The Zoey Blog: Too much thinking...Not enough Mo Willems FINAL - COVER UNIVERSE EXPLORERS ORDER

Friday, April 3, 2009

Too much thinking...Not enough Mo Willems

Time plays terrible tricks on us. What we used to believe fades into twilight and a new sky appears only to be brightened by another shortly afterward. All things are transitory, that’s for certain, and my-oh-my was that an overly dramatic intro.

I stumble into something so shamelessly philosophical only because parenthood has rendered me annoyingly thoughtful. Fatherhood has made me remarkably aware of the golden moments that rush on past us while our focus falls on something else, or of the interminable nature of change. Both occupy a corner of my every thought these days. Of course, those sentiments aren’t always negative or regretful, not at all. In fact, more often than not they are hopeful or enlightening at worst.

Today I tripped on my past and fell headlong into a daydream of the future. Today I read stories from my past that didn’t quite fit anymore. I read a story about the legacy of Len Bias, a tragedy that most my age would remember, albeit erroneously perhaps. I read the story and waves of memories flipped past…the innocence and naivety of youth -- I was 15 years old when Len died – and the enormity of influence our culture can have. At a distance of 23 years not a single part of the Len Bias legacy feels familiar. From this distance of decades the story is much more simplistic. A bright young man with unlimited potential died from drug use, that’s it, that’s all…no dramatizing it, no romanticizing it, no nothing…Len Bias died from excessive drug use, that’s it, that’s all. It was stupid.

I also read a story about Michigan's Fab Five, a group of five freshman at the University of Michigan whose charisma made me, along with several million others, shamelessly swoon. The memories weren’t what I had expected them to be. My feelings and opinions had changed, as they naturally should have. Those five young men were largely a figment of our collective imagination, helped along by the dream makers that surround us. They were just young men, spoiled and sheltered. They were as incendiary as they were iconic, hardly “Fab” at all. My memories hadn’t served me as well as they should have. They were much less than I thought they were.

Both stories have nothing to do with Zoey and both are of very little interest to anyone else but I needed to linger over them. They struck me strangely and I’m still balancing out the emotions inspired by both. Neither memory felt familiar. Neither made the kind of sense that they once had. Neither story occurred as I remembered they had. Both stories were nothing as they had seemed. I only bring them up here because I wonder, more often now than ever before, what time will prove as false and what feelings will feel unfamiliar as years pass. Both stories made me realize that it took 37 years to even begin to understand some things. Clarity takes time and distance, understanding takes even longer.

So it strikes me as surreal what parts of me I’ll find false in the coming years…what pieces I’ll pass on and what messages I’ll have failed to interpret correctly or deliver appropriately. It resonates across every inch of my curious nature what parts of the story will change with age. Right now I feel more capable of differentiating the fat from the fact but I’m not always as savvy as I might think, in fact I’m often nowhere near as savvy as I think. So just what stories am I skewing as I try to raise this little girl right? I know that as little as 23 years ago I believed that Len Bias died because of an accident, a fateful error in judgment that cost him his life rather than a stupid choice that seems now in no way isolated or surprising…or that those fabulous five young men in their black shoes and socks and baggy shorts were collectively shaming even the most shameless of us. What other stories have I or will I skew…will I remember wrong? What other things in my life will time prove to be nothing like what I had remembered? Maybe more importantly – certainly more important than old basketball stories – is how do I teach my daughter to see more clearly than I? I think it’s our destiny to be duped – all of us -- on some level and to a certain degree, but how do I teach her that not everything you see or believe is true?
Perhaps instead of reading her nothing but Mo Willems books and helping her with her homework or driving her to swim practice I should tell her about the day Len Bias died, about what I thought and about what I later learned. Maybe we talk about the Fab Five and all of the things they did that couldn’t be undone…how enamor melted into embarrassment and how nothing, absolutely nothing is as it seems.
Maybe I’ll tell her all of those things in time, but first I need to stop thinking so much and read her more Mo Willems. The legacy left by Gerald and Piggy will, with luck, never disappoint. Today I’d like less disappointment and more Mo Willems.


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