"Whatcha reading?" He was about six years old and his face was freckled, blue spheres dancing around, looking for his thoughts that were somehow floating about the MAX. Grouped with children his age, sitting across from me.
"It's called Requiem for a Dream." I could tell that this was going to be an interesting conversation. I haven't had the opportunity to have a serious discussion with a youngster since I was working at a preschool.
He paused and his eyes danced, and the round vowel noises of his words struck my heart: "What... what is he dreaming about?"
My first thought was surprise that the boy, already at such a young age, predicates that a male is the main character of the book I am reading, that he may not understand the word requiem but hearing "for a dream" he could make the connection that someone was dreaming about something. I decided to simplify, but quickly: "He's dreaming about a better life."
"What's wrong? Does he not have enough stuff?" And then I thought about it, and on one hand it is true, Harry Goldfarb is technically suffering because he doesn't have enough heroin to keep him going. Technically. The tragedy of that is that he never needed it in the first place, but the reality of the situation is that now he has that need, that desire. All of this I obviously could not communicate to this warm-hearted child.
"Well... he's poor. And he's worried about his mother. And his friends are poor too, and they all keep getting sick.
"Maybe he should get a job. My mom was poor but then she got a job and we have two dogs..." Our conversation went on from there, and I joyed in the ease with which one can talk with a boy of that age. He told me about his pets. About his grandparents, and how one of them is gone now. All the while he was inclusive. He asked me about my grandparents. He was a christmas gift that I will treasure. I kept thinking, while finding my way home after transfering to a bus and reading further: I hope he never knows this life. I hope he never needs to. I hope his mother is good to him, and that he will always be good to his mother. I hope that he is welcomed by friends, challenged in his education, and is never willing to take a position of mediocre intelligence to match the predominate statistic around him. I hope that he enjoys the Oregon Zoo as much as I do, for years to come. That he never lets go of the six year old inside of him.
I wish him, and all of you, a very merry christmas. Despite whatever you feel about the holiday, whatever hesitations and preoccupations you may have with it (and I have my own), remember a child's love, and love your child, inside, outside — everywhere.