Archive for Thursday, October 16, 2008

Beyond childhood frontiers

October 16, 2008

I like fifth-graders; I particularly like fifth-grade boys. It is the age that we refer to as the last frontier of childhood. No longer is it possible to say: Wish the thought, the deed is done. It is the age at which responsibility strikes in neverending streams of demands — from parents, teachers and peers.

When I think of the film that portrays one aspect of that coming of age stage in life I think of “Holes,” where a cadre of delinquents, near-delinquents and misunderstood boys from diverse backgrounds find themselves in an outpost of a desert, digging holes as punishment for their various infractions that landed them there.

Except they are not merely there as punishment for their misdeeds — one so simple as having made off with a pair of designer athletic shoes that fell over the side of a bridge and hit him in the head — but rather are there as part of a plan by the woman who runs the camp, to dig up some buried treasure. So each day, the boys go to their assignments of digging holes — deep, dirty holes — in the desert sun.

Out of the diverse, disconnected group of boys, small knots of friendship form: black meets white, delinquent confronts the misunderstood, small stands against the mighty. An escape is attempted and ultimately victory is won.

I was thinking about the book/movie recently sitting in the waiting room of a cancer-treatment center, waiting to be found, waiting for the doctor’s order to be located, when a tall, lanky, thin-haired, young man, dressed in grey and black, with a silver apparatus stuck in one ear, appeared in the doorway and called out a name; we all looked up.

He retreated into the abyss of hallways. I looked at my traveling companion and asked if she read Harry Potter, to which she said she did not. I glanced beyond her to a fifth-grade, maybe older, youngster sitting there. “I do,” he said.

What was the name of that little goblin that followed Harry around, I asked. “Dolby,” he answered. “That guy reminds me of Dolby,” I said. He nodded.

“Dolby was controlled by a master, until he received a gift,” he explained. “It was a sock inside a book, then he was free.”

What I would give to present that boy with a book, with a sock, that would free him from the master disease that seeks to control him, that such a book would be filled with hope, courage, promise, and freedom to seek all that lies before and beyond him — way beyond the frontier of childhood. It is in such a place, with the heat of the sun that beats upon our heads, that the fulfillment of such a promise is possible.


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