The moon I didn’t give
I thought you’d like it. It’s worth reading!
I read this chronicle published on 01/8/2008 in ‘Correio Popular’- Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil; loved its beauty, sensitivity, delicacy dealing with hard reality.
I understand parents — and I am delighted with them — who would want to give the world as a gift to their children. And yet, I loathe those who, every weekend, give everything their children ask of them in the malls where they exercise semblance of fatherhood.
And there is no paradox in that. To give the world is to feel a little like God, which is the condition of a father. Giving trifles as a love bargain is, I think, renouncing the sacred.
I recount, as it seems appropriate to the chronicle, what happened to me when I became a father for the first time. So there go 45 years.
Dazzled with passion, I looked at the girl in the crib, saw her sucking her mother’s breasts, kicking in the bathtub, sleeping like an angel of flesh. And then I promised myself, promising she: ‘I will give you the world, my love!’ And I didn’t. And that’s what saved me from selfishness, the foolish pretense, and the stupidity of confusing material values with moral and spiritual ones.
I didn’t give the world to my daughter, but she wanted the Moon.
And I don’t forget how she asked for the Moon, years ago now. I carried her in my arms, tiny and just babbling, walking on the sidewalk of our block, in milder times, when people were talking at the doors of the houses.
With her close to my chest, I felt like the happiest man in the world, walking around humming lullabies on the pavement, for it is the fullness of happiness for a young man to be able to carry a child as if caressing his own entrails. My daughter was me and I was her. A father is, yes, a little God, the creator. And his son, the beloved creature.
And it was then that I knew human powerlessness and limits. For the little daughter — to whom I had promised the world — raised her little arms in the air and began to almost screaming, excited, dazzled: ‘Give, give, give…’ She had discovered the Moon and wanted it for herself, like a teddy bear. plush, a luminous toy ball. Faced with the magic of the sky adorned with stars and moonlight, my daughter asked me for the moon and I couldn’t give it to her.
The certainty of my limits, however, allowed me to create a pact between father and children: if they wanted the impossible, go in search of it. I had given them life, wings to fly, guidelines, a belief in love, and, therefore, encouragement to dream big.
I experienced when the plane took off, my child on board. In the sky, there was a huge, immense moon. The certainty of separation was heartbreaking. My daughter had gone to get the moon I hadn’t given her.
And I had to live with the coherence of what I had passed on to my children: ‘Home is not the place to stay, but to return to!’
May the children be prepared to leave, with the certainty of having a place to return to when tiredness, defeat, or inevitable discouragement, hurt their souls. Seeing the plane, as in a Spielberg film, shadowing the moon, taking my dear daughter to me, the saltiness of tears turned into the sweetness of comfort with Kalil Gibran: as a father, not giving the world or the moon to his children, I felt archer and bow, shooting the living arrow towards the mystery.
Now, even though we are grandparents, we do have children to raise, because family is a tribe in permanent construction. Parents grow old, children grow, they give us grandchildren and that is the construction, the center of the world where the work of creation is renewed without ever being completed. From warriors who were, fathers become shamans. And mothers, healers of soul and body. It is when the tribe is strengthened with advisers, sages who know the mysteries of the great family architecture, with ruler, square, compass, and plumb line. And with a moral paddle to teach the obvious: if duty rewards, error takes its toll.
So I write about anguish, I think the anguish of a shaman, an old Indian. Our construction is crumbling, as it is built-in quicksand. The world that parents want to give their children is tiny: that of shopping malls. And there are no longer children and teenagers wishing for the moon as a toy or as a conquest. Without dreams, ceilings are low and infinity can be bought in stores. Without dreams, there’s no need for archers shooting live arrows.
In the family building, we have erected walls. But will there be real people inside them?
Cecílio Elias Netto is a writer and journalist.