I wanted to go to outer space.
Fly in space shuttles. Eat shitty space ice cream. Play on the moon. Colonize Mars.
I wanted to be an astronaut.
I grew up very close to the hometown of Neil Armstrong where they have an air and space museum named in honor of the first human being to set foot on the moon.
I had a lot of space books. I was always fascinated by the size and scope of Saturn. Jupiter. The Sun.
Our solar system is ridiculously awesome. And I wanted to see it all. I read a lot of little-kid space books growing up. I watched the Space Shuttle Challenger explode live on national television with a bunch of other kids in an elementary school gymnasium in first grade.
And STILL, I wanted to go out there. Unfazed.
I was young. Hopeful. Ambitious.
There were no limits. No restrictions on my dreams.
I was fearless.
It didn’t matter that I wasn’t genius enough to know astrophysics.
It didn’t matter that I didn’t know anything about aviation. Or engineering. Or advanced mathematics.
I was too ignorant to be scared of the dangers of shuttle launches. About how harsh and unpleasant the environments of every known non-terrestrial place actually is. To concern myself with the amount of time necessary to traverse the solar system.
Being a kid is amazing.
Who cares that I was never actually going to be an astronaut?
I wanted to be one. I believed I could be one. And I was happy.
Isn’t that all we really want? Happiness?
Of course it is.
Kids are our role models.
The ones that don’t know ANYTHING about limitations. Like my five-year-old son.
There are some lessons to be learned from their unbridled belief in what we might call the impossible.
The Death of a Basketball Star
There’s only one problem with the mind of a five-year-old to whom facts don’t matter.
They sometimes use their no-limit superpowers to challenge truth. Conventional wisdom. Irrefutable proof.
My son’s godfather is one of my dearest childhood friends. An attorney who took care of all the legal work for my divorce hearing.
He has three daughters. They all have very pretty, relatively typical girl names.
But he doesn’t always call them by their names.
He calls them Frank. Or Rick. Or G.S. (an abbreviation for ‘gutter slut’).
It sounds approximately like this:
Her father: “Yes, Rick?”
Daughter: “[Sister’s name] is taking all the dresses and doing something bad to them.”
Her father: “Hey! Frank! Stop being a little G.S.!”
This sort of thing makes me laugh and is consistent with the types of immature things we’ve been laughing about for close to 30 years.
Over the past few years or so, I’ve taken to calling people Chauncey. Or Chauncey Billups.
Billups is a five-time NBA All-Star point guard who has literally played for 25 percent of the NBA teams, but is most well-known for playing with the Detroit Pistons who he led to an NBA championship in 2004, winning MVP of the NBA Finals.
I like his name. Calling someone a Chauncey just feels so… organic. I do it a lot. I did it this morning to a driver who didn’t use his turn signal right after displaying total suckage at all other facets of motor-vehicle operation.
I call my son “Chauncey” or “Chauncey Billups” several times per week.
About a month ago, my son started saying “Chauncey Billups isn’t real!” every time I called him that.
I tried in vain to explain that, yes, Chauncey Billups is actually real. He’s a basketball player. In his prime, a pretty darn good one. And that he is a very real person. I showed him photos.
Facts don’t matter.
He can be anyone. Do anything. Create any reality.
Chauncey Billups isn’t real.
And Sometimes They’re Just Cute
I spent the past week writing down all of the things that kid said to me that made me laugh, just because.
Here are the highlights:
Me: “Good God, you smell like poop.”
Him: “That’s because I just went poop, dude.”
He grabbed a little toy. A little robot guy that can transform into a ball. He named him “Bowler” a couple years ago, and the name stuck.
“Hey Dad! Watch how fast Bowler is!” *does some rad fly-by move with Bowler and makes a whooshing noise* “He’s so fast he can fly through metal. He can fly through iron. NOTHING can cut through iron. Not even a pick ax. Right, Dad?”
We were eating Cleveland Indians peanuts on the deck off the back of the house. He loves cracking the shells as opposed to eating peanuts from a jar.
He said, “These are the best nuts. Are they the best nuts in your life, Dad?”
Then we were discussing our favorite sports teams. Basically all of the Cleveland sports teams because we hate happiness, apparently. The Browns in football. The Cavaliers in basketball. The Indians in baseball.
“You know who my favorite soccer team is?” he said.
“No,” I said.
“Tommy’s? Your friend at school?”
“Yeah. He’s the fastest runner in the whole school. I promise. He told me.”
He and I were practicing letters and reading one morning last week before work and school. Picking out words we could find on various objects. I have a fitness ball in my bedroom that I don’t spend enough time on. The brand is PURE.
“Hey, dude. Do you know what this says?” I said.
“P-U-R-E. That spells ‘exercise,’” he said.
He and I were watching a National Geographic special about dangerous reptiles. There was a segment about crocodiles.
“Hey, Dad. Saltwater crocs are cool. They can go in saltwater AND regular water.
“They can go in hot water AND cold water.
“They can go in any kind of water.”
He brought home a book from his school library titled Why Do Snakes Hiss?.
He pointed to the question mark in the title.
“Look, Dad! A mystery mark.”
“You mean, a question mark?”
“No. It’s a mystery mark.”
“Oh. You guys must call them that at school. That’s cool. But sometimes it’s called a question mark, buddy. It’s the symbol you write when you’re asking a question.”
He looked at me like I was the biggest dipshit on Earth.
“It’s a mystery mark.”
“Daddy’s a writer. I know about things like this.”
“Oh yeah? Well I can spell every color,” he said.
“Fine. Call it a mystery mark. You don’t have to be a little Chauncey about it.”
“Chauncey Billups isn’t real.”