As my daughter Stella gets older, I sometimes think back to my childhood. The very young years are often a blur. I do remember feeling loved and safe and being filled with wonder. My earliest memory is from about four years old, I would guess, and I am in the front room of the first house I lived in, a second floor, three bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. There were seven of us kids along with my parents who converted what would have been the living room into their bedroom. I had to learn to share space at a very young age and didn’t have a room of my own until I was seventeen.
We called the front room the porch, partly because it was where we played and partly because it had a bunch of windows that opened up to the street below. It seemed airy and light to me.
The memory is of my mother and one of my brothers, Greg I think, and myself, at night. The windows were open so it must have been summer. Sometimes we kids would lay blankets down on the parquet floors and sleep out there because the cool night air seemed to circulate better than in the small windowed bedrooms. My mom was sitting in a chair and my brother and I were looking out a window at the few stars that could be seen in the nighttime sky of the city. He was pointing out the big dipper. The memory fills me with a feeling of contentment and a sense of wonder.
It is nearly fifty years on and now and again I look up at the stars and think back upon that earliest memory and wonder. How did I get from there to here? Why so many twists and turns along the way? Have I always been looking up, head in the clouds, unable, at times, to navigate life on solid ground?
One of my nicknames as a child was Drew, the Dreamer. I was off in my own little world. Not sure who pinned that on me but I’d like to think it was my mother, that she saw in me an ethereal quality that has been both a burden and a blessing. A burden, because at times, I’m often not present, and a blessing, because at other times, I’ve felt connected to the intricate web of life. The mystery behind the curtain.
As William Blake said, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.”
I can be a pragmatist when it is warranted. Get things done. The Pragmatist can help clear a path to the doors.
But the Dreamer.
The Dreamer can wipe away the dust.