Thursday, November 03, 2005


I often wish and wonder what it’s like to be in someone else’s head. Not just the occasional “What were they thinking?”, but to truly be able to witness the same thing from someone else’s completely different frame of reference, and be able to compare perceptions with my own.
I was thinking about this on Halloween, watching Emma. She really got into the “swing” of things, this year. Adorable is not the word; she stole my heart yet again when she started twirling and preening from the moment Mom put on her pink skirt with the silver stars and tiara in her hair. This was special, and she knew it. It didn’t take long for her to get the hang of going from door to door, either – soon she was going up to the door, banging on it with her fist, and calling out “Trick or Treat” - it had to be – in her own inimitable way. Her excitement was palpable, and I began to wonder many things:
Does she remember last year?
Does she have any idea what we’re doing?
Would she think that she could knock on a neighbor’s door tomorrow and get candy?
What were (are) the associations that she’s making about all of this?
What makes it all so exciting? Our encouragement? That it’s all so different?
What will she remember?
Another thing that happens when we go Trick-or-Treating is the inevitable doggy at the door. Emma has not met a dog she doesn’t adore. She welcomes them, and is more than happy to trade saliva and kisses if they are not both restrained. I, on the other hand, traumatized as a very young child by two, shall we say, “little nippers”, am uncomfortable around nearly all canines. See the analogy? - same animal, completely different reaction. My combination of personal and parental fear of her getting hurt by a dog – I am truly dreading the day, and I hope it never happens – really kicks in at these moments. Watching her unabashedly giggling and cooing with her arms around a big dog’s neck, however, makes me want to buy two of them – but that moment passes, and rather quickly, with the memory of a teenage job I had mowing the lawn of a Great Dane owner. I am jealous of her abilities, always hoping that she never has that particular joy taken from her. I know that that’s the prayer of every parent, of course.
Part of the “sweet” of “Bittersweet” is to share pure joy, purely in the moment, innocent, uncluttered, focused happiness with Emma. The rest of us struggle harder and harder for these moments as we get older. It’s a gift she gives me nearly every day.
Now, it’s easy to contemplate the differences in perception between myself and one so differently-abled as she. It often causes me to ponder the differences that “the rest of us” bring to our situations. Aside from the layer upon layer of complexity that we seem to develop as we learn to distrust even our own thinking, how the background noise that I assume most of you reading this have running in your heads (if you don’t, then I really do have a problem) colors our everyday lives. I am not particularly proud to admit that I deal too often from the deck of sarcasm, and it’s become clear to me that it’s done some damage to my relationship with my Son. Damage, in that it clouds our communication, and I know now that it hasn’t helped our ability to live together. I realized, one day, that he didn’t deserve to have his young head screwed with this way; that it was pretty unfair of me. I’m trying to do better with that, and I hope I can make it up to him, somehow. I wasn’t able to see things through his eyes. I hope to live long enough to gain his forgiveness.
It is now one of those means of defense that I’ve inadvertently passed to the next generation, as it was passed to me. I can share the blame, but not the responsibility.
Living with Diversity requires more than accommodation. It requires empathy, understanding, fueled by desires that can only be kindled by unselfishness. That’s what makes it hard. That’s what takes effort, faith, and courage.
It all makes me wonder.