hey, can you help me over here? the coach asked as she walked down to the water.

He stood up and looked at me and pointed in that direction and mouthed some silent words, as if to say, I'm going over there. I smiled and nodded, and he walked away. I turned my head, and you know something silly happened. I got tears in my eyes.

Oh, for heaven's sake. You got tears in your eyes!?

I did, and you know I think I know why. Remember that time when he was little and wouldn't take a shower? And remember those times when he wouldn't eat his vegetables? And the kid with the glasses on the playground? And when he broke the rocking chair? And the essays he puts off until the night before? And the deadlines he forgets until you pester him about them? Remember all those little things that didn't seem so little at the time? Do you remember worrying about them and if they were data points on a trend line that you as a parent were just too blind to see? And do you remember how you thought that boats without motors, like horses, seem to work magic on people?

Sometimes when I show up at this place when the kids are coming in off the water, I wonder where that magic is, why hasn't it worked. But here I was witnessing it. He sits in the bow. The coach consults with him and looks to him for help getting the dock back in order.

That's why I got tears in my eyes.

Oh, for heaven's sake.

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