A hot summer day, somewhere in the middle of 1978 and I approached a puddle in the mud-cracked ditch, just one door down the street from our house. The water reflected the brilliant blue sky, and when I think of it now, that sky symbolizes all the memories of that particular time with its innocence, sensations and the ignorant bliss that was my youth. I seem to recall being with another neighborhood friend, but I can’t remember who.

We hovered over the calm water and could see a few scattered cotton candy clouds reflected in it; at the same time we could see through to its shallow bottom only a few inches below. I picked up a nearby dirt clod and dropped it into the puddle. I smiled as it hit perfectly in the center, landing with a satisfying plop. Tiny waves pulsed away from the miniature epicenter and a cloud of muddy water began to weave its way through the water, like thick cream poured into coffee; the heavy mixture swirls around its new environment until it gets to know it a little better and eventually surrenders, dissolving into its surroundings.

The puddle was large enough to sustain about two or three more drops before the visual reward was voided by uniform, cloudy water, leaving us gratified only by the sound of the experience. We soon discovered there were no other puddles in our ditch, so my friend and I began to look for a new adventure.

We turned to the traffic on the street. Syracuse was sort of the main road that ran on the northeast side of our neighborhood. Even though traffic was never heavy, there was always a car moving in one direction or the other, every few minutes or so. My friend was the first to launch a dirt clod at a passing car. The flying object skidded along the pavement merely hitting the back tire of the vehicle. This new activity looked rather enticing to me, so I picked up a dirt clod too and hurled it at the next car. POW! I hit that rust colored station wagon right in the passenger door! BULLSEYE! We managed to hit a few more passing cars until one of the drivers finally pulled over to yell his displeasure at our newfound sport.

Although he was visibly angry at us for being so careless, he still was responsible enough to take the time to explain to us why this wasn’t the most productive thing to be doing with our time. Partially because of fear (getting yelled at by a stranger has a tendency to rattle me) and partially because we respected our elders, my friend and I stopped our assault on the noontime traffic and ended up walking home to do something else.

Today, I find myself in a situation where I’m learning the lessons of being that responsible person. JQ and I have been together for nearly two years now and as our relationship grows, I feel more responsible for the influence I have on her seven year old son. Sometimes, he does things I simply can’t understand. Things that, as Bill Cosby put, would lead you to believe “that child has brain damage.” Sometimes it can be frustrating, but whenever I can, I always try to remember what it was like to be a kid- not knowing any better because I was still learning and experiencing life for the first time. I think as adults, we sometimes forget what that is like- to experience life, as if for the first time. Ultimately, I believe the patience and influence I want to have come from the ability to see the world that way again.