“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?” – Charles Bukowski
I was late to the party, not worried late, but concerned late. For a minute I sat at a light and contemplated how strange it is to be driving and simply not recognize streets or directions. I’m basically always slightly lost and rely on a smartphone to arrive at any destination. Unless I’ve been there fifteen or twenty times, then it sinks in, sometimes.
The party ended at two, I arrived with 45 minutes to spare. Amelia, who was the featured one year old, was nowhere to be seen. I found her sitting in her stroller, keeping company with a teenage girl, who looked less than enthused. Amelia, however, was full of life and started demanding more attention.
I’m not up on one year old’s birthday events, but part of the process seems to be placing a cake on the floor in front of the birthday person and allowing, encouraging them, to molest it. And of course, recording the results.
Like me, Amelia is very sophisticated for her age though, and refused to engage in the adults projections. Instead she sat and was openly curious about the people around her. She was for a while in her own world, the adults were caught up in the moment, laughing, making comments, and jokes, while Amelia sat with her cake in observation.
She looked over and our eyes met, she became still, and wearing that Buddha smile, she lifted her hand and open and closed her fingers, a one year old waving hello. Hello you, whoever you are, isn’t this grand? I waved back, keeping the protocol she had established, opening and closing my fingers, our exchange unnoted by other partygoers.
And then she was distracted, her aunt offered her a finger full of frosting, and in one taste the sugar rush manifested, and Amelia threw her arms into the air and her upper body swayed and bounced up and down. Big, happy, joyful smile, thrown into the universe, happiness is. The adults laughed, not getting it at all, but identifying with sugar and how it feels.
I contemplated being one. I was tempted to eat a blob of frosting and join Amelia’s celebration, sit on my butt, throw my hands in the air, laughing while the sugar coursed through my veins, pushing back any social or cultural boundaries. Eat sugar, destroy all boundaries, get naked, go and howl at the moon. A fine way to gain a noticeable reputation and meet the Bloomfield Hills police.
But I’m too sophisticated for that, I am. So, I contemplated being one instead. I was never one, as far as conscious memory is concerned, or two either. Well, that’s not exactly true, I remember being born, but that’s another story. How will this little being live life? Will she stay in these moments, I swear she never left these moments, not once, regardless of where her attention settled, she pursued engaging with such presence and intensity. (We all have that, a one year old us, but we keep it under wraps, because we all agreed to be adults, to be contained, to give up freedom in order to join the human herd, our little safe collective.)
Amelia is who Charles is talking about. She speaks, Da and Ma, with Ma being much more frequent, but she doesn’t have a clue who is she is supposed to be, she only knows genuine engagement. She hasn’t formed enough of those little containers we call words and concepts, not enough to be contained, not her, not yet. No filters, the ones telling her to stay contained, enclosed, safe from the evil embarrassments of adult judgements, both on the outside, and that conditioned conversation with the implanted conditioned adult who criticizes and demeans us.
Amelia’s party lasted until 8, but I left at 2. I am a very official person when it comes to times. Plus the adults weren’t interesting and Amelia took a lunch break, requiring mom’s assistance. The rumor was she was attempted a nap afterwards. (I wonder, will she learn to fly? Like her namesake? Another Earhart?)
I got lost at a round about. And Google Maps had lost it’s stream of thought. Sometimes I think I live in Michigan because I can’t get lost. Drive far enough and you run into water or Ohio, if you get that far you’re lost and need to turn around. I found Square Lake Rd. Hooray.
It struck me that Amelia and I had a lot in common, she at her party in direct experience, me driving with blank receptors that only allow experiencing where I am, with no images of how to get to where I’m going, no sense of where I am exactly. And when attention moved through the experience of the confused, lost, somewhat tired, slightly angry adult, the sensuous world of Amelia’s view opened, of colors and sounds, the setting sun, the feel of the steering wheel, a slight waft of air from the heater warming the car, the slightest movement of air on my face, and winter just outside the glass.
Deepest bows, Amelia.
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