Well past his bedtime, I found my ten-year-old intently focused on the objects that lay before him. Glue, scissors, paper and tape gave away the story. Not meaning to disrupt his mission, yet needing to assert my parental responsibility, I cleared my throat, hoping for attention. He turned around, victory pouring from every ounce of his tiny being, holding a complex paper model of the Empire State Building. Instinctively, I reached out to hold the paper model in my hands, amazed that a young child had completed a task intended for much older and mature audience. As I examined the marvel he had created, a rush of memories flooded me, and I found myself standing atop the Empire State Building, watching the sun, setting far into the distance.
Anyone who can make paper come alive holds a special spot in my heart. Therefore, when I saw the intricate work involved in the creation of this artwork, the delicate curves, the seamless joins, the crisp lines, I was impressed. Looking past the exquisite artwork that lay before me, I could not help but recall the pleasant memories of the Empire State Building. As a child growing on a tiny Island in a distant ocean, the tallest building I had ever climbed was just the right height; I could see my friends and much to the annoyance of neighbors, exchange shouting matches to see who was the loudest. Just the possibility of standing on top of a tall building was a dream come true. My first and only trip to the Empire State Building was nothing short of astonishing wonder! I remember seeing the world in amazement and awe, as the elevator climbed at breathtaking speed, and we dashed out of the elevator to witness a new world! At the top of the tallest building one could imagine, I could see the tiny ant-like humans and the moving butterflies that looked like cars just a few minutes ago!! In a flash I could feel the texture of the fence against my hand, the coined binoculars for observing distant parts of Manhattan, the mini stairs with tired folks resting for a bit before continuing their tour, the hubbub of the city, the rush of people all around me – but mostly, I felt the air – the breeze that grabbed my being and took me beyond the yonder of the blue sky with scattered white clouds, rolling gently over the city. In that one moment, I was a curious child, free of all burdens, all worries; a spirit that could fly!
Curious as to why he had selected the Empire State Building as his project, I inquired for the reason. His reply was logical – ‘this was the next project in the book and it seemed very interesting.’ Allow me to interpret ‘interesting’ for you. For his mind, interesting means that he was not bored, which is what happens at school. Not enough challenge in the classroom – but that is a discussion for another day. He was happy, and his work spoke volumes. That is what mattered.
As I tucked him in, I found myself humming Whitman’s “When I heard the learn’d astronomer.” The poem reminding me of things more important than intricate details of science. In that one moment of pride and joy, I had traveled 30 years, building new memories and reviving old ones. Memories that will bring joy and laughter in the years to come.
Going to bed that night, I thought about the wonderful gift that my son had given me. I recalled with delight the guidance given by my beloved prophet, Muhammad – peace and blessings of God be upon him – that “The best among you is he who is best towards his family…” With heart in prayers that may my children become the best fathers, the best husbands and best of the people, I drifted towards the arms of sleep, with a gentle breeze on a moonlit night.
Till we meet again, may the love of family thrive in your life!