Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Little Boy

"What's the significance of Peter Pan?" he asked.

He is my sister's partner; together, they were over for dinner on a recent Saturday.

I had no idea what he was talking about; his question had come from out of nowhere.  What did he mean by Peter Pan?  And what did Peter Pan have to do with our topic of conversation?

I must have looked dumbfounded, because my sister's partner pointed to the top of the end table in our sitting room.  I looked to my immediate left and saw what he meant.    

In the summer of 1981, the same one that Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married, I was a little less than a year into my career with one of Canada's major financial institutions. I had accepted a six-week work assignment to provide vacation relief for an assistant administration officer in charge of the teller line at the Prince Rupert branch.

After flying to Vancouver, taking another flight up the coast of BC, and, finally, a bus off the island where the airport was located, I landed in a strange, small town, with no idea what I'd gotten myself into. 

While in Prince Rupert, I remember leaving the branch every day at lunch, walking down the hill to the one and only shopping centre in town, entering The Bay (Canada's oldest department store and institution–now regrettably owned by a large U.S. corporation), and taking the escalator down to the lower mall, where a deli was located, and where I ordered my lunch to go. It was on one of my many trips through The Bay that I saw it.

It was a small tchotchke, sitting on an end table in a living room arrangement, in the home furnishings department.  Standing only seven inches tall, it was made of clay, kind of a tan color, and unmistakably charming.  It was a little boy, perhaps eight years old, sitting with his legs crossed, forearms leaning on his calves.  He wore a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, and suspenders.  His hair was thick and tousled, his face sweet and innocent, and his expression peaceful, as though he'd been caught spending a lazy afternoon sitting on a patch of grass somewhere.

And, inexplicably, I felt an instant connection to him.  For some reason, I related to this little boy, and I had to have him.  I had to have him, bring him home, find a place for him somewhere in my bedroom, in the house where I still lived with my parents, and make him a part of my life.  Somehow, I knew I would not feel complete without him.

Over these thirty-two years, a lot of tchokchkes have come and gone in the apartments, town-home, and single-family house where I've lived, but the little boy has always been there.  In fact, as home decorating items go, the little boy is the only one that remains from an entirely different era of my life–when I was just twenty-one, lost as lost can be (who was I?  what was I meant to do?), and still a good five years from coming out of the closet.

I looked at my sister's partner that evening they were over and told him the story I just told you–how the little boy came into my life.  And then I said something that surprised me:  that it might sound strange, but that little boy was, in some sense, me.  And that having him around over the years had not only been comforting, but also necessary, as far as helping me bridge the distance between who I was then, and who, over three decades later, I was meant to be.

The fact is, that little boy remains a constant reminder, during the countless times I pass him every day, of where I came from, and how far I've come.  Of who I outright rejected, even hated, for much of my life, because he was so different from other little boys, and because of what I believed he'd put me through as a result.  And of who I must now remain at peace with and love, if I'm going to remain at peace with and love who I am today.    

The following is a quote from Nate Berkus's The Things That Matter, a wonderful book I highly recommend.  He writes:

I think people sometimes confuse loving things with being materialistic, or grasping, or lusting after the things that tell the world who you are.  But to me, surrounding yourself with the things you love has nothing to do with impressing other people or gaining status. [Things] represent who people are and all that they've loved and seen (p. 16).

I would also add, and experienced. 

The little boy and me?  We've been on a long journey together over all these years.  Perhaps I was able to find the strength to make that journey because he was there, because I could always count on him.  No, I know that's the case.  I know he's given me the strength I needed to get to where I am today.   

And our journey isn't done.  God willing, we still have a long, long way to go, him and me. And I know, with him along, we'll make it.  We'll find our way to exactly where we're supposed to go.  


  1. Thoughts about the last two posts. I like how you tell stories! I think it's a great gift to witness these kind of realizations in life. But they are mostly forgotten by us as they seem to be not that entertaining. But I believe that with telling other people about your life makes this story come into life like never before. And on the matter of getting older. One thing is what strikes and frightens me more than looking older is having less strength. 7 years ago I could go several days without a decent sleep but now I am a total wreck if I sleep less than 7 hours. But what I have understood, that emotions control my strength. If I feel really excited about something I am tireless. So I think finding something that excites me is a key to feeling good by feeling fresh.

    1. Elevencats, it's wonderful to hear from you again.

      With respect to telling stories about one's own life, I think it's often difficult to do–for me, anyway–because the point of a story may not always be immediately evident.

      At the time I sat down to write this one, I had no idea where it would go. It was only once I started to get some words down, and allowed my thoughts to become more generalized or abstract, that I saw there was something more going on between "the little boy" and me.

      On the subject of strength, as you define it, I must be honest with you and say that I don't think being able to go without sleep is a sign of strength. It may even be a sign of weakness. The fact of the matter is, no matter what we're going through–for example, you being a student and often needing to study/work long, hard hours–sleep is a necessity, and no human being can function at an optimal level without it.

      So, please, don't look at needing sleep as a lack of strength. If you require seven hours a night (as I do) to feel refreshed and to work at your most efficient and productive, then make the necessary adjustments in your life to allow yourself to get it. Your body, and your overall well-being, will thank you for that.

      Yes, feeling excited about something pumps adrenaline into our bodies and makes us feel like we could go on forever without sleep. But that has it's limits too. Eventually, the lack of sleep catches up with us, and no amount of excitement will keep us going. It's like food–perhaps we think we can go long periods without eating, especially food that is good for us–but we're wrong.

      We are programmed to need food and sleep, so take good care of yourself, and make sure your body gets both. Okay? (I share all of this with you because I care about what happens to you, and I want you to be well. I hope you know that.)

      I really appreciate your ongoing interest in what I write, especially since I know how busy you are. It is always a treat to hear from you, and I hope I do again.

    2. With respect to telling stories about one's own life, I think it's often difficult to do–for me, anyway–because the point of a story may not always be immediately evident.
      In reply: and that's why these kind of stories are the best!

      Don't worry. I'm a totally good kid. I just sometimes fantasize with my coworkers how good it would be if we could work without sleep and food. It's somewhat true that we should have everything balanced in our lives but I think the truth is that sometimes we have one thing more and other things less and vice versa.

      Also I wanted to share a nice blog about gay couples:

      And thank you for writing this blog!

    3. Elevencats, I think personal stories are always the best, because, not only do they allow us a glimpse into someone else's life, but also they may allow us to learn something about ourselves in the process. That's why I prefer the blog post and the personal essay writing forms (which really can be one and the same, depending on the subject matter).

      Of course I know you're a totally good kid (that's come across in every exchange we've ever had); I never doubted that for a moment. But there are some young people who like to push the envelope in terms of seeing how far they can take themselves and their bodies. And, in the end, they can really do themselves harm.

      Believe it or not, I developed an aversion to sleep about five years ago. I decided my life was passing me by too fast (this is a product of getting older), and I thought, imagine if I could skip sleep altogether (or severely reduce it) and use that recovered time to get other things done, to be more productive.

      Well, I really messed myself up badly. Be careful what you wish for. I went through a period of severe insomnia, and ended up in such a hysterical state as a result, I could scarcely function. It took me a good long time, as well as the help of a doctor and medication (which I hate), to recover. I look at this as a case of, what I put out there is what I got back. And what I got wasn't, in this case, at all what I expected.

      Thanks for the recommendation on the website. I'll be sure to take check it out.

      And thanks for your appreciation of my blog. I'm not as busy with it as I was once, but, when I make a contribution to it, I hope to offer something of value to readers.

      As always, I love to hear from you, and I hope you are doing well. Please keep in touch, okay?