The homeroom teacher for Ace Number One stopped me in the hall the other day after Maureen and I finished playground duty. He asked if it would be okay if he gave our eldest a copy of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. He has read it every summer since 1964 and thought she would enjoy it.
It was a lovely gesture and I am anxious to reread my own copy as she works her way through the book. If you have never read it, put it on your list.
There are two scenes I love. I’ll tell you about the second one another time but in the early part of the story, set in the summer of 1928 about 12-year-old Douglas and his brother, Tom, the two boys are talking in their room. Tom tells Douglas that he has discovered that old people were never children, which strikes Douglas as both obvious and brilliant. Tom also points out that this is tragic because they cannot really do anything to help old people.
The two are amazed at Tom’s discovery. Because we live in the moment this is partially true; because the children cannot conceive of anything beyond the moment, they see it as a fact.
For the boys, growing up seems not to depend on figuring things out completely as much as coming up with new ideas about things. In fact, there is no reason to believe that adults have figured many things out but rather simply reached a consensus. But for the boys, summer is magic: growth happens without apparent change.
Do you remember summer? Not vacations to the beach, not getting out of school, but summer. That feeling that you have absolutely nothing planned, no list of chores, nothing written down or implied…tomorrow?
I don’t either.
Still, I find peace in remembering Catholicism 101: you cannot quantify grace.
So those moments of nothing have been replaced with moments of superficial importance. The “everything I have to do today” steps on the neck of “what will I do tomorrow?” and strangles it.
And I sometimes forget to find grace in the to-do list, emails, and phone calls.
Today, right now, I will close my eyes and remember. I will pray for patience. I will pray for the nothingness that surrounds me and the violence of busyness that consumes me.
I will pray in hopes that us old people aren’t so helpless after all.