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I was trying to come up with a fitting description of Brian Thomas’ blog The Cheek of God. He did it for me; on his About page, he refers to it as a “living memoir”. Too often, the blogosphere is a cacophony of hot-blooded shouts; Brian always thinks before he writes, thus ensuring that you’ll think after you read him. We hear a lot from dads with little kids; in this eloquent post, Brian tells us a little about his teenaged son.

The Things He’ll Carry

“A man writes to throw off the poison which he has accumulated because of his false way of life. He is trying to recapture his innocence, yet all he succeeds in doing (by writing) is to inoculate the world with a virus of his disillusionment. No man would set a word down on paper if he had the courage to live out what he believed in.” ~ Henry Miller

My son’s backpack, when crammed with the detritus that is part and parcel of being a high school sophomore, weighs . . . well, I don’t know how much it weighs. I’ve never been brave enough to pick it up and try it on. But he moans when he slings it over his shoulder every morning before grabbing a Pop Tart and trudging his way toward the bus stop, so I am left to imagine that it weighs a bunch. My wife and I decided, therefore, to enforce a weekly purging, a setting aside of the accumulated crap of the life of the moderately studious. And most of it is crap, trust me. He’s a teenager. And a boy.
Over the past year, however, he occasionally unearthed the latest assigned book for his Honors English Lit class. It’s a block class, taught simultaneously with an AP U. S. History class, so most of them are American Classics, chosen not only to supplement the timeline of the history syllabus, but also to teach students to recognize certain tried-and-true literary devices, like allusion, metaphor, and personification. The nuts and bolts of literature.
And yet, I wonder if he’s missing the heart and soul of these works. The dreams and disasters behind the devices. I wonder this because I made the choice long ago to read what he’s reading. And while he’s busy highlighting instances of daffodils nodding their yellow heads, I fold corners marking other moments. Scenes that one can relate to only after so much roiling water has wound its frothy way under rickety and rusting bridges, bringing a different perspective, one honed by the passing of time and the living – and dying – of life.