At loose ends this morning, Wee Niblet queried, “Dad, can we go down in the basement and find stuff we’re not using and tape it together?”
Hoppin’ sassafras, but that’s my kind of question.
After some basement diving and an hour of various tapings, the result was this:
Even more fun than the result, of course, is that initial question. It’s made me wonder all day if this glimpse into Niblet’s brain is any indicator of the direction his life may end up taking. Now, I know he’s only four, so there’s only so much we can predict (he’ll be tall, like his father, and he’ll probably always love a big ole garlic pickle with a side of croutons for breakfast). But if his unleashed brain naturally wanders down the path of “let’s see what’s down there and how we can hank it together,” then might that manner of thinking indicate a certain trajectory, even in these early years of life?
For example, he could end up a sociopath. Yea, I know, I’m not supposed to think dark thoughts about my own kid, but the truth is that Age 4 means all options are still open. And if he’s already thinking of taping stuff up down in the basement, near the chest freezer, well, you can take it from there. He could harbor an awesome criminal mind.
On the flip side, he could become an engineer for NASA, ja? Don’t they pretty much take a bunch of unused crap and apply duct tape to it?
Or maybe he could become our country’s leader. When I look at our current president’s approach to policy-making, foreign policy in particular, I’m convinced that it emerges from a dark place littered with Styrofoam cups and Scotch tape, a place where all products are created on impulse, out of a “loose ends” moment.
Ideally, he’ll end up a poor-as-buttons inventor, the neighborhood eccentric who gathers garbage can lids, chicken wire, used light bulbs, and broken clocks and then, once a year, applies for a patent for his Break-Dancing Refrigerator design.
And then there’s Girl. Her latest thing, in an unscheduled moment, is to take Post-it notes and write really long numbers on them in the form of dollar amounts. For example, she’ll take a half an hour to work feverishly on writing the number $60000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 on a piece of paper:
This little exercise has evolved out of something other kids in her class at school are doing—something about who can cram the most zeros onto the paper, but she finds it important and meaningful work on her own time now, here at home. If this penchant is indicative of her future, what might we predict for her?
Well, for one, how about OCD? I’d say this is the “dark” interpretation of her future, but, heck, she’d be joining luminaries like Howie Mandel, Donald Trump, and Howard Hughes. Oh, wait, that *is* a pretty dark union to be a card-carrying member of. Ah, but if I add the likes of R. Crumb to the crowd, then the OCD reveals itself as having possible silver linings.
Alternatively, she could end up an accountant or a bookkeeper—someone whose enjoyment of number crunching means a livable wage…and a lifetime of stilted and painful office parties.
Or, since the point of her activity is to cram as much as possible into a small space, maybe she’ll find work smuggling illegal immigrants over the border: “We can fit another three into the back of the truck before sealing it up!”
Most likely, she’ll either end up as a Human Resources director (she loves organizing groups, even of zeros) or as the loader of an UPS truck during holiday season.
All of these predictions of the future make me think back to my own childhood, sifting through my pastimes to see if they have some how been borne out in my current career as an English instructor. Most certainly, I spent most of my hours reading, reading, reading, and then hiding in small closets furtively composing, at Age 10, short stories and books (most notable was my tale of Lucifer, an evil cat who clawed his owner to death; I remember writing this in Charlottesville, VA, the summer of 1976, as bicentennial fireworks shot off around me). During my fifth grade year, I read Gone With the Wind no less than 26 times and The Good Earth at least 11 times…um, speaking of OCD. So, yes, we can make a case that my career as an English teacher was in the cards.
And I look at my brother, who liked to take a butter knife out into the yard and throw it, for hours, into the grass, watching the shaft of it quiver as the blade stuck into the dirt. He also really liked watching reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies. And eventually, he really liked drinking beer. Indeed, it’s clear he was predestined to become the Major in the Air Force that he now is.
Clearly, too, my sister was always aimed directly at the kindergarten/first grade teaching career that she now rocks. From an early age, she was the babysitter of choice in our subdivision, raking in more bucks than my parents some weeks, it seemed. And there was only that once that one of her charges disappeared for about an hour, which would be fair odds now that she handles upwards of 25 rammy kids each day—one or two gone missing for a bit is nothing to blink at.
So how about you? Did the preferences of your youth end up parlaying into the job and interests you now have? Or did you always love taking care of the neighborhood dogs and cats, only to become a chef in a restaurant that gets its ingredients from suspicious sources?
With all these thoughts about childhood resonance steeping in my head, I was also forced to cast an eye back on my early-in-life endeavors earlier today while I was out for a snowshoe run; when I needed a pee break in the woods, keeping the snowshoes on seemed simplest, and I amazed myself with how nimble I was in the midst of that potentially-hairy process (translation: I didn’t pee on my self or my snowshoes). Could it be that I was potty-trained with tennis racquets strapped to my feet?