I tossed an orange in the air and caught it and there was a gasp across the room and a rattle of footsteps. My son was looking up at me, mouth hanging open. “Do that again!” he said, in disbelief.
“What? The thing with the orange?”
He nodded silently.
I tossed the orange and caught it a few more times.
He fumbled for a dining room chair and sat down before his legs gave out. “That is so cool. You should work in the circus…”
“Yeah?” I continued throwing the orange back and forth between my hands. “Maybe.”
He waved a hand and pointed, “No. You really should. You are JUGGLING, Dad. I never knew you could juggle!”
I tossed the orange under my leg and caught it with my other hand. “Actually, it’s not really juggling. But, I don’t know. I guess it’s pretty cool to be able to catch things.”
“Yeah,” he looked at the floor and kicked his feet. “Maybe someday I could do that.”
I knelt down next to him. “Hey, you can. It’s not that hard. How about this summer I’ll take you out in the yard and I’ll practice with you and teach you how to catch things.”
He smiled an uncertain smile and his eyes went unfocused as he considered this. I let his brain drift over this ocean of possibilities and tried not to disturb him. Suddenly he came back from his reverie. “Oh, I remember now what I was thinking about!”
“I thought you reminded me of something, but I couldn’t remember it. But I remember now.” He slid off the chair and walked into the living room and then pointed at an area near the bottom of the stairs. “You already taught me how to catch before.”
I looked at the floor trying to figure out what he was talking about.
“Don’t you remember? You would sit here.” He sat down and pointed his legs in a V. “And I was over there.” He got up and moved a few feet away. “And you had a ball. It wasn’t a hard ball, a soft squishy ball.” he thought for a moment. “It was yellow. And you would throw it to me, and I would catch it and throw it back.” He smiled and blinked at me a few times quickly.
I slowly walked to the place where he had pointed and sat down, and then I looked very hard at the little boy sitting on the floor opposite me. I folded my hands in my lap. He folded his hands in his lap. I squinted, thinking hard. He squinted back. I closed my eyes. He started to say something, but I waved my hand and shushed him. I was trying to turn back time. Flipping through pages and pages and pages of life. The little boy slowly was shrinking in front of me. He was four. Now he was three. Now his body was getting rounder. His teeth were sinking back up into his gums. His hair becoming a mass of soft wispy curls. He giggled and blew bubbles and patted at the carpet. He held up his pudgy arms, a yellow ball hovering in the air between us. “Dadadada” he sang.
I opened my eyes again, and in a flash, he was back. This older boy. His head cocked to the side watching his father as he traveled through time. This boy that only exists at this very moment and then never again. A different boy than was even here a moment ago when I first shut my eyes.
“Oh hello, Gideon.” I said, introducing myself to this new person who was my son. “Yes, I remember teaching you to catch a ball. I just had forgotten that you were there.” I smiled.
He smiled back.
I tossed him an orange.