game

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The gingerbread man gets baked and jumps out while everyone cheers and sings about how delicious he is. I knew a guy in university who did that but he wasn't made of gingerbread.

Ben's first theatre production is what it was. If you like what you see, applaud! Lots of clapping. We like lots of clapping. There was lots of clapping.

Afterwards he ate one of those giant floppy pizza slices, half a tray of fruit meant for twenty, two glasses of POP!, a piece of cake, and a gingerbread house. Then he was ushered to a chair to sit for his official post-premiere interview. I watched him.

Go sit over there Ben, says the lady with the big camera. He does. Okay now look this way. He looks. She pins the mic to his sweater. He pulls it off to test it for size and strength because he, like all kids, is a scientist. Hmm. What's this? I've never seen it before. I should totally throw it against that wall to see what it'll do if someone throws it against a wall. Anyway. What? Oh. She pins it on again, and she asks him questions, and he answers with the ease of someone who is only aware of who he is at that exact, precise moment. Well-fed and well-sugared. In the company of multiple grammies and grampas and mommy and daddy and brother. Safely delivered through a play without having fallen off-stage. On his way to go eat a bunch more stuff.

Did you practice a lot?

Yeah!

Did you have fun?

Yeah!

Who did you play?

JOHN DOUGH.

Are you going to come do theatre with us again?

Yeah!

He hops away. One foot, the other.

I realize I'm still watching him, noting something, you know, without knowing consciously what I'm noting. Maybe it's the way that kids don't agonize about who they are, or agonize about looking good, at least not yet. I wonder about the not-yet. When is yet? When do we get all grey and furrowed? Damn shame.

Greeting cards and text art posters get all poetic about how children are our teachers, and I know what they're getting at when they say that. Love and acceptance and it's a small world after all, but I think that's all dancing around the salient point, which is this: the freedom in being a kid is the freedom first from the world news report, and second from the grown-up curse of getting insufferably and constantly meta.

He says yes to everything except, occasionally, pants. He verbalizes delight without words: with squeaks, shrieks, giggles. He always tells the truth. He is not yet aware of the phenomenons of perception (false ones, cruel ones, judgmental ones, delusional ones, all those of other people as well as of himself), expectation, large-scale lies, corruption, psychological baggage, political rage, religious rage, non-random misfortune at the hands of others, and the deception of mass marketing and mass media. The only mass he senses is that of his own thump.

Everything is new, and nothing is sullied. Danger is limited to snarly dogs and crossing the street, and there's the trick. You might say his world is small, and that its safety and contentedness roots there, in smallness, in his child-entitled obliviousness and shelter. But I think maybe it's the opposite. His world is enormous. It's us who shrank.

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