Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Itch

The light was dark in the old barn loft. There was a solitary window that looked out over the nearly barren lawn, just a few patches of green left, trying to hold onto life as long as they could. Rays of light that illuminated dancing dust landed on the old man’s arms. He wore a long plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He stood nearly motionless, watching through the window as his most beloved grandchild packed the station wagon with all the essentials: a tent, a few folding chairs and a large cooler filled with homemade apple juice and enough canned fruits and vegetables to last three months.
He was the oldest of the grandchildren, the most wild, the most adventurous, the most like himself. He watched the scene stoically, the boy’s mother helping him load the back seats, the barren trees around the circular drive, the chickens that walked along the ailing lawn looking for breakfast. There was a flutter in his heart, and a deep body knowledge filled him, for he knew the energy of the quest.

The boy must go,
and he might return,
and if he does,
he will be different…
as it should be.

He had done the same, leaving his mother in tears at the door of their small wooden cabin. Her own father, his grandfather, had held her up with his strong arms, explaining to her in a soft voice that it must be done, that all who yearn must go seeking.
Sixty years ago, when he rode out of the farm in the most beat-up truck the farm had, he had gone off in search of the thing he could still only describe as an itch, a sort of uncomfortable feeling that gnawed at the core of him for a few years until it pounded and beat on the walls of his flesh and rattled his lungs. He ignored it as long as he could, until the only thing that seemed right was to leave and look for the thing out there, perhaps the thing that would give him peace, perhaps the thing that would give him a small rock to hold on to, some sort of line in the storm.
And he had gone, and he had talked to so many people and he had discovered something, and that thing brought him back to where he began, only he was different, and looked at it all through eyes that were both older and younger.
Now he watched his own grandson do the same thing, knowing that there was something out there that needed seeing through another set of eyes. The boy must do, see, and experience. Explore beyond the known gates of the farm, something past the family and social ties. The boy went to look for the thing, following the itch, the thing bursting within him.
The boy looked up and saw his grandfather’s eyes in the small window of the two-story barn. The window was nearly a reflection of the sky, a palette of blue and white, but he saw life behind the glass, the deep set eyes that had found their place within a stormy landscape. There was a solidity in those eyes, knowledge that held on like a rock to something even stronger, and when he saw those eyes, he was sure.
He turned, gave his mother a kiss, and walked towards the car.

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