The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, January 10, 2014

Only one childhood, only one chance

Bonding to another human being, creating family, means taking on their history as yours.   Last year we traveled to the site of the notorious Dozier school in Florida, where a secret burial ground for abused boys was discovered, and unearthed by forensic archeologists.  The question of how and why this happened remains an academic one.
For Tananarive, it was personal: her grand-uncle Robert Stevens was one of the dead.  It was a solemn occasion, and as is my wont, I protected my emotions by speaking with the forensic team of the various technologies employed to “speak” to the dead: gas chromatography, entomology, and so forth.  Hiding behind my intellect.
T had her reporter’s eye, and concern for her father.  But Jason…for Jason…it is hard to grasp what this must have been for him.  The boys might have been his own age.  The world is both harsh and beautiful, and the love of a mother and father can be all that protect them.   On this day, nothing could remove the essential truth: you are standing in a place where children, much like you, were, if not murdered, discarded like garbage.
He is a warrior cub.  A worker, a mover, one of those who interprets the world by interacting with it rather than thinking about it or studying it at a distance.   And the way he chose to cope was to pick up a shovel and help the forensic team dig.  To help them sort through the dirt.  To ask hard questions and listen to hard answers…with his fingers black with Florida soil.
Somewhere in the simple coffins, the unmarked graves, the sarcophagus beetles and fragments of bone are the clues of what happened to his great-grand-uncle.  He cannot help but wonder how it all happened, and what stands between him and such a lonely, terrible fate.
My love stands in the way.  His mother’s.  Our love for each other.  We stand against the night, or no one does.
Please, my friends.  Be gentle with your children. Be careful with whom you make love, for our bodies don’t speak “birth control.”  To our hind-brains, such engagement is about forever. About the creation of life.   So much of the confusion we see in modern relationships is because we are designed through millions of years to bond, to breed, to protect and now we think we can just play games with this energy.
Bring genuine caring to your search for pleasure and companionship.  Ask yourself if this man, that woman, would be someone you’d want to help you protect your son or daughter from the coldness of life, the reality of death.  
If every time, you remembered you MIGHT be creating a Jason or a Jane, wouldn’t you hold your heart, your sexuality, your time and energy more sacred?   For the child Jason is now mirrors the boy I was, still within me. And the Elder Robert Stevens would have been is my own deathbed self, whispering to me of truth:
Soon enough, this child will be a man.  Let him enjoy his childhood, but plant the seeds that will grow into wisdom, now.   Cultivate carefully, or weeds will grow.  And chose those who will hoe and water and fertilize and harvest at your side with great care.  They only have one childhood.
Give him one better than yours was.  Certainly, than mine was.
Oh, Jason.  I love you so.  I would protect you from everything in the world, as I tried to do for your wonderful sister Nicki.  I will fail so heart-breakingly often, I fear.
But I will never, ever stop trying.  Thank God I have a woman like Tananarive at my side.  Thank God she chose me to stand at hers.
We will shelter you.  Or die trying.


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