Friday, August 31, 2012

The What If Quest

Today, Tyler and I made our first trek beyond a one-mile radius of Lesley Avenue since we've been back in England--and the journey was peppered with the newest question his Frontal Lobes have learned to employ: What If?

Quest is a playground/park/shallow-brown-river-filled-with-47-ducks/field about two miles from our house. I'm actually not even sure that it's actually called Quest, except that word stands boldly out in the middle of the playground in letters that are bubbly and set against a rock wall.

En route to Quest, Tyler wanted to walk rather than ride in his stroller. After twenty minutes to make it five-hundred feet, I began attempting various ploys to try and get Tyler into his stroller.

Daddy: Your stroller is ready to go fast, WITH YOU  IN IT!

Tyler: What if my stroller goes fast WITHOUT ME IN IT?

Daddy: Then your stroller would be WAY UP THERE and you and I would be WAY BACK HERE.

Silence for contemplative time.

Tyler: Daddy, What if I was that truck driving right there?

Daddy: If you were that truck driving right there, you would be zooming down the road, away from right here.

Silence for more contemplation.

We saunter ahead another five feet, until Tyler spots a series of rocks all embedded into the side of the sidewalk.

Tyler: Daddy, what if we could pull all of these rocks out of here?

Daddy: Then there would be no more rocks there, and the people who designed this sidewalk said, WHOA, THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL WITH ALL OF THESE ROCKS RIGHT HERE.

Contemplation time. We saunter ahead two more feet.

And an inner voice bubbled up inside of me, suggesting, You're never going to make it the two miles to Quest at this pace! Move! MOVE NOW OR GIVE UP ON QUEST ALTOGETHER!

I contemplated this inner voice as Tyler gazed back at those embedded rocks, probably wondering what the people who put them there were really thinking.

The inner voice I'd just heard didn't sound very peaceful; it didn't sound very calm; in fact, it sounded downright unquesty, and if were were on a quest for Quest, another voice suggested the following: Shouldn't you attempt a more questy approach to today's journey?

Fast forward one hour: we still have yet to arrive at Quest, but our journey thus far has afforded Tyler and I ample time to consider more What Ifs than I'd previously thought possible to articulate in a single walk:

  • What if that man was a woman?
  • What if a digger tried to pick us both up, Daddy?
  • What if this airplane [toy airplane] was really a REAL airplane?
  • What if I had wheels on my feet and my feet were not feet, but they were just wheels that did like vrrooooommmmshh?
  • What if Quest was that place right THERE [Tyler points at run-down, neon-lit Cash Advance Loan Store Front]?
  • What if I was the REAL Spiderman?

By the time we arrived at Quest, my inner voice had turned questy. Highly questy. And after a picnic on the grass (food prepared lovingly by Mommy, complete with two love notes for Tyler and I--of which Tyler held his super-tight the rest of the day, (as did I)), a couple of hours on the swings and play equipment, we finally made it to the small river where 47 ducks darted in search of bread.

Seriously, they darted. I had previously assumed ducks waded here and there--but these ducks darted everywhere. Tyler tossed chunks of bread into the water, and then called the ducks boldly to come and get it (though they needed no encouragement).

Befitting a day of what-iffing, Tyler looked up at me as the ducks became arrows, and asked, "Daddy, what if we went in there and swam with all of those ducks?"

I laughed in a questy kind of way. And it dawned on me then that all of these what ifs had nothing to do with goals or results or desires. In fact, they were totally void of ambition. Which is vastly unlike the what-if questions I often find myself posing--wondering about what vocations might work out, what opportunities will present themselves, how finances will unfold.

But, truth be told, the kinds of what-ifs I normally ask aren't very questy at all. Rationality and aspiration often trump imagination and randonimity. And sometimes, this is a good thing. In fact, it's probably what classifies me as an adult.

But the balance can become skewed, and when this happens the questiness goes of out life, out of the very endeavors that most crave that kind of imaginative attitude.

Today's quest with Tyler showed me that it's possible for neither to trump the other: stuff can get done--places can be reached--in a questy manner that is peppered with What Ifs as long as we're content to watch things unfold slowly, watch events and experiences occur less in the light of lightning, more in the glow of lightning bugs.