Karen Rivers

Train Jumping

Karen Rivers

My kids watch YouTube videos as though it is their full time job.  

"What are you watching?" I ask my son, who is now twelve, balanced on the tightrope-thin border between childhood and adolescence, teetering teetering teetering.

"This guy doesn't have a home," he explains.  "He's a train jumper."  

I watch the video over my son's shoulder as a lanky man-boy on the screen jumps into an open container on a passing train, going to who knows where.   He grins into the camera.

"That looks... uncomfortable," I say.

My son turns to me, puzzled, laughing.  "It looks amazing," he says.   "Can we buy a camper van?  We should go on a road trip."

The days are long, they say, but the years are short.  

What bullshit, I think, at the same exact instant when I realize that they are right.  The truth of it is in the vibration of the train tracks on the screen.  The call of that.  The way it beckons.

Anyway, ask not for whom the bell tolls.   (They say that, too, the bullshitters, the truth-tellers.) 

There are always two choices, two roads diverging in the yellow woods.   That's what we must teach our children who are leaving leaving leaving, maps unfolding inside their hearts, the road calling calling calling them away.

Always ask "What if?"  

Always ask "Why?"  

Teach them to ask all the questions of themselves.

Teach them to answer all the questions for themselves. 

(Not just so they get an A on their papers.   Not just so they go to a good college.  Anyway, what is a good college?)

Emphasize this:  Take the fork in the road that feels right.  Be water.  Follow the path of least resistance. 

Rivers are beautiful, don't you think?  Especially the sound of them, rushing rushing rushing.

But don't be in such a rush!

You have plenty of time!

Slow down!

You aren't water.

I know what I said, but now I take it back.

I take it all back.

Stop watching YouTube.

We can't get a camper van.

Hush.

Stay.

Please.

Look, just don't take the path that is steep and crumbling, every step a risk, rocks tumbling tumbling tumbling off the sheer edge of the cliff, splashing hard into the roaring river that is flowing flowing flowing so far below you that it no longer looks like a threat, that you can't even see the ferocity of rapids, that it just looks like a simple line, a border between this and that, you and me, the past and the looming looming looming unknown.