My Resolution: Shine More, Bleed Less
“The kids are home for the holidays.”
In previous years, ‘the kids’ were my wife and me, ‘home’ was one of our parents’ places and ‘the holidays’ meant watching a ball game and waiting for food to appear.
(My wife wishes to state that her role in all of this consists of far more than shifting in the sofa when the food arrives. Duly noted.)
This year brought a sharp change to my comfortable routine. Our parents had scattered to warmer climes and my wife decided it was a good idea to invite her niece and nephew to stay with us for a few days.
Suddenly we were the home, they were the kids, and the holidays meant entertaining a twelve-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl while trying to keep our seven-month-old on his nap schedule and getting him to eat his carrot mash.
After 48 hours of the flash and beep of hand-held video games, several dozen requests to rent Spider Man 3 (“But Eboo-masa, I’ve only seen it twice. I usually see the movies I like twenty times”), a few delicate discussions about precisely what it is that is inappropriate in PG-13 movies, and endless pre-adolescent bickering, I decided I had had enough.
I reached into my limited kid-care toolkit and pulled out an item that my father placed there many years ago. “We are going to read,” I declared.
The kids let forth howls of dismay, which fell on deaf ears.
I poked around my bookcase, decided T.S. Eliot was too dense and Rumi too abstract, and landed instead on a collection by former American Poet Laureate Billy Collins.
“Read it aloud,” I said to Kashif, pointing to page 63, a poem called On Turning Ten. I figured it was the one thing a nine-year old, a twelve-year old and two early thirty-somethings could relate to.
After a series of pouty faces worthy of the stage, Kashif started reading, a bit softly at first, but then with increasing confidence and joy.
“It’s about a little boy and how he feels about getting older,” Kashif said when he finished, obviously delighted.
“It’s about a little girl,” Faria corrected, grabbing the book from Kashif.
“It’s about both of you,” I said.
But when I read the poem again later that evening, I realized it was about all of us.
The final stanza goes like this:
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.
I like to take this poem in reverse, to return to the days of thinking there was light under my skin. And to consider that, when the sidewalks of life attack my knees, I have a choice in how I respond:
I could shine more, and bleed less.And that, in short, is my New Year’s Resolution.