I remember a moment with my son when something he had been working hard on - a clay sculpture - had broken.
He had put so much time and determination into it - his chubby little fingers trying to craft a body for this ginormous head to sit atop. He had made the head first, then decided that maybe it needed a body. I knew from the get-go that his plan wasn't likely to work - the weight of that head would surely topple the neck, but I let him proceed as was appropriate. It was his vision, afterall.
He had finished and carefully placed the clay monster to dry. It sat there, propped up with toothpicks, on the bookshelf overnight. It was still in one piece the next morning, so I was actually hopeful at that point that perhaps it had worked. Yes! Perhaps my brilliant boy had defied the odds - defied gravity! - to make his creature survive.
The two of us stood there looking at it in awe when the inevitable happened. Thud. It broke. The head snapped right off, landing sidewise on the shelf.
He looked up at me with sky eyes pooling. "It broked." he said. He was holding back the tears and my heart was breaking for him. I could not help but immediately fill in the silence with words:
"Well it was a long shot, you know, the weight of that head and all... but it was so good that you tried! And it is such a great head! Just look at that expression!"
I still look at that expression, at that head, everytime I walk up the back staircase to my bedroom. It sits with some other treasured creations on a narrow shelf and reminds me of so much - not only of their childhood, these charming things they made - but of how my kids have taught me far more than I am ever likely to teach them. That if there is a god, she knew what she was doing in giving me these two creative and astute, sensitive boys as teachers.
I am glad too, in hindsight, that in my need to fill the airspace I didn't opt to also correct his grammar. I remember thinking that he was already deflated and did not need correcting just now, but also I knew I liked it, the sound of it - "It broked." So much more gutteral and true feeling, that hard "d" as opposed to the soft and sophisticated sounding "n."
It was not broken in that passive sounding way. It broked. Ouch. It broked, he broked and I broked too, in that moment.
When something you've worked hard on or hoped for doesn't work out - isn't that what it feels like? Your tongue catches your teeth on the hard "d," produces more of a spit than anything.
What a farce it is to insist on smoothing things over, on telling them "it's nothing" and encourage "getting over it" - to move past pain and disappointment quickly. (All those "n"s. See them!) I wonder sometimes if it might be better to encourage spitting out those sounds, kicking the dirt, clenching fists and wailing when it hurts. When something, or someone, just doesn't work out.
And maybe being broked - feeling it within every sense in your body - is ultimately a good thing too, at least for awhile. Maybe being broked from time to time is the best way to prevent one day being broken.