For the past few days, I have been reading the first Magic Tree House book with my six-year-old. He is at the glorious cusp of reading independently: He knows more than he realizes—much more than I expect—and wants to read. . . and wants to read with me.
So we snuggle into the recliner, his bony butt in my lap, his head on my chest, his eyes following my finger across each page. This is our time. He reads aloud, reciting his reading strategies when he gets stuck. He surprises me when he meets “creature” and reads it in stride. He has learned “Pteranodon” as well. But he struggles with “back” and “pack,” “big” and “dig.” He’s perfectly on track.
We turn to chapter three: “Where Is Here?”
* * * * *
Where is here?
How often do I ask myself this question and others.
Here I am… but where am I?
How did I get here?
Where am I going?
Where am I supposed to be?
How do I get there … from here?
Where does the time go?
* * * * *
I’ve been swimming at the Y for the past few weeks. I drop off the big kids at school and take myself to the pool. Some days I only have 10 minutes to swim. Others, I have 45. I get to the locker room, shed my clothes, revealing my sorry-looking suit underneath, and jump in the pool.
I am not a morning person. I’ve tried to become one. But I’m not one. But this—swimming—I can handle.
In the pool, there is no concern of “where.” It’s only a matter of “here” to “there” and back again. Over and over again. There is peace in the repetition. Calming in the sound of the water. The sounds underwater. The satisfying ache of a well-formed stroke. Counting the lengths with each movement: one…one…. one… one… touch the wall, keep going, count two… two…
I follow the line from one side to the other.
…seventeen… seventeen… seventeen…
There is no question of where I need to go or be or where I am.
…thirty-two… thirty-two… thirty-two…
I just keep swimming.
* * * * *
He puts his finger over the “W” to “chunk” the word.
He smiles. “Where Is Here?” he reads aloud.
With enthusiasm unique to a first grader, my boy explains, “Here” is in “where.”
And as I try to grasp some profound truth beyond letters, I hold him closer.
Here is where I belong.