Those days I used to get up at four. I am an introvert. I always used to be. I always liked being alone. I have to be alone. That’s how I get juiced up. And only those early morning hours offered some sort of guarantee for me to get charged up. The only time for me to potter about with no interruption.
So, I used to get up at four o’clock, six days a week. Except on Saturdays. That was Shabes, I didn’t work then. I didn’t potter about. Those days, I could – hypothetically – have slept even until eight.
Hypothetically, because Frédi, in spite of his five years, had just as little need for sleep as I did. Well, it’s not quite true. There were certain Tuesdays or Thursdays when he did sleep until eight. But not on Saturdays. On Saturdays, his need for sleep was tiny. At six o’clock latest his internal clock went off and he simply had to wake up.
He was always a gentleman, and knew that I got up at four on weekdays, so he didn’t wake me up. He was only pottering about. Silently. Then started to crawl up on the bed one after the other: the dotted kitty, Buzz Lightyear, a pink pony and little pieces of play-doh. These objects all had their own soul and personality. And they could express themselves in speech. As in, they talked. First only in whispers, then increasingly louder.
Frédi was always a gentleman, as were his friends. They were never loud. They only talked softly. But my ears started to perk up from around a quarter to four, waiting for the alarm to go off. And Saturday morning, when it was past four and then five without a single ring of alarm, a slight whisper was enough. My ears started to nudge my brain.
’Wake up, buddy!’
And then my brain sprang into attention:
’Sir, yes, Sir!’
And well, that woke me up, too.
And I heard Frédi and his friends talking in the next room. And then I only listened to the sudden quieting down, and after two minutes his voice whispering:
’I did a poo…’
And then I had to go.
To do the wiping.
To give him breakfast.
Because I think one of the reasons Frédi woke up so early on Saturday mornings was that he liked hanging around in the kitchen, talking. The two of us.
That was when he asked the questions he picked up during the week that needed explanation but he himself couldn’t answer satisfactorily.
On that Saturday morning six years ago he pointed at the vase standing on the table and asked:
’Does the flower have God inside, too?’
I wiped crust from my eyes and looked at Frédi. I knew why he asked this.
Because of the Baal Shem Tov.
And because of Chaim Potok.
Actually, it was in his book that I read about the philosophy of the Baal Shem Tov.
The sparks of divinity that spilled after the act of Creation infused the World with sanctity. The fallen holy sparks has reached into every corner of the World, filled all existence with the presence of God. The truly pious man experiences God in the most mundane acts — of eating, working, sleeping, making love. God is everywhere, in every blade of grass, every tree or scudding cloud.
That’s sort of what I read in Potok’s book.
And that’s sort of what we had talked about with Frédi one week before another Saturday morning. He circled back to this topic.
Since I knew I wasn’t going to get away with a simple yes, I drew a big breath and answered him:
Frédi didn’t think long before he asked his next question.
’And does the peach have God inside?’
My gaze I swept around the kitchen, checking fruits. I realized with resignation that we were looking forward to a long Q & A.
’Yes, so does the peach,’ I said.
I was mistaken.
Frédi answered after a moment’s thinking.
’And do I?’
I responded without a moment’s hesitation:
’Yes, you do.’
I started to wake up. I was watching Frédi with pleasure and I could almost hear the wheels clicking in his mind. He raised his eyes to mine and they held the humble smile of a 5-year-old Talmud scholar.
’Will I have more God inside me if I eat the peach?’
’Well done’ I thought, but aloud I only said:
’I think not.’
He wasn’t disappointed. Curious, rather. He looked at me without flinching.
’Tell me more,’ he said.
And I spoke.
’Well…,’ that’s how far I got.
Then I thought of Imi who was my business partner in our company. We always made presentations so that they are as clear and simple that even a 5-year-old would understand them. So I thought, well, now I have a 5-year-old, who happens to be my son, Frédi, and asks me about the meaning of life. And how not easy it is to talk about the meaning of life so simply and clearly that even a 5-year-old would understand.
So I said:
’I think there is a heavenly spark inside you that is not going to be more or bigger if you eat that peach. The spark is inside you, no matter what.’
’Tell me more,’ he said.
’I think that there is a heavenly spark inside everyone. The same amount in everybody. Or the same size. But it’s different in everyone. I feel the meaning of life is that we discover what kind of heavenly spark we have inside. And then show it to the world. Show what makes us unique. Extraordinary. The one and only. Mom, for instance, can write tales for grown-ups. Zoli can take photos. Zsófi can make Shrek from play-doh. I feel that you have to nurture your divine spark. To be able to help finishing the creation of the World.
Frédi’s interest was peaked.
’So what is it that I can do?’ he asked.
’I think your drawings are nice, but it may turn out that you are more special in something else.’
He looked into my eyes and said:
’Do you think my oats are soft already?’
’I think so,’ I answered and stepped to the kitchen counter where I had poured milk on his bowl of oats at the beginning of our conversation. I trickled honey on top and handed it to him. He took his spoon and started to eat with relish.
I was watching him and I knew that he was processing. Processing what he just heard.
Then the coming Saturday, he asked some more.
And he still asks sometimes. Although it has been six years since then and he is now an 11-year-old big boy.
And one day he will entirely stop asking. Or simply it will not be me he asks. And then he will unravel the mysteries of life alone or with someone else.
And, then, well, I can sleep as late as I want on Saturday mornings. Because nobody will wake me at six to talk to me about the meaning of life…