Have You Any Dreams You'd Like to Sell? (or "Camaros Are Cool")

In the hallway outside our bedroom we've hung big pictures of each of our kids. I walk past them all the time. But the other day my mind played a trick on me for some reason. I had to do a double take as I passed the picture of my son, because as I moved past it, my mind mulling something else entirely, out of the corner of my eye my subconscious noticed the photograph and said to me, "Hey, that's you." And I stopped, startled, and I turned to face the image of my son, and there was the most fleeting moment where the shape of his face, the smile lines arcing through his cheeks and around his mouth, the gaps where his front teeth should be, the texture of his hair -- I was staring at a picture of a cuter, innocent-er, little boy me. But then I was gone and my boy was smiling back at me again. And I slowly moved away, got on with my day, but I've been thinking about that fleeting moment, and how it's all connected.

It hasn't really been that long since I was seven, like Halen is now. On school picture day that year -- second grade -- I wore a shirt with an ironed-on image of a Camaro. I liked Camaros. Halen likes Camaros too. He says he wants one when he grows up. I did too, back then. But it's been 25 years and I still don't have a Camaro. I don't even like Camaros anymore. I think it's shameful how much money people spend on cars. If my seven year-old self heard me say that, he's say, "You're stupid. Camaros are cool." Maybe he'd be right.

When I was seven, the shuttle Challenger blew up. I saw the video on the news, over and over again. The news people kept saying it was the seals' fault that the space shuttle exploded, that the seals hadn't done their job. I wondered what cute little whiskered marine animals had to do with space shuttles. I don't think I ever asked my parents to explain. I don't remember why. I guess we just never really talked about current events as a family. So for years whenever I thought about Challenger, I felt bad that cute seals had been blamed for the disaster. I wonder how many things Halen wonders about that he doesn't ask me to explain, because he thinks I'm too busy, or I don't care, or I'll think he's dumb. I hope not very many.

I loved sports in second grade. I loved the 49ers, mostly because Joe Montana sort of had my name. I thought that, for this reason, we were basically friends, and that if we ever met he would play catch with me. On recess at school I would be quarterback, and just like Joe Montana I would hang in the pocket, cooly looking for the open man. Except no one was actually rushing the quarterback, but, still, I was calm as a clam. Joe Cool. Then, later, Joe Montana modeled men's underwear, which I thought was weird, and it made me think that if we ever met that maybe we'd just shake hands and say "Hey" to each other. I loved sports so much that I bet my parents thought I would be an athlete. But I'm not. Never developed competitive drive, or big muscles. Halen loves sports, especially soccer. He kicks soccer balls in the house. I hate that, but I love him. I hope he plays sports, so that I can maybe go to his high school soccer matches and watch him do things I can't do, like a bicycle kick. That'd be cool. I hope he doesn't model underwear, but if he does, we can still shake hands and say "Hey" to each other.

When I was seven, we had stacks of National Geographic magazines and I pulled the special map inserts out of all them. Then I tacked the maps to the basement wall. Then I stared at them all the time (maybe this is why I wasn't very good at sports). I'd dream of visiting all the places I couldn't pronounce. And also the funny places, like Turkey, places that no one in my small, sleepy riverside town really knew about or seemed to care much about. I had a pen pal from Ireland, and I thought maybe I'd marry her and move to Ireland, once I stopped thinking girls were gross. I didn't marry the girl from Ireland, but I did end up visiting -- and even living in -- some places I couldn't pronounce when I was in second grade. And I made it to Turkey. It's not as funny as I thought it would be.

And I guess that's how it works. You start out with dreams -- a whole bunch of them. And you think maybe you'll do them all. But you don't, because you find out that the cost of realizing one dream is another dream. And you find out that dreams aren't all worth the same amount. And so you live and you watch time snuff them out one by one, until maybe you're left with one or two. And for a minute you feel kind of bummed, because you remember the little boy you used to be, and you're afraid that if you ever happened upon your little boy self, he would size you up and say, "You're pretty lame. Your shoes don't even have velcro."

But, really, it's all connected. Maybe it wasn't really a trick of the brain when, for a fleeting moment, I thought a photo of my son was a photo of me. Maybe dreams are like seeds, and they come from your mom and dad, from the dream or two of theirs that survived, that made them who they are, and made you who you are. And maybe you take the seeds they gave you, and you plant a whole bunch of dreams, but in the end only one or two can grow. And then maybe when you're big you harvest the dream that's left, the one that survived when the others wilted, and maybe as you live that dream it yields a bunch of seeds of its own. And maybe you pass them on to your kids, and they plant their own dreams and see which ones grow. So maybe it's not such a bummer that time has smothered most of my dreams. Because my son has his own now, and maybe watching him pick and choose his dreams will be like living a dream I never knew I had.