When I lived in Berkeley, CA, I had the incredible opportunity to work for a world-class theatre. In the fall of my internship there, I also had the immense privilege of working on a show called Passing Strange. Before making it’s Broadway debut, Passing Strange premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where I was working as a marketing and public relations intern.
Passing Strange is the epic story of a young boy who becomes a man through a series of experiences good, bad, and trippy. I LOVED THIS SHOW. I loved working with the actors, the creators, and learning what goes into an original production. I also loved the raw honesty of a man (in this case, a man named Stew) who was willing to put his story on stage for all to see and experience.
Last weekend, I had a similar experience. It didn’t occur on a stage or in California, but on the pavement of a small neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi with my two-year-old cousin, Ric. Ric is full of life and has the most amazing smile. He has three older sisters and probably has to yell loudly to be heard, but he is doted on by his sisters and adored by his parents.
I spent the night in Jackson on Friday and got to spend some time outside with Ric on Saturday morning. Ric amazed me. He is talking, but mostly in two-year-old language, so sometimes I wasn’t quite sure what he was saying. We spent a lot of time running and on the ground. He is really into trucks right now (And Curious George. And dinosaurs.) so he loaded up his favorites in the back of his toy foot-powered car and we headed down the street to the reservoir of their neighborhood. Ric wanted to stop every few feet to unpack his trucks, sit in the middle of the street (don’t worry, no cars), and just play.
I am not sure I have ever spent a morning do so little yet so much at the same time. I was completely enamored by Ric’s innocence, his wonder, and his sense of play. Every step was an adventure. He was engulfed by the size and mystery of nearby bulldozers. He laughed and chased geese. He called for his dog every few feet, making sure she had not wandered too far. He yelled, “HI!” to men fishing in a boat and asked the geese why they flew away. He was filled with pure joy and amusement.
My favorite line from the musical Passing Strange is “The universe is a toy in the mind of a boy.” That is exactly how it felt to sit with Ric and wonder what he was wondering. The whole universe is his toy and he knows no limits. Yet. One day, his wonder will turn to skepticism and his innocence will be marred by life experience,
But those things haven’t happened yet. For now, Ric sees the world as his playground, and he is right! My hope is that I can regain some of that wonder and whimsy and realize that my biggest limitation in this world is myself. I hope I never forget to play, to delight, and to just sit on the ground and be curious.