Some of the wisest words I’ve ever heard came from my nephew Alejandro. Before the now 19-year-old hit puberty, of course.
At age 5, I watched him collapse into a folding chair on his family’s porch, take a sip from his Capri Sun as a beautiful Utah breeze brushed his hair, and say to no one and everyone at the same time: “This is the life.”
A couple of months before that, he wanted to know why his Tia Xazmin was in no mood for Nickelodeon, Pokemon or prank-pulling. School and work, I told him, had me stressed out. He shrugged his shoulders in an “is that all?” gesture and advised me to “just take a day off.”
Both moments came to mind when a college student’s film project went viral last week (http://vimeo.com/58659769). In seven minutes and 52 seconds, Bianca Giaever’s “the Scared is scared” demonstrates what Alejandro taught me years ago: Little kids have all the answers.
Giaever asks a 6-year-old, Asa Baker-Rouse, to tell her a story. That’s all it takes for the boy, whom we never see, to delve into a stream of consciousness that introduces us to Asa Bear, Toby Mouse, six brothers, six sisters, a public swimming pool, cookies and whatever else the kid can conjure.
In the end, he tells us the moral of the story of the bear and mouse who swam and frolicked in that soon-to-close pool: “You don’t wanna go when something is closing ’cause you have to wait to go back there.”
Baker-Rouse finds something significant in that message and applies it to her upcoming graduation. That prompts the young boy to continue regaling her and us, ultimately producing the kind of gems typically saved for old ladies rocking back and forth on rickety porches.
“If something feels like it’s closing, just say, ‘OK, I’m fine,’ ” he says. “I usually let it go and think of something I really like to do. ... I let that thing disappear out of my head, out of my ears, out of my mouth. When the scared feeling comes into you, the scared is scared of things you like.”
It only took FDR 51 years, an inaugural address and the Great Depression to come up with something very similar: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Little Asa was able to reach a profound conclusion not despite his age, but because of it. Life hasn’t yet littered his tiny mind with insecurities, doubt, ego.
He’s still able to see things in their simplest, purest form. The same way the world sees him. But all of us were simple and pure at one point. Until grade school, heartache, family dysfunction, rejection and expectations had a say in the matter.
We pay people who’ve gone to school way too long to sit on a couch across from us and try to say what Asa said. They prescribe medicine to make life better because we lose sight of the fact that the good life sometimes is just about living, something Alejandro understood without really understanding. Or did he?
But messages get tangled and sticky traveling through the microwave oven known as an adult brain. When a child says it, though, it must be true. If someone with a Tooth Fairy fund can recognize it, we should, too.
My 36th birthday was Friday, but as the gifted writer Sandra Cisneros once wrote in “The House on Mango Street,” I’m “also 10 and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one.”
Somewhere under the career struggles of my late 20s, unhealthy relationships of my mid-20s, puberty perils of my teens, there lies simplicity and purity. It’s just a matter of uncovering it.
The finest slice of knowledge Alejandro gave me arrived when he was about 8 years old. We both sat in my mom’s kitchen. Me, waiting for a phone call. Him, concentrated and clicking furiously on his Game Boy.
He wanted to know why I seemed sad. My boyfriend broke up with me, I told him. Without looking up from the game device or showing any other sign of acknowledging the devastating news, he said plainly: “Get a new one.”
No one could have said it better.
Contact Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.