Like dragons in the sky

June 11th, 2008

Two fighter jets scream through the grey waiting for rain sky, their afterburners announcing themselves like dragons. Flying dragons. I point them out to my son, all excitement, tracing their receding shapes with my finger.

“Do you see them?” I ask my three-year old. “There!”

Teaching him the words “fighter jets” then telling him the German Kampfjets so that he can tell his grandfather what he saw. I do all this before I have time to reflect that – military blood on both sides of the family notwithstanding – I do not want him to think these dragons are exciting. The jets circle and pass again, a training exercise, two jets low and fast and close together sending a cry out over the sky that rumbles in the clouds like thunder long after they have passed from sight. Again, unbidden, I follow them with my finger as if painting their paths.

“Do you see them?” I ask my son.

“Ja! Ja! Fighter jets!” he answers.

This is how it begins, isn’t it, with these gestures that speak before we have time to form words. The body language of teaching, of impulse, of naming, of love. I give my son the names for his world, even these names – fighter jets, Kampfjets¬†– for this imperfect world. Arming him with this one thing I can be sure of, these nouns and the pictures we can paint with them.

“Listen!” I say as the jets rumble off. “They sound like¬†dragons in the sky.”