Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Boy's Life

I read A Boy's Life by Robert McCammon over the Christmas of 1991. In looking back through my old journals I found this extract which I think is worth sharing.

"I have seen many boys come and go," she said. "I've seen some grow up and set roots and some grow up and move away. The years of a boys life pass so fast Cory." she smiled faintly. "Boys want to hurry up and be men and then comes a day they wish they could be boys again. But I'll tell you a secret Cory. Want to hear it?"

I nodded.

"No one," Mrs Neville whispered, "ever grows up."

I frowned. What kind of secret was that? My Dad and mom were grown up weren't they? So were Mr Dollar, Chief Marchetta, Dr Parish, Reverend Lavoy, the lady and everybody else over eighteen.

"They may look grown up," she continued, "But it's a disguise. It's just the clay of time. Men and women are still children deep in their hearts. They still would like to jump and play, but that heavy clay won't let them. They'd like to shake off every chain the world's put on them, take off their watches and neck ties and Sunday shoes and return naked to the swimmin' hole, if just for one day. They'd like to feel free, and know that there's a momma and daddy at home who'll take care of things and love them no matter what. Even behind the face of the meanest man in the world is a scared little boy tryin' to wedge himself into a corner where he can't be hurt." She put aside the papers and folded her hands on the desk. "I have seen plenty of boys grow into men, Cory, and I want to say one word to you. Remember."

Remember? Remember what?

"Everything", she said. "And anything. Don't you go through a day without rememberin' something of it and tuckin' that memory away like a treasure. Because it is. And memories are sweet doors Cory. They're teachers and friends and disciplinarians. When you look at something, don't just look. See it. Really, really see it. See it so when you write it down, somebody else can see it too. It's easy to walk through life deaf, dumb and blind, Cory. Most everybody you know or ever meet will. They'll walk through a parade of wonders, and they'll never hear a peep of it. But you can live a thousand lifetimes if you want to. You can talk to people you'll never set eyes on, in lands you'll never visit."

She nodded watching my face. "And if you're good and you're lucky and you have something worth saying, then you might have the chance to live on long after - " she paused, measuring her words. "Long after," she finished.

The words resonate more strongly for me now than they did way back then when I was a 34 year old father of three. Though even then I was searching for the boy that had been locked away by the expectations of myself and others. I wonder if I ever did actually take the time to walk that parade of wonders, in keeping my journals I am thankful that at times my eyes were open and the voices of my children as children echo strongly from the pages of those books. I will always be grateful that I took the time to record some of the things they said and did at the time they were said or done. There is of course no recapturing the lost moments.

I recognise in the voice of Mrs Neville the feeling that at times I do want to return to the bedroom of my childhood, with it's vintage car wallpaper and venetian blinds, and the safe feeling of being tucked in at night by Mum or Dad. Where the dust motes floated in sunbeams and the steam from the paper factory could be heard late in the still of the night. I wish the man I am now could revisit the homes of his grandparents and soak up the smell of freshly baked scones, or hear the laughter from the crowded kitchen table as another game of cards were dealt. Or be licked on the face by a dog and not care. Or splash in puddles of water on unmade roads, and fall over in the schoolyard skidpans and gaze in wonder at fireworks as if for the first time.

I am thankful for all that has gone before. I look forward to rekindling my wonder, to the things that were once simple pleasures. I am grateful for this world now which does mean that I can connect with people all over the world and with them continue to explore this journey.


paisley said...

a beautiful post loz... it has me deeply reminiscent of the innocence that was once childhood... the inner child is a very real being to me... i just don't know how to let her out sometimes i think.....

Pen and the Sword said...

Once again your blog stole my breath away. This was a wonderful write, Loz. And so very true!

I plan to live vicariously through my sons. I find them to be something of a fountain of youth for me ;o)

Josie Two Shoes said...

What a beautiful quote from that book Loz, as are your reflections on it! I love how introspective you are, it reflects who I am. Yes, don't we wish we could return briefly to the innocence of childhood? I am hoping and believing that it is still possible to see life with wide-eyed wonder if we learn to shut down the daily noise in our heads and really tune in to good moments!

"Wolfgang" said...

One of my all-time favorite books! I'm so glad to find someone else who appreciates it. Hunter Goatley is McCammon's webmaster, and he maintains a wonderful site. There is actually a new book on the way.

This captures the essence of what it is to grow up a boy.

Thanks for the excellent post!

Dave J said...

Thanks so much for sharing this Loz. I first read this to myself, and enjoyed it so much I reread it aloud for my daughter to hear. The second time I found myself struggling to not get choked up. This is an awesome sentiment you have given us.

Loz said...

Paisley - I knew it would make you reflect on that very point again.

Pen - thankyou. I wish I'd written the first part too :). Enjoy your sons as I do mine - most of the time.

Josie - it's a midlife thing this introspectivity.

Wolfgang - it is one of those books that grabbed me and became a favourite. Maybe I entered midlife way earlier than I thought I did.

Dave - thanks for the visit and it moved me when I read it the first time and every time since.

Blur Ting said...

It's a wonderful quote. The untainted innocence of childhood, don't we all wish we could live life like that forever? It's funny even the settings in my dreams are those of my childhood days.. Like the house, scenery...except the people.

Loz said...

Not surprising Blur when you consider that they were the days before the brain filled up

Goldy said...

Jesus... I just teared up. Your blog has a way of doing that to me Loz. What a gorgeous passage... I think I am going to have to clipmark you again.

I think I need to read the book and look at the Peter Pan tattoo on my back and remember that I used to "believe."

meleah rebeccah said...

Perfect. Loved this post. We all have our childhood innocence left within us. sometimes it just takes something to REMIND us and BRING it back out in us.

Thanks for reminding me!

(I think I might had to add this book to my LIST of books to buy...)

Random Magus said...

I never want to loose the child inside me ever. The weird thing is that I have few memories of my childhood - it's like a slate that's been wiped lightly, you can see some of the words but the rest are blurred.

Loz said...

Goldy - I think we all need reminding at times as Mel says n her comment

Mel - I really do love the book and recommend it

Amber - you're young and still close to it, as you continue the travel you will find that there is both clarity and cloudiness to many of the memories