by Kleitia Vaso

A snow storm. A cancelled flight. It can happen to everybody. Yet, reason is trampled, as usual, by something greater, much darker and more powerful. One immediately thinks of the worst, a tragedy. How can we leave our mother at the cold, foreign airport, waiting for her next, uncertain flight? From the slightly concerned but mostly amused look in the face of the driver accompanying us, I absentmindedly surmise that the tragedy in our minds translates to a minor inconvenience when viewed from outside. Actually, most other people seem to take it all in stride. Some laugh and others are even having a beer at 6 in the morning. Not us. We wave goodbye and, although I don’t want to appear infantile in front of our driver, I feel the instant tears in my eyes. Everything is experienced as life or death, more intensely than necessity dictates. Each decision – to wait with her or leave– as a heavy moral dilemma, with the selected path reflecting on the rest of the journey, perhaps altering the course of our lives. The drama will quickly be forgotten as soon as it ends but the intensity of those hours will have certainly cut years off our lives.

I have always thought of these reactions as typical of everybody, not limited to my family members. Yet, at a second, less absent-minded glance, I notice that others seem to function at a more neutral pace. Most people, perhaps, do not imagine the impact of metal on flesh each time they are about to board a train or think, at a shopping center, while looking for a coat or shoes, that an unusually high escalator goes against most human instincts. Perhaps, they also do not revert back to being children at the moment of each temporary separation from their mother. This separation and others, while felt, may simply be accepted as life’s usual fare and not experienced as a fresh cut each time.

On these occasions, despite or maybe, because of, their weight, I think of the stupidest line from a silly movie, Tropic Thunder, in which one character, an actor, tells his costar that the latter hasn’t won an Oscar precisely because of his full immersion into his roles. Last time, the wise adviser tells him, he lost because he “went full retard.” I know the term is politically incorrect but that line kills me. It makes me laugh every time I think about it not because of the subject but the implication. In order to win, the line suggests, one should half-feign while only being partially involved, a trick which may be the secret to successfully living as an adult.

I was reminded of yet another key to success when, a few months ago, the son of a colleague, a 4-year old boy, experienced a short-lived but powerful coup de foudre on our first meeting. Of course, I was flattered by his childish love as we are all tickled even when a cat or a dog prefers us to another human being. Once met, the boy wanted to play with me all the time, unaware of the huge temporal gap dividing us. The first day, after we parted, his slightly worried mother informed me that the boy woke up screaming from his usually peaceful nap. “Ah!” I thought, with a pang in my own heart, recognizing his pain, “It won’t be easy to erase the face of someone you like or suppress the need to see them right away! But, he will quickly learn to forget.”

The next day, I had to endlessly push him on a swing, an activity which, for him, combined several key elements of happiness. As such, I couldn’t deprive him. And, for me it was more amusing than the usual morning routine. Yet, after he left – we all had to return back to work, of course – I knew heartbreak would soon follow.

“He usually loves going to see my mother,” his mom told me, half-surprised “but today he cried and cried. He didn’t want to leave.” After this last incident, he never returned to his parent’s workplace. I suppose he realized that he had no choice but to go to his grandmother’s every day and too much emotion beforehand would make him refuse and resent this pleasant but neutral fate. Go, Red Riding Hood, do not lose your way! I suppose he didn’t realize it on his own; it’s probably too early. But, one day, he will.

by Kleitia Vaso