Justin & I – Justin and Jim spring, 1983 streets of Shepherdstown, WV

Justin and I are friends, and I’m glad he accepts me. He’s a Gemini. I’m a Cancer. He talks a lot; I listen. He wears diapers; I don’t, He’s 18-months old; I’m 33. He’s two-feet tall; I’m 6.

As we walked our late afternoon journey upon the streets of Shepherdstown on weekdays. Justin leads – I follow. He knows what he wants I don’t. I enjoy his company because he imparts to me a remembrance of the joy and wisdom of being a bright young age, I slow down a busy, preoccupied mind and let myself be drawn into his bubbly, innocent, hide-and-seek, pregnant, profound, un-intellectualized, all-seeing, vast and personal world of NOW.

Sometimes we both squat down to make waves, you could say, in a small puddle. I began to feel Justin’s concentration. We feel and think together as I listen as I listen to his labored breath and see as his cookie-sized hand retrieves one pebble, seemingly very special, which had fallen from his hand. I admire his being conscientious, of correcting a small error before proceeding with the fun. He learns through a meeting of circumstances and a wish.

He learns little by little to accept some unseen law of self that is a mystery at this point in his life. He learns to make up his own mind, to create his own world of responsibility. Walking to the post office, there are smiles and hellos from those we meet. I pick Justin up and, like any first exposure to a task, he labors at putting two big envelopes properly through the slot marked “out of town.”

It’s similar to the times at home when those trained fingers push up on the wall light switch for the first time – with such exciting and gratifying results.

I was reading a book recently by the German thinker and educator, Rudolf Steiner, in which he states that repeating an activity makes it part of a person’s very being or consciousness.

So as Justin and I find things to do around the house of Ed Zahniser (Daddy) and Chris Duewel (who is Mommy), favorite areas of interest tend to be part of a daily agenda.

Blowing soap bubbles is so regularly repeated that Justin calls me “Jim Bubbles.” There are also the regular visits from the vigils for two neighborhood cats, playing with Daddy’s guitar, washing the dishes, touching certain prickly bushes outside, and looking at the turning insides of two electric meters on a neighbor’s house.

These activities are remembered and later asked for, expanded upon, empowered, and refined by Justin. Above all, we take our regular visit to Specialty Books to see Pat who runs the store and to give another kind of “pat” to the life-sized stuffed bear named Paddington.

It’s easy to forget how enormous life is when you’re a child. It’s just as easy to remember again.

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