Stars, Boats and a Childlike Heart

Kids Block Party
Flood Party © Christina You

Last night, I stuck a pack of glowing stars on my bedroom ceiling. And, since it’s a pretty high ceiling, I had to jump on the bed while doing it, handling each star one by one. I tried to draw few constellations here and there but didn’t do justice to our Big Dipper, to which I apologized. Overall, the whole exercise felt great. I caught myself smiling as each little piece was finding its place in the sky. With the lights off, as I returned to bed, I could not stop starring at these shining ladies. I fell asleep giggling, knowing that the sparkles will not fade until the sun rises the next day. Those tiny little things that can revive a childlike heart…

It reminded me of the first time I encountered the sea. By that, I mean the very first time I went on a boat and sailed. It was in Brittany, with my 5th grade classmates. The instructors had put us together by group of three, and we had to navigate in a catamaran in order to win what looked like a race. Each kid had to wear one of those tough red-orange life jackets over a tight black wetsuit, together covered with sea salt. I remember feeling cold, ugly and itchy, wondering how I would make it until the end of the day without being able to scratch or pee, when I felt like so. Seen from above, the scene must have been epic: dozens of little red dots dancing back and forth over big white squares dancing back and forth over the sea.

Launching the boat was the easiest part. Once over the water, my task was to steer the ship. From my seat, I would listen to the confusion coming from every boat, each kid yelling his strategy to the other. There was something exhilarating about not knowing how how we would manage to reach the end of the race in our boat. Luckily, after innumerable attempts, my team and I eventually figured out how the machine could, given a good wind, march at a reasonable pace. I would never forget the way my fingers on the helm seemed to put our engine into motion. Stirring the winds on my vehicle, I was the Christopher Columbus of a brand-new world. The sense of freedom and dominion that sprung in my chest, that day, is still indescribable. All that I knew, by that time, was that I would sail until the day I die.

Indeed, the experience felt delightful, even after the mast of the sail hit my forehead and knocked me down for the rest of the contest. And, though my team lost the race, I had won a place among the mightiest pirates of the ages. It was then easy to forgive myself for this unfortunate error of navigation for I had seen the blue covering the horizon, as far as my eyes could behold. I had given myself to the sea, to the point of unconsciousness, and the sea had given a part of itself to me.

I felt both content and dizzy when we reached the ground. The school nurse, who welcomed us, wanted to make sure I was okay. I told her I was sad it was over and wished we could go back immediately. She looked at me, puzzled, and rubbed some balm over my swollen forehead. I was sent to bed after that. That night, I dreamt that I was the captain of a vessel made of wood and of sails so tall they could reach the stars.

These stars are now covering my bedroom ceiling and remind me of the child I once was, of the dreams I once dreamt and will never forget.

“One day, I promise, I’ll be me.”

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