We are taught when we are little that what only really matters is how much money we make. That's why most of us get asked "What do you want to be when you grow up?" They really didn't care what your ignorant little fingers splurged out; it just mattered that you had some sort of aspiration no matter how pointless it was. It just mattered that maybe it wasn't pointless to teach you. So when the smallest child in my second grade class responded with a scraggly "sparrow,” eyes turned and eyebrows furrowed.
"You have to be realistic," our teacher said.
That little boy (whose name is out of my mind's grasp) responded with a strong “It is."
"You can't turn into a sparrow though. Don't you want to be an actor or musician? Choose a career or lifestyle," our teacher said all the while smiling, persistent to drain the dreams from him.
"My mommy said that we can be anything, though. She said that to me before she closed her eyes and turned into a sparrow. I saw it, she closed her eyes and a sparrow flew out from the tree. I want to be a sparrow, so I can be with mommy," the boy said this with a straight face. "She hasn't woken up yet, so I think she's still a sparrow, and she doesn't know how to turn back into a mommy," and of course there was no way for our teacher to respond, so she left the boy to draw sparrows and mommies on his paper.
I haven't thought about that day for years until I flipped through an old notebook I had in second grade. I found a drawing in there of two sparrows on a half crumpled paper, and I remembered that the boy had drawn one. I said to him that I couldn't draw once I saw his paper, and he told me that it was easy (and to this day I still know that drawing will never be easy). One was neat and directed, while the other was squiggly and oblong (this of course was mine). I went home that day while thinking about how happy the boy had been.
The boy’s words opened me up to a world of dreams. I saw now that not everything was as the grownups said. I could see a world where I was bird. I was a million different colors. The sky shifted in colors the sky outside my window had never felt before. It was amazing. Peering through the slanted lines of orange light in between my closed window blinds, I couldn’t wait to see the boy the next day.
I'd then tried to befriend the boy, but he slowly drifted away. He hadn't come to school in maybe four months or so, but when the "parents' night" arrived; they had still put up his paper with drawings of sparrows and little boys holding hands with mommies. I glanced at it, and I silently walked away from my parents to look at it. At the moment as I stood in front of it, a sparrow stood outside of the window behind me. It made a quiet chirp, so I turned around and walked towards it. It stared at me until flying away to another bird waiting idly in a tree without stopping his song of chirps and tweets. I still wonder: "Was the sparrow that little boy? Had he fulfilled his dream before even growing up?"
If the answer to that was yes, then the boy was now happy. He must be. If the answer to that was yes, then another of my questions had been answered, "What happened to the boy?"
The boy made me love to draw and dream. He is the reason I am a dreamer, and me not being able to remember his name is a great injustice. The memory of him I have needs a title, and maybe the way I give it one is remembering him, and I will look for a sparrow with a mother sparrow whenever I hear "What do you want to be when you grow up?"