Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Innocence Lost? Not Yet...

Among the most priceless artifacts of this world, the one I treasure most is my son's innocence.

I'm fiercely protective of it.

It's more pure than any spring-fed stream. It hasn't been dragged through chaos, spray-painted by terror, or held hostage by the anger of others. His spirit is full of love, compassion and an over-riding desire to have his friends come over and share his toys.

We've been cleaning out houses and attics and basements over the past few months. I got back my 80's era Fort Apache play set. Its plastic figurines depict some of the history we Americans aren't proud to rehearse. Indian braves attack US Cavalry troops. Some hold scalps. One coon-skin capped defender holds his musket in a sweeping arc to knock down climbing invaders.

It's a violent, hands-on game that arrived long before the Grand Theft Auto coders were even born.

"Let's play Cowboys and Indians!"

It didn't usually end well for the Indians. It wasn't like the cowboys revoked their library cards or drained the camp swimming pool.

Cooper quickly spotted the box in the growing pile of inherited flotsam in our basement. It had horses and buildings... all new toys to him.

We pulled out the whole mess in the living room; the carpet becoming a vast, creamy, grassy plain. Somewhere along the way, I'd picked up some Green Army Guys. We added those to mix and, for an ironic twist, I gave the Native American braves the superior firepower of WWII infantry. I'm sure the blue cavalry boys were shocked to see a flame-thrower toting man-o-the-1940s future at the door of the stockade.

Cooper didn't have a clue what massacre was laid out before him. They were having picnics and sharing cookie recipes for all he knew. And that's the way we left it. I acted out no aggression and he was content to move the plastic monuments of bygone wars around like checkers.

Don't call me naive. I know this innocence will be lost one day. He will learn fear from some older kids chasing him down the alley. He will feel the rawness of revenge and the emptiness of its success. The world will open its box of evil and pour out the contents before his pure, bright eyes.

But with God's help I will stand guard in front of him as long as possible; censoring, shielding, unyielding to the onslaught of what I've come to realize is resident in the core of all of humanity. To keep that light glowing unburdened in his eyes. I would hope to introduce Reality to him gently, to lead him slowly, methodically. But I know it's not in my control... Life will bring it much too quickly.

Until then, the Green Army Guys have Lightning McQueen stickers to share with the Indians. And the Cavalry is just here to race their horses around the dining room, through the kitchen, and into the sunset of Innocence.