Learning

“Dad,” Eli explained, “water is stronger than crumbs, and germs are stronger than water.” I’m not sure what he means, exactly, but I have the feeling he’s right. Somewhere in his fantastic brain he’s thought this out, because that’s how he is; he thinks and thinks, and then he shares the connections his synapses have made. He sees giant birds in the dark-on-light grain pattern in a wooden door, or an airplane in the Picasso-esque musical drawing in his violin classroom. He sees things and then he tells you about them, and at first it makes no sense, but if you tilt your head to the side and see like a child or a genius sees, then you can visualize it.

You can learn a lot from children. Earlier today, Caleb came to tell me about the bug trap he’s made. He read about it in a book; I can tell because as he explained it, he looked into the distance at key points, almost as if seeing the page on which the directions were written. He’s already such a black-and-white child; I hope that he doesn’t also have a photographic memory. I only pray we help him become a Nathan and not a Javert.

This afternoon we fired a rocket on our front lawn. It was made from a plastic bottle, with silvery fins of carved balsa wood covered in foil. The fuel was baking soda mixed with vinegar, and the first time we tried to launch, the cork that is the primary mechanical part blew out of the back while I was still holding it, and nearly took Eli’s head off. Nevertheless, during our second trial he had enough faith in me to hold the fuel tube while I filled it with baking soda.

The rocket went a good thirty feet into the air. That’s high if you’re full-grown, but it’s especially lofty when you’re a two year-old whose never seen a rocket launched before. I’m afraid that now I’ve contributed to some kind of formative experience that will one day lead Isaac to become an astronaut. I’ll have to pray that by then we’ve had the good sense to eradicate NASA.

The other day I opened the front door to see Caleb and Eli lying on the brick walk, looking up at the clouds. Eli was pointing out the mysteries you can see, if you’ll only look the right way, while Caleb was explaining to him how clouds work. I listened, and loved them, and learned, because like I said, you can learn a lot from children. It’s one of the ways they make us better than we are, if we’ll only let them.