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.