His expression changed completely when I told him about the pool. The toys, friends and comfort of the house which had satisfied him just seconds ago were quickly forgotten when prompted to search for a container of liquid refreshment.
As we began, he led himself - despite the fact that the path was new. The first obstacle was a steep incline. It proved difficult, but his anticipation pulled him up and the stronger hand behind him pushed when he needed it.
There was no time to look behind him once he accomplished the climb, though he was proud. “I did it daddy!” he said with his eyes fully focused ahead and his legs renewed with a simpler plane to walk on.
He did not seem surprised that he didn’t need a leader, despite the fact he had never walked the path before. His feet automatically followed the shape of the way and though there were rough spots and rocks his forward gaze smoothed over the effect they had on his stride. He walked confidently.
“What’s that?” A new sound was the first interruption of our expedition. It even caused him to stop.
“It’s the cars driving on the road ahead of us.” I responded.
“But I can’t see the cars.”
“Can you hear them?” I asked.
“Yes”, he said with resolution and began walking again.
“Soon enough you will see them. After you see them, you will see ours. Then we will get in the car and drive to the place where they sell the pool.”
“Pool?” he said excitedly, “I see the cars!”
We drove without any talk of the prize. Though it had been used as a legitimate motivation for leaving the house without complaining, the fact that I had no idea what kind of pool we would find led me to believe it would be better not to bring it up. And there was no need to.
“Water!” he exclaimed as we descended on a scene of aqua clear sea. The palm trees in the foreground were like fat exclamation marks punctuating the mood change that came with the new view.
“I wanna see more!”
“Would you like to take a walk next to the water?” I asked, happy that the subject of the pool had been forgotten.
I was convinced there would be plenty of pools at the store as soon as I saw the number of people along the water. Beachgoers of all ages drank in everything that accompanies a hot day by the Adriatic. We took a way that would lead us to the store.
The children splashing in the water made it hard for my son to remember that he didn’t have any swimwear. We hadn’t come prepared to indulge in the temptation that was all around us. The need for keys and a wallet had convinced me of the benefit of changing out of my trunks before we left.
A tinge of irony set in as our view changed from that of the sparkling sea to a row of stores. My son’s tone changed too. Whining began. He liked the thought of cooling off now. He had witnessed the fulfillment others found and he couldn’t stand to leave. Maybe he found something in common with the Adriatic – the fact that the rocks lining the sea could no more hold back the waves than his three year old body could contain his energy.
As his cries filled the air, my reminders of the pool no longer satisfied him. It had become just a symbol now – an inadequate symbol at that.
He had seen the real thing. There was no going back.