Monday, February 27, 2012

The Characters that carry

Yesterday I went for a luxurious early trail run and - thanks to NPR and it's cheeky coverage about the upcoming Oscar's - I amused myself by thinking about how some famous actress in California was getting ready to be buffed to a high shine, while I was freely perspiring on a mossy-green hillside in North Carolina.
Then that led me to think about this year's movies and characters I had seen and that I had liked.
And that led me - I love how running with my feet, get's my brain out of it's linear logic, as well - to ruminate on the fact that my son, since a very early age, has always loved the lesser characters of any story he has been told.
We NEVER worry about where Lighting McQueen is (he is under the couch mobbed by dust bunnies, but we know the EXACT location of Matter, Ramon, Fillmore and Doc (neatly in the basket by the door to the living room).
My sweet little son can spend hours gazing into the plastic eyes of Gordon, the very able and hard-working, if at times narrow-minded other blue engine of "Thomas the Train" fame, and imagine where he has been and where he is going.
Thomas, meanwhile, lies forgotten at the bottom of the bin, holding his trains and tracks.
Gus - as if by premonition of his own abilities and limitations - is a champion of the supporting characters that allow the hero/heroine of the story to shine. Those that make the mistakes, or fix them, those who say something stupid only to be corrected, or something wise, only to be ignored. Those whose stories we are left to imagine, because we are almost always only told a few pieces of it.
It's as if he knows that without those supporting characters's small contributions, the plot, the story could not be advanced and the lesson would not be imparted, no matter how much the main character shouts, struts or postures.
It always tugs at my heart strings, when I see him give all his attention, imagination and care to that character, whether it is in a book, movie or even in real life. Gus illuminates that character few other little boys seem to want to be.
There is no Superhero Gus loves. Though he can now identify a few of them (thanks to a certain sweet cousin, several pairs of socks and a few superhero-obsesses boys at his preschool). When asked Gus says their names with little enthusiasm, then moves on to lavish his love on Mo, an itty-bitty dust buster who likes to clean up after WALL-E, and what he might say or do. His eyes light up, every time that little character comes swishing onto the screen.
I'd be in trouble if I tried dressing him in his favorite characters, but on the bright side, his favorites are almost always left on the shelves in the toy isles at Wal-Mart or Target - if they are available in the first place (we've never located Mo).
I have asked and prodded, and though our line of communication does not yet rise to the level where he could explain his preference to me, I sense that Gus likes the smaller characters, because they tend to speak less and appear in maybe just a few precious scenes. You have to wait, savor the anticipation. Work for it and be attentive and observant.
What draws us neuro-normals to the protagonist, the voice, the action, the fact that we get to stalk them in nearly every scene and thought, seems to be the very thing that disinterests Gus.
Heroes are common in his mind, I believe. A dime a dozen. Everyone else already pays attention to them. They speak too much. Move too busily. Are everywhere. Cannot be quiet or observant. Get antsy when marginalized. Could never be the bystanders. When I see other little boys compete over who gets to be the knight, warrior, prince, or superhero. I smile. I already know that Gus will never pursue being the man on the main stage. Never chase that elusive dream of being the main mover and pusher. The kind of dream that sets some of us up for a hearty mid-life crisis, when we realize we're not and likely never will be, while time is running out.
Gus will likely operate in the shadows, behind the scene, standing behind the curtain. Hopefully, in some way or fashion that suits his inclinations.
I feel he naturally knows where he belongs. Where he will shine - in his own way.
In a place, only a careful observer will bother to look more deeply. Where smartphone cannot be apped to go. But nevertheless, he will be doing his small part there to make the hero shine and the story move along.

I hope he finds happiness and fullfillment there. At least that is my prayer. I'm coming to understand that a deeply realized life neither requires fame nor fortune. It's a big lesson and I just learned it myself.

I remember two shreds of other peoples' words that fit with this theme and that were my favorites when I was a teenager - decades removed yet from being the mother of Gus.
The first is a Chinese Proverb, which essential says, "you can only see even the brightest stars when the night is dark"
The other is a line or two of one of the songs in the 3 Groschen Oper by Bertolt Brecht, that talks about how some people stand in the light and others do not. And how we see the ones in the light, not the one's in the dark. Simple but deep if you think about it.

Maybe those quotations I felt myself drawn to at a time when I listened to Madonna and wore my bangs up and out, were the harbingers of my fate and why I am now the mother of the biggest fan of all small characters.

I want to thank the academy of life and the higher power that be for giving me the role of my life.

1 comment:

  1. This is lovely. Reminds me a bit of G-man. Unlike his bro who is so at home center stage, he prefers the dim light behind the curtain. So much good stuff happens as he works away quietly and happily, seemingly unnoticed. The preferences of Gus and G-man resonate with me.

    Lovely observations of your boy. I do believe our children meet us because we need them, exactly as they are, and they need us exactly as we are. Enjoying your words.