zen.org Communal Weblog

October 22, 2004

Innocent joy

Filed under: — brendan @ 14:01 IST

Last night, I was playing with our two year-old son Patrick in the livingroom before dinner. A complex system of wooden train track spread its way across the floor, bridges and tunnels and sudden turns galore. But for some reason, we both appeared—at least momentarily—to be fast asleep on the floor.

The whole project had started in the kitchen with a sudden crash against my legs similar in force to that of a miniature freight train. Looking up at me with his head now tall enough to reach my waist, eyes wide and mouth wider, was a very eager Patrick.

“Dad, want to play a puzzle, hmm? Want to? Hmm?” came the invitation. I mean, seriously, how could I possibly say no? We went into the dining room where he selected the Winnie the Pooh alphabet puzzle, a great Christmas gift from one of my aunts. Making our way into the livingroom, he looked back a couple of times to confirm I was still following him and hadn’t suddenly vanished back into the kitchen.

Interest in the puzzle lasted only long enough to get pieces out of the box. (When prompted he correctly identified the letters ‘A’ and ‘D’ on the large puzzle pieces, our little genius. Will it happen if I try again now? Nah, probably not.) A few minutes into the effort, one attempt to join ‘K’ and ‘F’ pieces together made obvious to anyone watching just how seriously flawed this puzzle was. It really didn’t matter anymore.

Puzzle pieces cast aside, P went straight to one of his current addictions: trains.

About half an hour went by with the detailed construction of a modern transit system. Once all imaginary passengers of his 1-Engine-and-4-Cars train happily traveled over his bridge a few times, it became clear to P that his work here was done. He stood up from sitting on the floor and walked (all of two feet) over to me. His arm wrapped around my neck, and his other hand firmly grasped my shoulder.

“It’s time to sleep,” he said, looking straight into my eyes. With the aide of his body weight, he pulled my torso down onto the floor. Not like a professional wrestler, but still not the most subtle action you’ve ever seen. Propping himself up, he pulled my left arm over so it was reaching across the floor and lay down with his head resting over my elbow.

Two seconds later from on top of my arm came a loud resonating snore, coupled with an impressive exhalation of air. A pause, snore and breath repeated, then his head popped up.

“Dad, it’s time to sleep!” Oops. I guess I’d been leaning up too long. My head rested against my shoulder, and as he began his next amazing snore I offered my own version. A couple of snores later he started giggling and looked up at me. Eyes open, he gave another strong snore, and exhaled with force into my face. More laughs from both of us.

“Want to sleep again?” he asked me. These questions tend to be clearly rhetorical, so his head quickly went back down to my arm for another round of who can snore better? in which I would surely be in second place.

A few minutes later it was dinner time, and he leaped up and ran out of the room, leaving me to quickly restore the floor to its previous state. As I put the last of the train cars into their box and lifted the puzzle to put it back on its shelf, I got another one of those curious emotional floods. Not an urge to cry or that sort of thing, more the sensation you get when first waking up from a good night’s sleep.

I’d just spent the last half hour with my head clear of everything, relishing in nothing but P’s unrestrained happiness. His incredible curiosity about everything couples perfectly with a form of pure innocent joy. Evidenced by scheming grins and squeals of delight, his good spirits prove to be just as contagious as his laughter.

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