Monday, August 2, 2010

Passport to the Future

In this country more than in some others, when a child becomes an adult she or he moves out of her or his parental orbit, veers off into the galaxy and may (or may not) create her or his own world.

If parent-child relations are cordial, the parent may get news from this world; descriptions of what it is like, who lives there with the child-now-adult, and (an expurgated version) of what kinds of things go on.

Typically, the child-now-adult may visit her/his parental world and exist there, cordially, on a very temporary basis. What they experience during these visits is polished a little brighter than the parent’s ordinary surroundings, the food substantially finer, and the social/cultural phenomena a little richer than whatever the parent usually experiences (or eats).

None of this is bad but it is constricted. Neither parent nor child really knows the whole cloth of the other’s world – only selected strands.

Once all the perceived traumas and tragedies of a particular childhood have healed, it may become possible for the child-now-adult to admit her/his parent into the world they have created.

It is, in my opinion, the highest honor – the greatest respect – that a child (now adult) can show a parent.

It happened to me just two weeks ago. I visited Chicago – not the sectors where once I lived and worked and had my being but my son’s sectors. I stayed in his apartment in an area of Chicago that before I had only vaguely known about. I walked the streets he walks, ate the food he eats, took the buses he takes. I saw the richness of this formerly foreign neighborhood – its flashes of art and music – the languages spoken, the eddies of community within the general flow. More than that, I dined with his friends – knew them in person rather than by hearsay; met the people with whom he creates musical and visual art; visited his workplace and met his co-workers.

Finally, I was able to piece together a picture of his life; not complete by any means, but exponentially greater that the fragments I had earlier concocted.

It was like seeing my DNA evolve-- seeing the possibilities inherent in a subsequent generation. His generation, making its own world, creating its own values, exploring its own truths.

It is good. I had always suspected it was good. Now I know. And this little essay is a kind of thank you note to my son.


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