Sometimes, I have to call out his name, to see where he is in the house. He’s always been like this, quiet …and somewhere. And it was never, “if there’s quiet, there’s trouble,” as with his brothers, but more of a, “he’s quiet, let’s go find him.”
We’d search him out, and there he’d be, with his drawing pad, under the dining room table, silently sketching a tiger completely detailed with green eyes, or quietly rolling out anatomically correct scorpions from clay. Or folding. Folding and folding his paper origami.
My husband, who is a conservative, white collar worker by day, and “secret renaissance man” at home, is the one who has introduced all three of our boys to the major hobby in their lives. He began our oldest with piano. With our youngest, he has shared the enjoyment of anything athletic. Our middle son, who was four years old when my husband first sat down cross legged next to him, and silently and slowly began folding a 6×6 flat sheet of paper into a crane, has learned the art of origami from him. My husband would crease the shiny paper, allowing time in between each fold for our son to imitate the precise movements. I saw something in our son’s eyes come alive with that very first time of paper folding. As he watched, I remember him saying, “It’s so cool that I can make my own toys.” He had found his “thing to do with Dad.”
Our son has been folding origami for nine years now.
It suits our son’s personality: he’s quiet, he is absorbed, and he sees fulfilling results from his labor. Some of his origami can take up to one hundred folds, and an hour and a half of steady work. When he is through, he holds it in his hands, and admires what he has made from a flat sheet of paper. While he is folding, he holds an instructional dialogue with me. “Mom, did you know that the biggest mistake people make with origami is to not pre-fold?” “Mom, did you know that if you think you can’t do an origami any longer, you can just try again the next day?” I have learned that his paper folding time is the best time for me to catch glimpses into his thoughts, to find out more about who he is.
At times, he is so into his paper zone, that he won’t hear us call him. I’ll send one of his brothers to go and check on him, see how he’s doing. They’ll invariably return, and tell me, “he’s fine, Mom, he’s just at the table, folding.”
This past time of paper folding has helped him gain entry into the closed clubs of popularity that he wouldn’t otherwise be allowed in. During class downtime, he’ll begin to fold, and a crowd will soon gather, and say, “That is so cool! Can you make me one?” In his quiet nature, he’ll smile, reach for another paper, and begin folding to make the paper crane, cricket, frog, to give to whomever wanted one, while they all stand around–quiet, much like him–and watch.
I stand behind him at times, watching him fold and refold so deliberately, and I know that he is nowhere else at the moment, but in his zen of creating.
He once left me speechless with his remark of, “Mom, I know how I feel when I make something from nothing…I can’t even imagine how God felt when he made flowers and bugs.”
He is my Beautifully Quirky Son, and he has taught me to enjoy the quiet, the still, and be at peace by stepping out of the world for a moment.
“Mom,” he asks me, between folds, “do you know the origami story of One Thousand Cranes? The story goes that if a person makes one thousand paper cranes, that their wish will come true?”
I don’t have to make one thousand cranes, honey, I don’t.