Monday, November 30, 2009

'Tis a Gift

Over my birthday weekend, I took a ferry with some friends to Santa Cruz Island to go backpacking. On the way back, the water was calm, the sky was clear and the sticky ocean wind was chill-y! We sat up on the top deck to get the best view of the dolphin pods frisking in the evening fishing grounds. While we jetted toward the mainland, my friend's 11-year-old son curled up into into an oversized windbreaker and then nestled down into his father's arms. For the next 45 minutes, as the sun sank into the sea, the boy slept soundly while the wind whipped all around. His face was like porcelein in the orange light.

That is perfect security, I thought to myself. That is the look that every parent hopes to see on their child's face. In a world of war, murder, hatred, senseless cruelty and endless insecurity, this boy had a least a moment's perfect, protected peace. The vulnerability and trust in his limp frame made my throat catch--we are used to seeing such self-abandonment in babies, but to see it in a pre-teen made me ache. What a gift this boy's been given--the gift of trust, safety, freedom from anxiety--even if just for these 45 minutes!

I remember having been given that gift: treasured moments in the safety of my father's arms while we read before bedtime. Or the summer nights when my mother would wake me up at 2am to snuggle together on a plastic chaise lounge, watching the Pleiades meteor showers until we were lulled to sleep by the hum of the A/C under the deck. These are the Edens to which I wish I could return, but I don't think any adult ever really trusts the world on that level.

However, I do hope I can give my someday-child that gift and maybe, just maybe, s/he will live in a world in which s/he can hold onto that peace a little longer.

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