Cleaning the house today, I find a bunch of paper airplanes crisply folded but carelessly discarded in a pile on the couch. What a waste of paper, I think, but as I start picking them up something catches my eye. Why on earth is my son drawing swastikas on planes? Has my funny, cheesecake-loving, toy-hoarding, skin-downloading kid become a Nazi sympathizer? Does he even realize the insanity and the evil represented by that four-armed beast?
The next plane I picked up bears a star on each side. Unlike the neatly drawn swastikas, the stars are imperfect. Kid-drawn. Aha. After I left to hit the gym and run errands this morning, World War II was recreated on the sofa. Somewhere after 9 but before 11:30 a.m., Hitler declared war on the United States. In no time, an eight year old American engaged in an aerial dog fight with a 47 year old German. It was an intense, hard-fought battle, as they all were in the theaters of war. Our living room had been the scene of terrible conflicts as the American soldiers often engaged in warfare with evil enemies. Sometimes the enemies were Libyan, sometimes Canadians and on a couple of occasions, Decipticons. This time, it was the Germans, and like the others, you can bet they went down and they went down hard.
Before Hayes had developed his love of reading, we read to him and we read every night. Sometimes the stories were about that cuddly pup, Biscuit or that crazy kitten that thought he was a chihuahua. Other times the stories were reads out of reference books like the evolution of John Deere tractors and the one that always put me to sleep – the chronological history of tanks. Together we learned about the sizes of the hulls and turrets and we even learned about the howitzers. I’m not sure why, but we both really liked the howitzers. Along with that, came his fascination with the History and the Military Channels. Even in this age of multiplayer online video games, he still gets wildly engrossed with documentaries comprised of grainy black-and-white footage bringing to life the events and leaders from decades past.
I meticulously pick up the fleet of planes, not bothering to segregate them. I know the little stack of planes will quickly get buried under Minecraft toys, half-used Kleenexes and empty Xbox cases. But I also know, for at least a few minutes, a little boy with a big imagination donned his uniform and bravely faced enemy combatants for the sake of his liberties, his fellow soldiers and his country.