Buffalo wings at Baton Rouge restaurant The Chimes

through a glass darkly

O

nce, on trip with his preschool to visit the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, I walked into an elevator with four-year-old Roy and at least eight other children from his class, a parent or two and a teacher. It wasn’t actually an elevator. It had sliding doors on either side and the space inside would gently rise or fall a few inches but only in conjunction with the 15-year-old video that ran continuously on the wall above our heads, charting the changes in plant and animal life in prehistoric New Mexico.

This elevator-that-wasn’t was a destination for the children, though. Even the suggestion of movement of or by a seemingly stationary structure qualified as an amusement park ride of sorts for preschoolers. The children flocked to it like so many stimulation-deprived, migrating birds.

As the doors closed on our particular group, Roy began to bounce on the soles of his feet. The “Evolator” (really its name) had not begun its actual descent into watery pre-history, but Roy knew the drill. He could feel the give of the floor under his feet and understood from past trips to this attraction that thrills were in the offing but that he was expected to wait for them to be doled out at an appointed time that meant nothing to him. On this day, and in the company of his many small friends, he decided to start the party early. In a matter of seconds he was jumping up and down and rallying the other preschoolers to do the same with excellent results.

It was all happening so quickly, the entire room moving up and down around us now, Roy and his gang of eight preschoolers jumping and squealing with joy. I found myself shrilly ordering Roy to stop while simultaneously extending my hand to try and reconnect his jumping bean body to the floor by squishing down on the top of his head. As I reached out, I caught his teacher’s eye intermittently, my gaze obscured every second or so by Roy’s happy, bouncing face.

“He’s a leader,” she observed dryly as my fingers scrabbled to find purchase on the top of my son’s head.

Sometimes you are granted a glimpse of an outcome for yourself or for someone else. An image of how things may eventually turn out—and why—will swim up at you, developing into something you can just manage to make out before its gone again.

That day at the museum with Roy was one of those, but I walked out of the elevator-that-wasn’t feeling overwhelmed and anxious. What did so much decision and certitude and organizational potential mean for him when he was so small or naughty or just plain wrong?

What would it mean for us as we tried to parent him for the next decade and a half?

But in a restaurant in Baton Rouge last week, I watched 10-year-old Roy sit down at a table, turn his baseball cap around backwards and order a plate of Buffalo wings and a (root) beer. He thanked the waitress for everything she brought him and for just a minute, and I could see a time in which he will have grown into some of that sureness, a future where his outsized vision for what he can expect in his life will serve him and others around him well.

Then it was gone.