Lost and Found

Going home for the holidays makes me reflective, because the tracks of my childhood are still visible in my parents’ house. Portraits show my growth, photographs attest to my travels, and old artworks I created reflect how my style developed as a teenager. Sometimes even the random bric-a-brac turns out to have significance; over Thanksgiving, my brother found one of my favorite toys hiding in the bottom of a box of random stuff. I was especially thoughtful this year, because it felt like the last time I would be going home as just a son. Next time, I’ll be a parent too.

The mood carried over when I came home last night, so for the first time ever I pulled my beat-up brown shoebox off the shelf and looked through old letters from high school and college. As I read them, I felt grown-up in all the negative connotations that word implies, and with that feeling, a sense of grief that I couldn’t put my finger on. In typical grown-up fashion I made a list of all the things I’ve gained and lost since the age of fifteen. But I ended up focusing mostly on the loss, all of which boiled down to one thing. I’ve stopped playing with no purpose. I no longer paint or doodle, or goof off and go for aimless walks (as opposed to exercising), or take the time to make silly Halloween costumes, or write awful poems, or dress-up for no reason whatsoever. I’m not a square, but it seems that as my interest shifted from the visual to the verbal I forgot to be formless and playful and started being more structured and contained.

Of course this hasn’t just been the case in my creative work – it’s happened in my life too. I’ve tried to control my emotions the way I try to control my time, by making to-do lists, and staying “on task.” I’ve struggled to measure up to what I think I should measure up to and not what feels right, and so I’ve lost touch with something in myself, something deep and honest that, when I touch it, makes me vulnerable in a wonderful way. This relates to my (former) desire to not have kids. I wanted to deny myself one of the most profound human experiences out of fear that it would require me to be open, and caring, and love.

Eventually, I fell into a fitful sleep, and woke up still feeling a little melancholy. Before breakfast I went shopping at the food coop, and the member on check-out had a girl of about three or four with her. While the woman rang things up the girl kept grabbing and playing with my groceries. She liked shaking the coffee beans in their sack, and squishing the olives around in their little baggie. When she saw the can of chickpeas she screamed “hummus!” Her mom shushed her, and apologized for the commotion. I told her it wasn’t a problem, that I had a kid on the way, and besides, I loved hummus too. Maybe the woman heard something in my tone – a note of nervousness? – because she said, “I didn’t think I’d be so into kids, but now I’m addicted to hanging out with her. She’s such a joy.” The woman gave me a tired smile, but it was a real smile that lit up her eyes.

Walking home with my groceries I thought about how the girl played with my food and was so free expressing herself and felt something inside of me weakening. Maybe some of what I put on my list as lost wasn’t totally gone. It couldn’t be if I still valued it, if I missed it and wanted it back. Maybe having a child would help me reconnect to that inner sense of wonder, to painting and making a mess without worrying about the clean-up, to spending an afternoon having unstructured fun, and not just flitting from task to task with an eye on the clock. Maybe parenthood will show me that it’s not always scary to touch the bottom, to not know where you’re going, to play without a plan, to improvise. Maybe by going forward, I’ll come back.


2 Responses to “Lost and Found”

  1. 1 K December 28, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Just so you know, I don’t think of you as not playful or square at all. 🙂 I think there is fer sure plenty of fun and some dance spontaneity in your life!

    • 2 briangresko December 28, 2008 at 10:55 pm

      It’s funny… last semester my professor told me that I was doing such good work and that I just needed to play more. She said if I trust myself and let go then good things will happen. I believe it. I know that compared to most grown-ups I’m pretty fun loving and immature, but I want to love life even more!! Thanks for the comment. It made me smile. Looking forward to some dance parties in the New Year!

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