March 8, 2009

Letter from Olin

Oh, Matt, Cristina. I am so sorry. Cristina's post was very difficult to read;
I had to stop for a minute and take it in two pieces. The whole idea of a baby
bucket list is so wrong -- not the idea, but that one would live in a universe
in which a BBL was the right, excellent idea, that's what's wrong.

I am travelling (to obvious places), but will ring when I get home on Monday.

I have thought a little bit about my own childhood. Here are my BBL ideas.
Probably my #1 lifetime best memory -- I mean *peaking out* here, never
bettered by anything that has ever happened since -- is a block party that my
mom threw for my 4th or 5th birthday. You've seen my home and the quiet little
street in Buckhead where I grew up. We had freaking *ponys*. With carts.
They'd pick you up in the turnaround in front of my house, then give you a
ride down the hill to W. Andrews Dr. and take you up and down the street, then
back up the drive to my house. I think there was a magician. It was a *blowout*
-- World War II, with the original cast.

I vividly remember when I "got" the idea that all of this was *for* *me*. It
wasn't just a big, fabulous time and I got to go with all the other kids. *I*
was the *reason*. I was that important, to *somebody* -- even though I was
just me. The top of my head just about blew off. I literally wandered around
slightly dazed for quite a large chunk of that party just processing that
fact. I remember stating the proposition out loud, to the air, several times,
the way you sometimes do when confronting some incontrovertible fact that is
nevertheless blatantly too good to be even remotely possible. My feet were not
touching the ground. Thanks, Mom; that day is *burned* into my memory. I wish
everyone could be that happy once in his life.

Canadian islands. The World Fair, in 1967, was in Montreal. So my mother
packed up me & my sisters and hauled us off to Expo'67. Which was cool, but
after that, we went to some other region in Canada, uh, "thousand lakes"?,
jumped in a tiny outboard boat with this grizzled old guy and a nanny, and
motored to this isolated little island. By "little" I mean that I could walk
the perimeter, as a 6-year-old, in under 5 minutes. It was *beautiful*. We
played games -- hide and seek in the day and board games at night -- and
walked around, and I hung out with this grizzled old guy that talked funny,
eh?, and had hair in his ears, while he puttered with the boat engine. The
bark on the trees peeled off (no birch in Georgia) So, moral: A small child
understands and enjoys great natural beauty.

I have no constructive advice to offer (and certainly nothing on the topic of
future parenting, whoa), except to say that you don't seem to need any advice.
It's unbelievable how right your every action and reaction has been through
this process. The brains and insight -- by which I mean wisdom, more than
intelligence -- that illuminate your commentary are spectacular, even down to
the sunlight and life that is shot through the darkness and death.

I wonder if your experience with Hall -- especially your last good-time trip
out to visit -- helped get your heads into the idea of doing as much fabulous
living as you can manage while in the shadow of inevitable death. (Which is a
good lesson for everyone, every day, in actual fact.) Boy, overcode got that
one right; you just know he didn't even have to think it through, he just knew
it in his bones.

You are all are in my thoughts.
With love,

--Olin Shivers, Matthew's Ph.D. Advisor & Friend

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