Tuesday, August 20, 2002

It was very late, well past the customary appointed hour of slumber. But we were nearing the station, finally--just about to lie down and read "The Salamander Room." And that's when Niko turned to me and said the one and only thing that would derail the bedtime express: "Daddy, can we go downstairs and watch the Giants game together?"

We sat hip-to-hip on the couch, my arm around his shoulders, as Schmidt overpowered the Mets and Niko talked. He talked about how the fishes breathe water, and about the Duplo office tower he built, and how we could go to a lot of Giants games if we won the lottery, and how black olives have lots of flavor because of the salt and the vinegar, and he looked outside at the blackness and asked, "Is it night now?"

It pours out. The theories to explain the mysteries, the questions to answer curiosities, the speculations to close gaps in suspicions. Niko isn't interested in thrills, in screeching down the slide at the playground or tearing around the yard on his tricycle. Niko wants to understand. (The other day, he and his mother sat for a full 30 minutes studying the area under the kitchen sink, working out which pipes took which water--yucky, hot, cold--where, and how the garbage disposal motor works, and why that white plastic pipe thing goes up to that vent hole thing up there.) I confess: Sometimes I fall into my old impatience and sink under the weight of Niko's unending assault of Whys? and am tempted to grab that wretched ol' buoy Because! But so much is missed, and tonight reminded me of that. Niko unloaded the day's accumulated knowledge and I, the Daddy, sat there full of pride and love, dazzled to my very core, soaring at the wonder of how far his short journey has already taken him, and where he might go in the years to come.

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