Last night I dreamt
I had a beehive
in my heart.
The bees were
out of my old failures.
— Antonio Machado
We’ve begun production. We’re making kits. Each kit consists of a plastic bag containing one flight-tested plane (The Professional), one booklet of instructions for how to make The Professional, and one sheet of special folding paper to get the lucky purchaser started on his paper-airplane-folding career.
Nick has decided to manufacture 50 kits. It’s a lot of work, but if he sells all the kits to the other Fern Hill students, he stands to clear 50 bucks. The only impediment is the production assistant. That would be me.
Here’s a sample of our conversation last night, when we were folding plane number 33.
Nick proceeded to make the fold.
“This sucks,” he said.
He was sort of right. The folds need to be precise or the plane won’t fly straight.
“Try it again,” I said.
“I can’t. You do it.”
“I need your help,” I said.
I lined up the paper and held it in place for Nick to make the crease. He was tired. His hand slipped along without focus or direction.
“You need to take more time,” I said. “Maybe we’re out of gas tonight.”
“You think I suck, don’t you?”
Nothing sets me off more than the voice of Nick’s self-criticism. Let me count the ways I turn it against myself. Have I pushed him to stretch too far? Shouldn’t he be making the planes without any help from me? Will anyone buy planes that don’t fly? Won’t that disappoint him? Am I too invested in protecting him from disappointment? Am I in danger of protecting him right into thinking he’ll never be able to do anything by himself? Am I thinking too much?
Whenever I can produce a list of questions like this, I know the source. Underneath the worry is the anguish that I can’t make things better for him. Whatever thousand natural shocks I suffered growing up, he will suffer also. It’s the unbearable weight of parenting. And yet the only way to stop the Inquisition against myself is to bear it. Otherwise, the Inquisition never rests. It doesn’t listen to reason. It never goes away.
Reckoning with all this, how do I respond to his You think I suck?
“You’re really wanting to say I think you suck,” I said, trying to bear the unbearable.
We finished the plane and got involved in something else. The Inquisition took the rest of the night off.
The thing is, Nick is great by himself, when he’s free to simply create without any manufacturing goals in mind. Today he brought home a model house from Fern Hill, which he constructed for his Gloomy Bear to live in.
“He’s got a loft to sleep in,” Nick says.
I look at that house and take in its whimsy and good sense, its boldness and soaring spirit, the opportunistic re-purposing of found wood, the absence of fear or self-consciousness or self-censorship. The pure, uninhibited, unhindered joy of the thing. I think of my own, long career in school, where I never created anything that approached it.
Someone is doing something right. I wish I could write a play like that house.
“A garage is under the loft,” Nick says.
The Faire is next Saturday. I’ll keep you posted.
. . .
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Express yourself! Any thoughts about making things? I’d love you to add your comment below. I always respond here.