Heaven lies above us in our infancy!
But he, the growing boy, beholds the light and whence it flows
He sees it in his joy…
The youth who travels farther from the East
Still is nature’s priest. William Wordsworth
One of my best friends is a 11 year old Jewish kid and former neighbor
named Bryce. That’s right. I’m a 59 year old semi-retired Clinical
Psychologist with a remodeling addiction and he’s a skinny kid with a
head full of bushy blond hair and sparkling big brown eyes bursting
with equal parts mischief, innocence and ADHD. I guess that’s
what we have in common, minus the bright eyes and child-like innocence.
I am, or was until recently, the slightly crazy but interesting empty-nest single
father and next-door neighbor who turned his backyard and basement into a Pirate ship
complete with cannons, poop deck and wheelhouse. Naturally Bryce, with his mother’s permission would wander over to my house with its never-ending construction and hammering to ask, “What are you doing Cliff and can you make me a sword??” Normally, when I am in compulsive building and creativity mode I tell people to heave-ho and walk the plank, so to speak, but in Bryce’s case I always made an exception. I dont know what it was about the kid. I could tell that school wasn’t easy for him, making friends (or keeping them) wasn’t a breeze either and he talked so rapidly you needed a super computer to keep up with him and translate his rapid fire speech and ricochet thoughts into slowed down english. If ADHD had a 1-10 scale this boychik would have scored a 10 and his fidgety-bounce off the walls behavior often matched his pin-ball wizard mind. Of course I’m ADHD too, so we were immediately bonded and a perfect match with only a measly half century age difference standing between us. Here’s the thing tho. If you really bothered to listen to what Bryce was saying and took the time to understand and process his wide-ranging observations about life, love, God and the universe, they were often startlingly precocious and spiritually deep. Some of the things he would say in an off-handed Tom Sawyer kind of way were definitely food for thought, and we would share ideas and mutual insights over juice boxes, soda and an occasional cookie. Sometimes I would have him go home and swipe us something good out his mother’s kitchen pantry because it was a virtual treasure chest full of goodies and after school treats, easily the best leftovers and cracker collection in the entire neighborhood. We pondered many things together and designed dozens of “inventions” on paper napkins, scraps of newpaper, and blocks of wood. For a short period of time he was a little crazy about catapults, for some reason, and I did my best to follow his Michaelangelo-like lead, unless it sounded downright dangerous.
All of that is mere character development for the dramatic conclusion
and main point. One thing I noticed early on about Bryce was his love
of music, his fearless falsetto singing voice, and a Jazz legend like
sense of timing that was always accompanied by very precise physical
movements like tapping his foot to the beat or slapping his hands on
his upper thigh to the musical score. I dont mean just good or ahead of his
years type musical aptitude. I mean like human metronome PERFECT timing
and toe-tapping. The kid that couldn’t sit still was a mop-haired pre-pubescent Beethoven!! I felt like I had somehow stumbled across a child prodigy or through sheer luck discovered the Beatles, a group we both share a great love and respect for. Since that time, less then a year ago, Bryce has been playing piano, composing his own music, and singing….in the Atlanta Boys Choir.
Tomorrow nite, May 3rd, 2013, I will have the extreme pleasure of seeing him sing a solo in ABC’s spring program at the Cathedral of St. Philip at 7:30 PM. The spring concert under the direction of Maestro Fletcher Wolfe includes a selection of Cantor Charles Davidson’s moving musical piece, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly”. Cantor Davidson set to music some of the beautiful poetry that was written by child survivors of the notorious Theresienstadt concentration camp. Of over 150,000 children in the Nazi camp, only 150 survived. Bryce, my good friend, the co-creator of many catapults and the living embodiment of childhood hope, dreams, innocence and inspiration will step forward into the theater lights and sing his heart out, more than likely in perfect pitch. I may be ADHD and sometimes distracted, late or preoccupied, but this is ONE thing I wouldn’t miss for the world. In fact, I really think the world and our collective futures as creative and caring human beings fundamentally depends upon special people like Bryce.
Postscript: I went…I saw……..I kvelled. Getting to hear Bryce sing Shema Yisrael loud and proud in the beautiful Cathedral of St. Philip? Amazing. Seeing him dressed as a Pirate in the last act? Priceless.
Cliff Mazer, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist living in Sandy Springs, Georgia. He is crazy about Pirates and home remodeling. Contact: 404-932-7193