After a long week, my boyfriend and I thought about cooking dinner for all of a minute before heading to the corner ramen place. While waiting for our order, the topic of conversation eventually landed on family. “He’s just so smart, so intelligent,” I gushed about my nephew in particular, “obsessed with science and facts; he’s just so knowledgeable about it all—“.
“Geez, when will people learn that all of that just comes down to curiosity,” my boyfriend countered.
“But…” I started, then paused, careful to choose my words, letting my brain chew on the idea instead. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Oh, I don’t mean it personally,” he stressed. “It’s just that nearly everyone says that about their kid. Don’t you remember being that age? How easy it was to be obsessed with something? I swear I knew the name of every dinosaur at that age,” he laughed.
He made an interesting point. I did remember being that age. Childhood was an actual thing growing up, not just TV ideology. It was a time of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and playing in the rain with galoshes and oversized umbrellas. From the crossing-guard to the principal, our school community was one of the best there was, contributing to a warmth carried in my heart to this day. Bicycle rodeos and festivals were held during the fall, holiday pageants during the winter, reading achievement awards each month, and student-vs.-teacher kickball games each summer. It was the ideal if not perfect environment for imagination and creativity.
Our waitress set two mugs of Sapporo on the table. My shoulders dropped. I did remember being that age.
“But that doesn’t mean he’s not intelligent,” I said, my gaze meeting his, a suppression of mild annoyance.
“You’re totally right. Time will tell,” he remarked, and I perked up a bit. “But look,” he continued, “unless a kid is an actual prodigy — like, dabbling in quantam physics, speaking several languages, or writing symphonies — by hand — chances are they are just like any other kid.”
His brain had digested the notion long ago. My brain, after about twenty good chews, was only beginning to absorb it.
Sinking back into the booth, I could almost hear my mom saying: “You attended Spanish classes after lunch, completely fluent; even sang in the Spanish-language pageant in first grade. What happened?” I was considered gifted in school, earned money towards a scholarship in second grade, and and worked on the school newspaper after school. What did happen?
My boyfriend checked his email, disappearing from peripheral view, as my brain started to swallow the notion. I should be happy, in particular that my nephew exists within an environment that allows for his interests and fixations to run wild, especially before puberty takes hold. My niece as well; I wonder if she stares up at the sky, watching the birds from the middle of the playground at recess, aching to be on the other side of the chain link fence, like I used to.
I wondered if there’s anything to be done to keep such fancy afloat through the years. Having been on this side of the fence for longer than I’d care to admit, the wonderment surely hasn’t vanished, but it has been more difficult to come by. It makes sense that now, in my thirties, there’s no measurable difference in feeling concerning my ability, or lack thereof.
So was I about to admit that my boyfriend was right? Everyone knows that there are only so many opportunities to do so while saving face. But this wasn’t one of those typical Mars-and-Venus situations.
“Yo, knock, knock. You alive in there?” he asked, smirking slightly.
Our food arrived, and I nodded. My brain was full, and my boyfriend was right. I didn’t fully admit it, but he got a punch in the card anyway. The thirteenth one’s for free.