Funky Way

Matt was nestled on the edge of the yard, under the dappled shade of an aging pomegranate tree. In this familiar, warm cocoon of nature, he couldn’t help but be pulled back into a distant memory, one of him lying amidst the scent-laden pine needles, under the watchful eye of his childhood home’s pine tree, engrossed in his world of ‘little guys’. It was a memory he often sought refuge in, a moment of pure oblivion, of sun-soaked innocence, a time before he had learnt of mortality, of life’s relentless ephemerality.

Currently, before him, his four-year-old daughter, Tara, was sprawled out in the generous swath of sunlight. Her form was aglow, a little universe unto itself. A grand ensemble surrounded her – an assemblage of miniature plastic superheroes, old Lego bricks, worn pebbles, and a smattering of mismatched bottle caps – her own version of ‘little guys’.

Her world was vibrant with an epic tale she spun. There were heroes and hardships, victories and woes. Her storytelling filled the air with animated echoes, filled Matt with a deep warmth, the soundscape of her joyous imagination a melodic parallel to his own innocent reverie.

But Tara was a storm of potential, a tornado of quicksilver curiosity. Her boundless energy and ideas spun beyond what was considered common, her mind a brilliant, often overwhelming, confluence of intellect and emotional intensity.

Suddenly, Tara’s voice rose, a single plea, “Daddy, I want the funky way.”

Confusion sketched lines on Matt’s face. His daughter’s gaze was fixed on an open picture book amidst her little guys, the page filled with her animated heroes – Octonauts, Wonder Pets.

“What’s the funky way, sweetheart?” Matt asked, his voice lapping at the edges of her playful world.

“I want them,” she responded, pointing at the colorful ensemble, “with my little guys.”

Matt leaned forward, attempting to decipher his daughter’s cryptic wish. The words ‘funky way’ were like an abstract painting, vibrant and striking, but challenging to comprehend. His mind raced to grasp her meaning.

She had said, “I want them,” and pointed at the illustrated figures frolicking in the colorful pages of her book. Then she glanced at her assortment of ‘little guys’ spread around her. Matt followed her gaze back and forth, like watching a silent tennis match. Yet the connection between her ‘little guys’ and the characters in her book remained elusive.

“But sweetheart, they are already with your little guys, aren’t they?” he said, gesturing towards the book that lay open amongst her toys. “See, they are playing right there.”

Tara’s exasperated sigh told him he was off the mark. “No, daddy!” she retorted, her voice laced with impatient fervor. “I want them to play like this,” she grabbed a Lego figure, making it dance in the air, “but with these,” she pointed at the Wonder Pets again.

As he watched her animated display, Matt’s confusion started to dissipate. He saw the spark in her eyes, the restless motion of her fingers, her yearning for something beyond the ordinary, something magical, something just beyond the grasp of reality. She wasn’t merely asking for the book characters to be amidst her toys. She wanted the animated life, the vivacious dynamism of her television heroes, brought into her tangible world of play.

A sudden realization washed over him. His little girl wished for an amalgamation of dimensions, her world of physical play blending with the illustrated realm of her storybook heroes. This was her ‘funky way’. He found himself enveloped in a profound sense of awe and helplessness, touched by the innocence and boundlessness of her imagination, yet stung by the harsh limitations of reality.

“Tara, sweetheart,” he began, struggling to find the words that would not shatter her expectation, “the characters in the book, they can’t come out and play like your little guys. They live in the book. They can’t leave their pages.”

He watched as his words sunk into her, her facial expression flickering between disbelief and disappointment. Her mouth opened to retort, but no sound came out. She looked down at her book, then to her ‘little guys’, her brow furrowed as she grappled with the boundaries of reality she was just beginning to understand.

“Daddy, I don’t like that,” she finally managed, her voice soft and teetering on the edge of sorrow. The gravity of her disappointment hung in the air, palpable and raw, a testament to her first encounter with the borders of reality.

As he watched Tara, Matt felt an echo of his own childhood disillusionment, a poignant reminder of the moment when he had first realized that he couldn’t always make his wishes come true.

“Tara,” he whispered, his voice barely cutting through the weighted silence. “Sometimes things don’t work the way we want them to. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun, right?”

He ventured a weak smile, hoping to coax one out of her. But Tara’s face remained a portrait of dejection, her lower lip quivering in silent protest against the unchangeable, then the dam broke and the tears flowed as her bottled up disappointment let loose a torrent.

Matt felt a pang of despair. There was a helplessness that gnawed at him, a bitter realization that he could neither fulfill her innocent wish nor shield her from the disappointment that had cast its gloomy shadow over her vibrant world. It was as if he had unwittingly ushered her into the harsh reality that life couldn’t always imitate the vibrancy of her boundless imagination, a lesson he wished she didn’t have to learn so young.

“I have an idea,” he said, feigning a cheerfulness he didn’t feel. “How about we go inside and I make you a glass of chocolate milk? And maybe, we could have some special snacks?”

He prayed the offer would distract her, a simple pleasure to lessen the sting of disappointment. Tara blinked at him, her tear-filled eyes wide, the wailing reduced to a whimper. For a moment, there was silence. Then, her soft voice carried over, “Can I have M&Ms?”

Matt nodded, relief washing over him. “Of course, sweetheart. M&Ms it is.”

He rose from his spot and extended a hand towards his little girl. She put her small hand in his, her hold tentative, her touch as fragile as her blossoming understanding of the world. Together, they walked towards the house, leaving behind the battlefield of little guys.

Inside, Matt went about the motions of preparing Tara’s requested comforts – a tall glass of frothy chocolate milk and a small bowl filled with the colorful candy-coated chocolates. The mundanity of the task did little to quell his inner turmoil.

As he handed Tara her treats, he watched her take a long sip of the chocolate milk, her face reflecting the simple, sweet pleasure it brought. He watched her pick up an M&M and turn it over in her fingers, the small candy a poor substitute for her ‘funky way’, yet a distraction, nonetheless.

In that moment, Matt was painfully aware of the paradox that lay before him. While he reveled in the brilliance of his daughter’s mind, he simultaneously mourned the loss of her innocence, a harsh introduction to the limitations of the world. It was a bitter-sweet realization, a mirror into his past and a foreshadowing of Tara’s future – a moment of understanding that was both powerful and deeply unsettling.

Yet, life moved on. The sun began its descent, casting long shadows over their quiet home. And within its walls, Tara found solace in the simplicity of her father’s offerings – a glass of chocolate milk, a bowl of M&Ms, and a promise to make the world seem a little less harsh. It was a small comfort, a fleeting distraction, but for the moment, it was enough.

Thirty years had slipped away, like sand in an open palm, before Tara found herself standing on the same deck of her childhood home. The familiar wood grain underfoot was marked by the passage of time, each crevice a testament to generations past and present. The backyard was alive with the tireless chorus of cicadas, their song echoing off the mountains surrounding Tujunga, the backdrop of her life.

Tara, now a mother, watched as her son, Eric, engrossed in his play world, orchestrated a dance of ‘little guys’. Her gaze, filled with warmth and subtle amusement, followed his hands as they maneuvered through the phantasmal landscape, blending reality and the digital, memories and possibility.

It was a different era. The lines between imagination and reality were no longer blurred but bridged. Technology had advanced to a point where Eric’s heroes could leap off the screen and interact with his ‘little guys’. The backyard was now an immersive canvas for his tales, a testament to his boundless imagination, a place where the funky way was not just possible, but a reality.

As Tara watered the geranium planters, the dancing water droplets caught the sunlight, each tiny prism casting rainbows over her son’s play world. A familiar voice stirred her from her thoughts, “Mommy, can we do the funky way?”

The question brought a smile to her lips. Tara gently set down the watering can and knelt beside Eric. “Do you want your little guys to go in, or your other friends to come out?” she asked.

“I want me to go in!” Eric exclaimed, his eyes sparkling with mischief and anticipation.

Tara blinked, a flicker of confusion crossing her features. “You mean…you want a tiny Eric to play with your little guys?”

“Yeah, and I want to stay here too!” His excitement was contagious, his vision audacious.

She leaned in closer to Eric, her voice tender, “That’s not possible right now, honey. But who knows, maybe someday it will be.”

“And we could both play in the funky way with Grandpa Matt?” he asked, his words brushing against the bittersweet edges of Tara’s heart.

Tears welled in her eyes, but she blinked them away quickly. She laughed softly, pulling Eric into a tight hug, “Yes, my love, maybe someday.”

The exchange hung in the warm Tujunga air for a moment, echoing the sweet memory of days past. Mother and son, linked by a shared nostalgia – one inherited, the other experienced – both generations bound by a simple joy that transcended the confines of time.

“No going to bed or eating vegetables for Funky Eric?” Tara teased, breaking the silence. The afternoon sun caught the moisture in her eyes, reflecting a kaleidoscope of emotions.

A triumphant giggle erupted from Eric as he clapped his hands together. “Exactly, Mommy! He’ll be having fun all the time, just like Grandpa Matt and me!”

His words brought a wistful smile to Tara’s face, a hint of the child that once stood in the very spot, dreaming of her ‘little guys’ coming to life. Technology, as ever-evolving as it was, still had yet to catch up with the boundless imagination of a child. Yet, it held promise, a hope that mirrored her father’s hopes for her all those years ago.

Tara felt a swell of warmth for her son. He was an embodiment of a new world, one that was capable of nurturing the child’s innate sense of wonder. He was living proof of a bridge between two times, an era where limitations were not barriers but catalysts for creativity, where dreams were not restrained by the physical but rather enhanced by the digital.

“Eric,” Tara began, her voice almost a whisper, carrying the weight of the past, “you have an incredible imagination. Your grandpa Matt, he would’ve loved to see you play the funky way.”

As she spoke, she traced a pattern on his back, the same soothing motion her father used to calm her. Eric looked up at her, his eyes filled with curiosity. “Really, Mommy?”

“Yes, my love. He always wanted to make the impossible possible for me, just like I want for you.”

Tara continued the story, weaving a grand tapestry of tales about Matt, the funky way, and her little guys. As she spun the narrative, she found herself omitting the disappointment, the childhood realization of her father’s limitations. Instead, she told her son of magical worlds filled with endless adventures, a fantasy that didn’t end in disillusion but thrived in the hope of the future.

As the shadows lengthened, Tara and Eric stayed in their shared world, laughter ringing out between them. The dancing water droplets slowly evaporated, leaving the geraniums glowing in the sunset. The hummingbird feeder swung lightly in the breeze, reflecting their joy onto the deck and the ‘little guys’ scattered around.

Tara felt an ache in her heart, a pang of longing for her father. Yet, the sorrow was overshadowed by a profound sense of contentment. She was part of a continuum, carrying forward the legacy of nurturing the child’s imagination, fulfilling a parental quest that spanned generations.

As Tara’s gaze lingered on her son, a profound understanding washed over her. She was a custodian of dreams, a conduit of imagination, carrying forward a sacred tradition that was as old as time. It wasn’t about the technology, not really. Technology was merely the canvas, but the paint, the colors, the essence of it all, sprang from the unfettered mind of a child.

“Yes, Eric,” she murmured, tucking a loose strand of hair behind his ear, her hand lingering on his cheek, “that’s the spirit of the funky way. It’s about believing in your dreams, no matter how audacious they seem. And who knows? Maybe someday you’ll be able to join the little guys in their world, just like you want.”

With a surge of affection, she pulled her son into her arms, holding him close. His laughter, pure and untarnished, echoed around them, bouncing off the mountains, spiraling up into the fading sunlight. She closed her eyes, imprinting this moment in her heart, a testament to the profound bond between a mother and her child, the shared world of dreams and play.

From the corner of her eye, she saw the setting sun cast long shadows on the deck, tinting the world in hues of orange and red. It was as if the day was holding its breath, soaking in the magic of the moment, the enchantment that was born not from technology, but from the connection between two souls, two dreamers.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, the cicadas resumed their symphony, serenading the closing day. The hazy mountains seemed to recede, surrendering to the approaching night, becoming a silhouette against the star-studded sky.

In the fading light, Tara and Eric continued to weave tales of little guys and grand adventures. Their laughter filled the night, a melodious tune carried by the gentle mountain breeze. In those moments, bathed in the soft glow of twilight, the future seemed a canvas of limitless possibilities, every corner brightened by the flame of imagination.

As the stars began to twinkle, their stories found resonance in the night. The backyard transformed into a haven of dreams, an echo of Tara’s childhood, and a prophecy of Eric’s future. It was a testimony to the power of imagination, an affirmation of the human spirit, a reminder that technology, no matter how advanced, was only a tool to amplify the magic inherent in every child’s heart.

Amidst the hushed whispers of the night, Tara felt a sense of fulfillment. She realized that she was part of an extraordinary cycle, nurturing her son’s dreams just as her father nurtured hers. She understood that the essence of the ‘funky way’ wasn’t about bridging the divide between the real and the imagined with technology, but about fostering the courage to dream, to hope, and to believe. After all, it wasn’t about making her child ready for the world; it was about making the world ready for her child’s dreams.

Her father, Matt, had planted a seed within her all those years ago—a seed that she was now nurturing within Eric. This was her legacy, her inheritance—a boundless sense of wonder, a dauntless spirit of exploration, a timeless love for the world of dreams. As she held her small son in her arms under the starlit sky, Tara knew she was home, in the truest sense of the word. The joy she felt was the joy of a dream nurtured, a legacy upheld, a love eternal.