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obsession -- not the perfume

Okay, here's the promised success kid moment. But I am still, alas, short for time. No, not the page-proof-edit for Into the Ravine -- that particular boot has swung and missed. No, this is another boot descending on me, an all-the-things-you-have-to-do-on-Saturday boot. Too many to list here, but they all start in about an hour. So let me tell you about Sam, my elder boy, who was hackeysacking with me the other day. We were on our deck, kicking the sack around, a wonderful bonding experience that lasted approximately 8 seconds before he lunged after an errant kick of mine, got his foot on the sack and roofed it. The sack ended up in the eavestrough, twenty feet in the air. Ah, well, I thought, and went back to preparing dinner (shish kebab on the BBQ). Sam had that determined look on his face. He hunted around for a ladder -- which wasn't tall enough to reach the high roof with the guttered sack. He climbed onto the low roof, but could not climb from there to the high (and steeply slanted) roof -- thank God. Sam is no longer the 7-year-old boy who couldn't swim, but I recognized the look on his face. He couldn't do it, couldn't do it, and it bugged the hell out of him -- especially since his twin sister could do it. Over the course of a couple of hours of lessons Sam willed himself to succeed. I will swim, he said, shivering all over his skinny leggy body, or I will die trying. He practically did (die), going under time and again, but in the end he did (swim). He paddled across the pool to wear I was waiting and said, There. The roofed hackeysack became an obsession for him. I watched, interested and alarmed, as he tried to reach it with stick, broom, lasso, and fishing hook, climbing up and down from the small roof. This is so not my approach to life. I wonder where he gets it? You know, I said, the sack is worth about 1.50. So what? he said. I nodded and went back to the barbecue. But I kept my eye on him. He taped a pole to a broom, and asked me to help. I climbed up, and plied the pole/broom contraption myself. When I leaned way way out, with Sam hanging on behind me, I found I could actually reach the sack. I didn't think it would work, but when I pulled back with the contraption, the sack moved. I pulled again. It moved further. In two minutes we untaped the poles, and grabbed the sack with a hook on a stick. Sam and I stood on the low roof with the contraption between us. Now you know, he said, my grown son, in a serious voice, looking me right in the eye, what not giving up feels like. My daughter Imo, deputising for me at the barbecue, called that the shish kebab was ready. And we jumped down and ate. (Tasty, but the meat was not as tender as it should have been. I blame the cheapskate who bought it). Things get done by obsessed people. Things don't get done by people who shrug and say, Oh well, it doesn't matter that much, or, It's only worth 1.50. Things get done by people who have to get them done. I never thought about him that way before, but Sam has things in common with world leaders and CEO's and saints and Bono and -- well, all the people I am not. Hmm. Sam has no idea what he wants to do with his life. It worries him. But I suspect he will find something, and succeed in a way I can not conceive.


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