Barnaby Is One

A little story.

There was a city on the edge of a desert, and in this city there were seven boys who grew up together. They were friends, more like brothers, defending each other from older kids and fighting with each other when there was nobody else to fight. They were boys together and, after a time, they discovered they were becoming men together.

They had to choose careers, and, wanting to stay together, they decided to join the military and be part of the group that is responsible for building the wall on the edge of the desert. They thought it was ridiculous, there was nothing out there but the desert, but the town fathers believed the wall was important, essential, and that building it was not just noble but critical. Without the wall, who knows what will happen.

Each of the young men, kids really, were given a huge pile of bricks and enough water and mortar and steel to build and maintain the wall for years and years. It was a job too big to even see, and all seven of the friends set the bricks in piles, the mortar mix in bags, and the steel bars leaning in the sand.

They spent their days playing games, their nights at the watering holes and restaurants. They wrote letters and made music, the mocked each other’s poetry and attacked anyone else who did the same, they teased one another and savaged anyone else who laughed. And slowly, after some years, they turned to the job at hand. They started thinking about the wall.

One by one, they realized that the wall had been built too far into the desert. The sand swirled around the base of the wall sections that their fathers had built. They looked at each other incredulously and laughed. Why would they build the wall so deep? The picked up their piles and moved them back to start a new wall.

But it took time, years. They were methodical, they lined up each section and designed corners that faced the desert like the prows of seven ships, and they began laying down the bases. Their days, they still played games, mostly. At night, the still told stories and wrote songs, mostly. But they also worked on their walls. They visited on another, marveled at each other’s prowess, joked about their pace and meticulousness, and their walls began to rise, inch by inch, as the kids became men.

One day, the friend who’s wall had grown the highest came and gathered the rest to his wall. They sat on the wall and they looked out on the desert and they said nothing for a second. Either they had mismeasured, or the desert was closer. As they debated, one friend saw that their father’s walls were now surrounded by sand and, even more, they could see over their father’s walls now to their grandfather’s walls, the crumbling tops of which could just be seen sticking out of the dunes.

In a panic now, the friends went back to their walls. The walls were not to protect from an enemy that would never come, they were to protect against the encroaching desert, that would come no matter what. Each friend now devoted their days to the wall, there were no more games, there were no more jokes. They would go days, weeks, without seeing each other, and when they saw each other now, very often all they would talk about was the wall.

The months stretched into years and the friends grew older. The walls grew and grew, higher and higher, and each of the friends became consumed with protecting the town. The elders knew the wall was going up, and the knew it was being built well. Each of the friends found their wives and had their kids, and they became masters of building the wall.

The wall was nearing completion and, as they looked back, they saw that the town had quietly and carefully moved the tents and buildings back away from the wall. They were laying the bricks at the top and looked down to see that the desert was now up against the base, their grandfather’s wall was gone and only the tops of their father’s wall could be seen. The sand dunes started creeping up the front of the walls and they could see now that their wall looked just like their father’s wall. The smiled at one another, knowing now that they were foolish to think they knew better.

The wall was finished and the friends, now men, now almost old men, got together one night to talk about the wall. One friend began to ask the question they were all thinking. Why? Why would they build the wall, when the desert would eventually swallow it anyway? Their grandfathers knew that the wall they built was gone now, dissolved into sand, and their fathers knew that it was only a matter of time before their wall became sand as well. They knew that their wall was good, it was the best wall yet made, but they also knew that, no matter how good their wall was, it wouldn’t hold off the desert. It can’t, no wall can, the desert is inevitable.

That one friend asked for an audience with the elders, and the chief agreed. “Why do we make the wall?” he asked. “All of the walls that have been built have disappeared, they aren’t even memories any more. Even your wall, the one that you built when you were a boy and a young man, it can’t even be seen now. Why do we make the wall?”

“You weren’t making the wall,” the eldest told them. “The wall isn’t important, the desert will destroy it, and our city will move again. The desert comes and goes as it will, there’s nothing we can do to change it. You weren’t making a wall. The wall was making you a man.”

Barnaby, the man I am now, I owe to you. I know I can do nothing but watch as you become the man you will be, but more than anything I have done for you, you’ve brought out in me the best man I’ve ever been, and you’ve reminded me how much better a man I can be if I keep trying.

In a life that has been miraculously blessed, you are the very best thing that has ever happened to me.

From now on, this blog is going back to theater and fast food and random political thoughts, (on top of being a daddy-n-me blog) and it’s going to be updated many times a week. I gave myself a year, and the year is up. If I don’t try to expand my life beyond being just your father, I won’t be the father that I want to be.

Happy Birthday, my love. You are my gift.