Reaching for the Moon

My Circe column for 2/8/12

“Where my moon?” he asks, one hand raised slightly, palm up. His other hand grips a freeze pop wrapped in a paper towel that serves no purpose for a two-year-old boy. The syrup soaks his hands and face. “Keep looking, Ian.  Did you check higher up?” So far, his eyes have scanned only as high as the housetops, but he has been diligent in his moon-gazing for a while. On an almost daily basis, he looks for its arrival when the sun begins its descent.

A short shallow gasp precedes a wide smile and I know he’s found it. “There it is!” he shouts, pointing with both his freeze pop and his free hand, spilling grape syrup on the walkway and the front lawn. We stand still for a moment, my little son teaching me wisdom through his wonder-filled gaze and awestruck admiration for this lesser light.

I crouch down, lowering myself to his eye level, feebly attempting to tap into his deep curiosity. He leans against me, but never diverts his eyes from the moon. I look up as he does, but my eyes come back to him, in wonder of him as he wonders at the moon.

Suddenly excited, Ian turns and asks, “I touch it?”  “Sure.  Reach high,” I tell him.  His little legs strain and stretch, he moves to his tiptoes and extends his arms, grasping with his fingers, as if he’s mere inches away.  He drops back down, turns to me and says, with a smile on his face, “Nope.”  I cannot help but laugh, as not a twinge of disappointment flavors his voice. He simply returns to gazing.

After a brief pause, I ask, “Should we try again tomorrow?” Still smiling, he replies, “Yep!”, and we head to the porch.

I could have taken the time to describe his limitations, to tell him that gravitational pull, planetary orbit, and sheer distance were working against him. In other words, I could have implemented any number of modernist explanations that would crush his imagination and wonder. Perhaps I could have taken the approach of pointing out that, indeed, man has gone to the moon and, therefore, it’s no longer that exciting.

But, in that moment, I realized that I was the uninformed one. I was the one who needed more understanding, more wisdom, better perspective. I held my tongue to appear wise, submitting to the lesson of a two-year-old master teacher. As he gains years, I pray that he keeps the wisdom he already has; while becoming a man, I pray he remains a child. Ian will grow older (he is turning three this very week) but in the memory of such moments he will always be my teacher, reaching for the moon.

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