Monday, September 12, 2005

The Armadillo Speaks


I had one of my favorite kinds of conversations this evening - which will surprize those who know me for a couple of reasons:

  • I was on the phone
  • I mostly listened instead of talked

My nephew, hereafter referred to as "the Armadillo" is a college freshman this year. He called me tonight to talk a little about school - and whatever- and although I have spoken to him a lot and we communicate almost every other day through the Internet, today was especially nice.

He had finished doing his German homework which had taken him quite a while; yes, he is taking German, a rather difficult language to learn, I think (ask my son), and difficult for the Armadillo who loves languages. His enthusiam was great; his voice was excited; he is thinking about getting a tutor so that he can learn faster, and so that he can practice speaking. He still had homework to do, and the German had worn him out, but he was still excited. He had also joined the German club and gone to the professor's house where they had cooked a German apple dish and watched a movie about the last Austrian princess. This is from a college freshman who is often about as silent as his namesake.

What I loved about the conversation is his excitement about Learning: yes, Learning with the big L. He talked about how fast he could finish his math class which is done on computer, and a little about what he had done over the weekend. Now that excitement is the most virulently contagious kind to me; a conversation like that can keep me awake at night with happiness - and with nostalgia, for some of my happiest nights have been spent in an insomniac state induced by my son's enthusiasm for learning - and with his sharing it with me - especially when he was in college far away in Atlanta.

The Learning is not just about German - it's about learning your own routine - learning how long and when and how you will sleep when arising is dependent only upon you. It is learning what you can do by yourself - really by yourself - whether it is eating alone or going to a party alone or living alone.

It is the beginning of learning what freedom is - walking across a campus and realizing that you could not go to class...or you could....or later you could take a nap and wake up and do your homework at 2:00a.m. or that you could go and drink coffee and talk about things with friends until you are hoarse or play drinking games.

Learning starts when you realize the infinite possibilities in front of you - and that the next piece of earth that your foot falls upon depends upon where you decide to put that foot. Learning starts when you realize that you are very small indeed in a huge world - and that very fact excites you beyond belief.

The only sad part of this conversation is realizing how very much I miss my son who has decided where to put his foot many times with just about the fewest false steps of anyone I've ever known. He has journeyed so far and seen and done so much, but instead of being jaded, he only seems to realize how much more there is to see.

The Armadillo is poking his head out of his shell - and now he is beginning to see a lot more.

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