Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Little Hero's Hero, Zero

When I was 2 1/2 (my son's current age), my heroes were E.T., Oscar the Grouch, and Bert (of Bert and Ernie). I have to say that, in retrospect, most of what you really need to know about me as the person I am today can pretty much be summed up in those three characters. With my stuffed E.T., I loved taking care of him and teaching him all about the world around us. One of my first clear memories is of taking E.T. to the beach with me in San Francisco (where we lived at the time) and teaching him all about the water, the sand, and everything else around us. Keep in mind, I was only 2 1/2, so my repetoire was pretty limited, but I still loved taking care of someone and teaching. Education and nurturing, it seems, have gone together for me since the very beginning. My love of Oscar is also very telling. "I Love Trash" remains one of my all time favorite songs, and with it, I trace both my love of recycling/used goods shopping AND my love of bonding with personalities that others would describe as irascible or "difficult." (In my pre-mom days, I worked at what will probably forever remembered as my dream job at a school for adolescents with emotional/behavioral disturbances. I LOVED working with those kids and would love to find a way to work with troubled teens again someday.) When I watch Sesame Street now with my son, I fall in love again with Bert, whose bravery in extolling the virtues and beauty of the every day ordinary (like pigeons, oatmeal, and reading) is an example that I strive to achieve every day.

I tell you all this as a preface to my son's unabashed, no holds barred, five month long love affair of a much maligned and undervalued number. My son loves zero. It might be because of it's almost identical appearance to the letter "O" which is the first letter of my son's name. It might be because it looks almost like a circle which is one of the few shapes my son can (almost) draw. It might just be an inexplicable attraction, but it is safe to say that my son is smitten with the number. I know what you are probably thinking. But zero means nothing! It's a horrible number to love. That is the most common reaction we get when family members or friends hear about Owen going to sleep at night with his "Zero" puzzle piece or the way he is thrilled every time he looks at a clock and there is a "zero" in the time. Although most agree that it is a cute story when I tell about how he used to chant "zero come back" when the zero would disappear from the time on the clock and would be thrilled when it reappeared, it still seems like an odd choice for something to love to the general population. I understand that. And yet . . . well, I understand where he's coming from.

Sometimes, I wonder where this love of zero will lead him in his life (if it leads him anywhere). Will he listen as an adult to his childhood love affair with the number zero and see it as the first step to his inevitable fate to become an accountant or a tax attorney? Will he, from the future perspective of a political activist or counselor, see it as the first time he came to the defense of the disenfranchised, the under appreciated, the ignored? Will he (as an artist and student of the human condition) see it as his first ability to see beyond what everyone else sees into the negative space of perspective? Or will it be as puzzling to him as my childhood insistence that my future husband would be Inspector Gadget? (Although, thinking about it now, my real husband is awful into "gadgets" and technology . . .)

The point is that my son is not yet who he will one day become and, ultimately, only he will be able to decide and interpret how the events of his life and the development of his personality came to be. As much as I, as his mother, may want to step in and predict his future or even try to determine his future, I can't. My primary future function will be that of an archivist who will present him with his past so that he can make sense of his life today and in the future. It is both a beautiful and an honorable fate that awaits me and I honestly have been so amazed and surprised by who he has already become that I can't wait to hear what he will make of all this one day. Until then, I will hold my little Zero Hero in my heart and in my arms and I will treasure this sweet little quirky love affair for as long as it lasts because nothing lasts forever. Or is it only nothing lasts forever? I will certainly never write a zero again without thinking of this period in our lives.

I'll leave you with a link to one of my son's current favorite songs. If it were up to him, we would watch this a thousand times every day. (And is it just me, or does the Zero Hero bear a striking resemblance to what might be a grown up version of my little boy?)

Thanks for reading,



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