Saturday, March 26, 2011

I'm glad I didn't bring my camera

The night before I visited the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps in Poland, I had a dream that Rube Larsen told me not to bring my camera.  "If it means enough to you, you'll remember it.  If you take pictures, the pictures become the experience." 

I thought my sub-conscious had an interesting point, so I didn't bring my camera.  I was there by myself, so there was no one to help me remember.  For how much this trip meant to me, it seemed a bit scary to not take any pictures.  But it also resonated with me enough to try.

Come to find out, dream-version of Rube was right.  I have the most crisp, vivid memories of everything I saw there.  Especially Birkenau.  Few people walk that extra distance to the camp and there are no shuttle buses. The camp is desolate and empty of people.  I was standing alone in the middle of a ghost-town concentration camp, only age 20, overwhelmed by the complexity of the human experience.  

I still remember the smell of the bunkers. The eerie quiet as I stood and stared at the crematorium.  The train tracks running through the camp.


I thought of that experience today when I forgot my camera for Jack's presentation for the end of the SEP class.  They'd worked for the last 6 weeks, 3 hours each Saturday, on their independent projects.  Jack has fallen in love with the computer program, spending hours at home tinkering with his creations. 

Major mothering-failure, I thought, not bringing my camera.   I felt terrible.

But ask me again in 20 years, and I can't imagine I won't remember his presentation with all the same bursting colors I saw it today. 

Oh goodness, the pride in him.

He's the youngest in the class, and one of the few who didn't have experience in programming before.  He also might have the least-equipped mother in the room, as I heard a few chatting about being programmers themselves.

Jack was 13th out of 14th to go, and I watched each child go up and present their project.  Most of them had taken existing projects from the web and edited them, or used the downloadable backgrounds and lovely-looking sprites to put together their project.

Jack, on the other hand, free-styled all the sprites with the paint-pen in Scratch. It's like when he did the science fair project and I was completely hands-off about it.  Quite honestly, it was the least pretty program in the room.  I knew how much he'd poured his heart into the creating and designing of it from scratch, with no help from anyone, and just hoped the room would be "supportive" of his non-glorious end result.

He went up to present on the large computer display at the front of the room, and I thought for sure he'd get nervous or go quiet at the front of everyone.  He didn't appear to be ruffled in the least.  

He started chatting with the room full of parents and grandparents, showing them how he set each sprite to have a different command.  One electrocutes other sprites when they touch, another one kicks the other sprites.  If they weren't such charming, sweet looking sprites, their actions might have been more disturbing.

Everyone loved it.

The crowd favorite?  His little free-styled French guy in front of an easel.  Wearing a beret, even.  When you do a certain command, the easel bounces up and down. 

My favorite part was how all his classmates gathered around his computer, begging him to show them what the other ones did.  He just calmly demonstrated each of them, not even slightly disturbed by the entire room watching him.

I cannot imagine experiencing more pride than I did for my son today. "Jack, do you know why I'm so proud of you?  Because you were yourself in there.  You created things from your own mind, you made a program you loved, and you just went up there and were your regular ol' self.  I really like that about you."

I feel a strange twist in my stomach when I think about how protective I felt of him before he went.  Why do I ever have that feeling about him?  I know it's because I care so much about him, and don't want to see him judged or feeling embarrassed.  But that's not who he is.  That feeling in me is meant for someone else, not for Jack.

He put his heart into that project, and he didn't care one whit what others thought of it.  That the crowd fell in love with his creativity was moot point to him.

I want to be more like that.  Just create from my soul and know that's enough.

I definitely did not need my camera for today.  I will remember his sweet little presentation forever.