Thursday, May 20, 2010

What Happened While Browsing for Books

Last night I went out to do a bunch of shopping errands. One was for Dan's friend (since childhood) Steve and his wife Beth, who are having their first child soon. I decided to forgo their mile-long Babies R Us registry list and do something different. My last-minute inspiration was to get them a little collection of classic baby/child books, or books that our kids have loved. Beth's a speech pathologist. Steve's way smart, like Dan. I thought they'd go for that kind of thing.

So there I was in the children's section of Barnes & Noble, thinking about Steve and Dan and how they've always joked about having this friendly competition going. If Dan got a new car, Steve wanted one. Then Steve would get a computer and Dan would drool with envy. It was all in fun but there seemed to be something real to it, too, maybe dating to back in high school when they were competitive together in the gifted and talented program and AP classes.

Awhile back Dan told me that Steve and Beth had found out they were having a boy. After a moment in a silent flash I saw in my mind's eye a few years down the road, Steve and this little boy, doing dad and son things, and maybe Dan watching that and comparing it to his relationship with his boy.

The thought brought tears to my eyes. I don't think either guy would ever throw their offspring into this silly competition game, but comparison is another story. My heart hurt thinking of Dan's heart hurting, or things he might be missing.

When I'm in my more punchy moods, I think, Well, wait a minute here. Dan's as far from a jock or outdoorsy person as you can get. I don't think he's going to be crestfallen if his son can't captain the football team, for example (that would be Steve) or if they're not fishing together. Dan's a computer geek, and Ethan already is showing an interest in computers and video games. There's a very good chance there will be some things for them to bond over.

But some of this was still running around in my head at Barnes & Noble, while I was searching the shelves for Goodnight Moon and listening to quite possibly the most depressing song in the world on their overhead music system.

I felt as if there were two voices actually arguing in my mind. One was trying to pull me down, as I looked at books on trucks and trains and thought about their new little one. For a split second I saw Ethan's sweet smile and big brown eyes and ached thinking of him being robbed of anything. There was a mama bear love there that made me furious that things might be harder for him, that he might miss out on something. There was a sadness about him being different along with a sadness with myself for being sad, as if I wasn't truly accepting who he is.

The other voice was telling me to put on the brakes. It was almost like the voice of David, in the Psalms. Why are you so downcast, my soul? That voice wondered why I was drifting into sorrow over the books, lamenting something not completely related to the pile I was holding in my hand. Ethan likes Goodnight Moon! He loves 5 Little Monkeys! He enjoys Thomas the train and firetrucks. He's not quite the same but he's not my brother who never had a little boy interest. You aren't sad over now; you're trying to become sad over what may or may not be.

The voices fought it out for a moment, while the melancholy melody washed over me. One lone tear welled up but didn't fall. Then I noticed on the back wall in the picture book section that they had displayed The Little Engine That Could.

I think I can I think I can, I thought, knowing I needed to pick it up. That would be the last book in the collection.

I think I can. I think I can. That's what the little engine had told herself as she climbed up the mountain. The song ended and my eyes were dry. I paid for my books and headed out into the misty night, ready to drive home.

No comments: