We were driving home from a short errand when out of the blue my 16-year-old son asked, “Mom, would you rather have a million dollars or be able to fly?”
“Fly. ” I answered without hesitation.
And he right after, “Me too.”
I love it when my children ask questions like this — hypothetical, seemingly pointless but significant in their own way. I feel like a good mom when these little flights of imagination and wondering about what is valuable come out of my son’s mouth. Seeing this cool teenager be so free to ponder such questions as he figures out what in life is important makes me proud.
He continued, “What about 10 million? What about 100 million?”
To each I answered, “Fly.”
And to each he responded, “Me too.”
I was pleased that we had progressed passed the “would you rather eat a worm or a grasshopper?” stage of 10 years ago. I was more pleased that he could imagine such things and could put money in its place. I had a good friend once who said, ” Money gives you the freedom to pursue loftier things than money.” Flying? There’s a lofty pursuit.
When I was little we lived on the side of a hill. I could roam by myself to the top. There with my Border Collie, Upndown, by my side I would soar. Unfettered by the laws of physics or the limits of reality I would swoop and glide over the town.
When our neighborhood group of kids wasn’t digging swimming pools or putting on circuses with our pets, we were running down that hill with all kinds of contraptions trying to lift off the ground. I used to wish that I might live to someday see a graceful flying system for humans.
“If you could fly how do you think you would do it?” I asked.
” I’m not sure, maybe sort of like swimming in the air.” He answered.
” In my dreams, my flying is more like swooping and diving.” I said. “And even in my dreams I am a little careful about power lines.”
Then we visited more about various “what ifs”. I asked, “So, what if you could spend the money to do something important to help other people? Maybe build a bunch of schools in third world countries.”
He thought for a minute, “That would make it harder, especially if it were the 100 million where you could really do a lot.”
And then I simplified this big decision, “But what if you had to spend it all on yourself?”
“Fly”, he said.
“Me too”, I added.
I haven’t lived to see humans soar gracefully through the air, but I have come to believe that a child who knows what is really important even better.