Game With No Name
Yesterday, I went for a long walk, a very long walk. I needed to escape all the labors and routines of my day, the blur, and rush, and stress that seems to have become my life. I needed to just leave it far behind for a time, and, so I walked. At last I came upon a lovely hill of green grass that reflected a warm and sunny sky, and as I reached the crest of the hill, I saw that it gently sloped down on the other side to a beautiful, and magnificent, old Maple tree. It drew me to it like a magnet. As I approached, I noticed a small child beneath it, sitting in it’s shade, and drawing closer I saw that he was intent on the task of feeding a string through a hole in a chestnut.
Not wanting to alarm him, I walked quietly toward him, and then spoke, “Hi there…how are you doing”? “I’m fine” was his reply as he gave me a quick glance. I smiled as he went right back to the obviously, all important work at hand. Fascinated, I suddenly realized that the chestnut and string was a kind of game that I remember playing as a boy. It was, a game with no name, where players would knot a string onto a chestnut, then you would hold the end of the string while laying your chestnut down in the dirt. You and your opponent would then take turns in swinging your chestnut around in the air and then whacking it down on the others’ chestnut until one of them broke. If your chestnut won, it gained one year of life, as well as all the years of the other. I remember chestnuts that were hundreds of years old. I remember playing a brand new chestnut and gaining seventy years in one game. It was very exciting, it was the game with no name. I was completely captivated, watching his little fingers pushing, and working, and preparing the perfect knot that would hold his nut securely in place. I moved to his side and got right down beside him as if to get into his world, a world in which I had once lived, and as I looked at his face, I suddenly caught my breath… time stopped in that moment…I realized, the boy was me…I was facing myself, as a child.
My mind raced. How could this be? Who was responsible for this moment? Some magic, some miracle, something I couldn’t understand, yet I knew that there must be a purpose in this meeting. Silence…for what seemed moments, then I finally spoke. “What’s your name”? Without looking up, “Bobby”. “How old are you Bobby”?. “Seven”. I knew these few words and the sound of his voice were burning themselves into my memory forever. I will never forget this event. In his innocence, might he hold some special key, some elusive tiny wisdom, that I somehow missed, or had forgotten in growing up? Was he the living answer to my prayers of seeking and direction in which I had appealed to God with, for some simple yet divine guidance? Why was this happening? Was this meeting a gift from the compassionate God who had watched my life unfold all these years? I clung in that moment for some rational thought, yet moved slowly and cautiously into conversation.
“That looks like a great chestnut you’ve got there”. “It’s the best anywhere”
was his reply, “probly the best in the whole world…see how shiny it is?…and it’s real hard”. Every time he spoke, I could barely respond. I just wanted to take him in, to absorb every part of who he was. He was so focused, and content, and at peace…just as I had once been.
“You seem to be good with your hands, what do you want to be when you grow up”? He stopped for a moment, and looked right into my eyes, “I’m gonna be a famous artist”. Pausing, to breathe again, “like who”, I said. I knew what his answer should be.
“Leonardo DaVinci” he said. I echoed, as if to question…”DaVinci”? “Raphael’s good too”, his response. I then knew, without question. This was me, at seven, for these had been my heroes as a boy. These Renaissance Masters had inspired me. They took my imagination away, painting dramatic scenes of Biblical significance and although I didn’t understand them, I knew they were important, and these artists could capture a magnificent moment. Moments that history couldn’t live without, and they could save them on a canvas.
“And what will you do with that chestnut?” “I could do anything with this chestnut…I could win the war, like my Dad. I could fight a whole army…and save my Mom.” He didn’t see, but my eyes were filling with tears. He was the seed of who I had become. My whole life, my highest value was to save those I loved from harm, to rescue, at any cost.
He was back working on his chestnut again. Removing the burr from around the roughly bored hole, and polishing the nut on his pants to keep it as shiny and intimidating as possible. I knew, as he studied it intently, he was soaking in the rich brown colour with the eyes of an artist. He was passionate about his impending mission. Then he suddenly stopped, and looked at me. For a moment, I wondered if he knew who I was, and then he asked…”what are you gonna do when you grow up?” “I’m gonna be a famous artist too…and I’m gonna save my family”. He smiled…I stood up…we looked respectfully and lovingly towards each other. Yes, this encounter did hold it’s purpose.
As I began to walk away, I paused and turned around, “Bobby, you go as far as you can go with that chestnut. You never know, it just might be the hardest chestnut in the world.” I walked reverently to the crest of the gentle hill, while contemplating his game, and my life, and how really similar they were. I had assumed he had been watching me as I walked away, but as I turned, I noticed he was now standing, facing away from me, toward the horizon, proudly, and bravely, chestnut hanging in one hand, on the string at his side…standing ready to play the game…to take on all comers…ready to fight the war…til’ he wins.
C2018 All Rights Reserved
Robert M. Arrigo