Saturday, February 23, 2013

Playing with Himself



Notes from today's WALK...   

My son plays with himself. In the backyard. He goes out there alone, often in the morning, sometimes before any of the rest of us are out of bed. I can see him through the sliding glass door that leads from our bedroom to the yard. I’m not sure if he knows I’m watching. I am sure he would not care. When he plays with himself, it is as though he’s the only person in the entire world. And nothing could make me happier.

I hear the kitchen door open. He steps from the deck onto the grass, barefooted, still wearing his pajamas.  He wears his tiny leather glove on his left hand and holds a ball in his right. He stands at the edge of the grass in the morning mist, gathering himself. The narration begins.

Pablo Sandoval at bat. Cardinals pitcher winds up and pitches!

He throws the ball against the concrete retaining wall and it ricochets into play.

And Pablo crushes it. He’s rounding first. He’s going to second.

He chases after the ball as it rolls past the yucca tree and behind the dog house. 

He’s going to try to score. The Panda’s going home. Can they throw him out?

He grabs the ball off the turf and launches another frozen rope toward the wall. Pablo beat the throw!

And he’s safe! The Giants win the World Series!

And then he begins again. He inhabits every role in his play. By the time he comes in for breakfast, every player on the Giants will have a highlight; all acted out by my son. He is pitcher, batter, fielder, fan, and play-by-play man. This is his favorite game. He plays alone, but there are many players. And he is all of them. 

This is why I say, he plays with himself. To me, that is different than playing by himself, which has a connotation of solitude or isolation. He is joined by all the figments of his imagination. They come to his aid, keeping him company. They are his friends, his teammates, his enemies. They are alive. They are with him. And they are him. And he doesn’t care who knows it.

Someday my son will stop playing with himself. Someday self-consciousness will get the better of his imagination. Someday, like the rest of us, he will be alone when he is alone. I only hope he can put that day off as long as possible. We would all be better off if we played with ourselves more often.

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