My favorite was the balloon popper, when Jack was about 5. Pulleys and buckets and tracks set off reaction after reaction until, at the very end, a sharpened pencil would dip down and pop a red balloon. The idea! The excitement! Every single action and reaction had to be perfect in order for this to happen. I remember standing there, video camera in hand, as each object set in motion the next and the next and the next. The balloon looked doomed for sure! But in the last second, as the pencil spun toward the taut balloon…nothing. The point was not quite sharp enough to pierce the balloon.
I’ve been writing about our lives. Jack’s life, and thinking of the chain of events leading up to his death. Not ruminating, but trying to understand and lay things out. It truly is amazing how one thing led to another and at any point, at the the smallest of junctures, the momentum of that day would have been diverted and it would have had a very different ending.If the power company had trimmed the trees along the road that week, instead of just one week later, and the electricity had stayed on. If I had said to the kids, “You need to stay inside.” If our neighbors had considered the creek in their backyard to be hazardous. If Tim had made it home at his usual time. If the weather had been windy and cold instead of balmy and intoxicating. If I had gotten to the creek 10 seconds sooner. If. If. If. You can take this way back. If we had not wanted a bigger house 9 years before. If I had been brave enough to move out of state when the kids were small.
Chain reactions are persnickety things. Every single factor has to be perfectly placed or they fail every time. I find this frustrating, yet interesting.
We can all look at our lives and imagine if one thing had unfolded differently. If Tim hadn't been at a graduate level pool party when he was still an undergrad, we never would have met. If a devastating miscarriage hadn't led to another, different pregnancy you would not have the very baby you are cuddling right now. If a chance conversation had gone a different direction...
If. If. If.
I remember sharing with Jack an intriguing book about how every action counts, "The Butterfly Effect," by Andy Stanley. It's a lot to think about.
Chain reactions. Too much for a Monday morning?
For your viewing pleasuse, here's a short clip of one of Jack's smaller chain reactions. Seeing Margaret at the end is priceless. It's worth it even if Jack is rubbing (not picking!) his nose. Sorry, Jack.