jubilance and the boy who made impossible possible
My baby boy, the one they told me I’d never ever have, is graduating from a college he never thought he’d know as his own. And we are celebrating. We are jubilant. We are celebrating deep down inside both of us all those things that people say you will never ever do; but you forge right ahead and you do them anyway.
We have long thought of the kid as “the egg that wouldn’t take no for an answer.” That little egg did not care that I was 43, halfway to 45 by the time he was born. Did not care that so many other eggs had not followed instructions. That egg — his egg — refused to take no for an answer. And that egg grew and grew into the magnificent human with the very very big heart. The tenderest heart I’ve ever known. A heart that says best what it says in unpunctuated text messages, in hilarious pictures he sends of himself dressed in alligator suit, complete with spiky tail he swishes hither and yon as he stalks his native habitat.
That kid is my champion. That kid makes me believe in the impossible. That kid is living, breathing, impossible made possible.
That kid told me a few weeks ago that when he was trying to do the impossible — to reach for something well out of reach — he tapped his shoulder as if to beckon me, to give him the strength and the will and the courage he needed. Turns out, he reached what he was reaching for. And he let me in on his secret the morning after it happened. Ever since, I’ve follow his lead: when I need to reach for something beyond my reach — be it courage, or breath, or not flinching a muscle when the doctor comes at me with needles the size of a drain pipe — I now tap my shoulder too.
That kid and I might spend the rest of our lives tapping our shoulders, beckoning courage, beckoning the possible, beckoning reaching far, far beyond what we think we can do.
So I am madly wildly celebrating that kid, and the chance to be by his side when he doesn’t exactly walk across the graduation stage this weekend. Because his most recent impossible something was winning a championship along with his mates, the ones who fling frisbees into the air, and shout out in joy as they run for the discs that spin through the air, impossibly. He’s taking to frisbee fields, in the national championship, instead of seizing diploma, and I will be right there on the sideline. Jubilant. Celebrant. Waiting to see if he taps at his shoulder.
My once-impossible impossibly soaring and diving, seizing the impossible. My blue-ribbon boy. My joy and jubilance ever after…
i could sit and read jane kenyon all day any day. and this one is new to me, so i’m sharing it…
jane kenyon, a poet of the quotidian, was long and adoringly married to donald hall, the late great poet and essayist. both now gone; forever heroes to me, their poetries worthy of a lifetime’s attention. some years ago, in the blessing of one such lifetime, i sat beside hall –– on the floor tucked against his armchair –– in the living room of their white frame farmhouse on eagle pond, in new hampshire. it was during our “year of thinking sumptuously,” when we up and moved to cambridge, mass., and drank from the firehose that is the nieman fellowship for journalists. poetry was where i took my deepest dive that year. and, after that field trip to new hampshire, hall and i became something of pen pals, posting letters back and forth, letters i now save tucked between the pages of his poems. on the day we had spent at eagle pond farm, kenyon, who had been the poet laureate of new hampshire, had already died (she died at 47 in 1995), but her poetries for me are now animated by knowing the kitchen where she cooked, the desk where she wrote, and the barn where she sometimes went to weep.
here is kenyon’s “happiness”…
There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.
No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon,
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.
It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
+ Jane Kenyon