the things that make us strong

The Things That Make Us Strong

What if Newton had been born elsewhere, what if it had been a fig that fell from the tree instead of an apple, would the laws of gravity have turned out different and would I have had a different childhood?

I ate Fig Newtons by the box when I was a kid. I thrived on them. Fig Newtons, Campbell’s soup and Wonder Bread. My mother in those early years was shy on culinary imagination, and my father led a secret life of longing for fondue, eggs Benedict, soufflé and crepes.

One night when I was fifteen my father took me out on the track after a supper of Wonder Bread and Campbell’s soup because I had this notion I was a child of the wind. I was dreaming of a four-minute mile, and my father’s mission was to time me with a stopwatch and put an end to such nonsense. Thin as a marsh reed and undernourished, I ran a 4:45 in sneakers and blue jeans, fifteen seconds faster than my father’s best mile in high school. We drove home without speaking.

For steak and potatoes I substituted Fig Newtons. For love I substituted solitude. For learning I substituted vigilance.

The thing that I’ve sculpted over the years not even death can take from me.

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