My son opens his tackle box and shows me his fishing lures. They are each in their own little compartment, like an expensive box of chocolates. He names them, carefully holding them up between his fingers and turning them, as if he is seeing them for the first time himself: Lapala Broken Back, Jitterbug, Rattle Trap.
This is probably not notable behavior in most 11-year-old boys. Most boys have been collecting things since they could toddle, impassioned by Matchbox cars or baseball cards. They organize them by make or model, year or team, depending on their mood.
None of this typical behavior has ever appealed to this son. In fact, he's never really latched on to anything with a passion, not counting Nintendo. He's gone through every seasonal sport, from football to soccer to baseball, but has never been really on fire over any of them.
As far as keeping up with things, he is helter-skelter, from his backpack to his bedroom. Organization has never been important to him, so to see him meticulously tending to anything at all is noteworthy.
Fishing has brought out a new side in him. He hoards his equipment as if it were gold, not bringing his own rod and reel to fish with his cousins, instead using the old rusted ones to ensure no harm coming to his own. And this child, the same one who loses important math papers and tennis shoes, hates losing a lure to a branch on the bottom of the lake so much that he won't use them.
The other evening, as I was getting ready to clean up the kitchen, then fold a mountain of laundry, he asked me to go out in the paddle boat with him and watch him fish. Torn, I sighed, and began to apologize for how much I had to do that night.
"It's OK," he said.
I ended up in the boat with him, all the while thinking how much this little excursion was going to put me behind.
We paddled out to the middle of the lake, and he cast. It was long and smooth and landed with a plop about three yards from where a fish had just jumped.
"See, I don't want it right on top of where that fish jumped," he explained, "because he'll know it's a fake worm. He won't believe a worm just dropped out of the sky right in front of him. You want him to swim to it."
We sat quietly for a while, my son scanning the lake for his target before he drew back his arm and, in one fluid motion, floated his bait far out into the lake.
I listened to the crickets surrounding us from all sides, and realized how much I'd been insulated by air conditioning lately. I heard the deep croak of bullfrogs and a faraway call of a mourning dove. I heard a fish splash now and then, sometimes near us and sometimes far across the lake. And over and over, there was the slow squeak of my son reeling in the line, then a gentle whir as he cast it out again.
"I like this time of day," I said, my to-do list long forgotten.
"Just wait," he said. "In a little while, the trees and the sunset will reflect off the water. It is so beautiful."
I leaned back in my seat and watched my little boy, the one who always finds his way, in spite of me.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society