The boy in the field
A friend had once told Erling about an incident during a summer day in his childhood, how he had hid in the tall grass out in a field and was very happy. He had felt he could lie there forever and look up at the clouds, listen to the wind playing in the grass, and watch butterflies fluttering about. It had been with some embarrassment that he had confessed to Erling his memory of that day, but he was also pleased to talk to someone who might understand and wouldn't repeat his childhood secret.
But this had not prevented the man, a few years later, from scaring the daylights out of his son when he had discovered him in the same situation. Apparently his action was a pure reflex; no memories of his own enjoyable experience could have been present just then. Erling had happened to see the boy as he returned from the field, fear in his eyes, embarrassed and confused. "How stupid to lie there and dream!" the father had said.
The boy was fully aware that he was being suspected of something he didn't even understand. But I don't think this was the fundamental reason for the father's scolding; it was only that the boy must not withdraw from the circle of inspection. If the father had had anything else in mind, then this had only been in order to have a rational explanation handy. It was obvious that the boy had been given a most unpleasant shock, the consequences of which no one could foretell. If one called it a kind of vandalism, one might receive the absurd reply that the boy probably wouldn't suffer from it, and anyway he must learn that life wasn't simple and easy like that. Erling felt he might have learned this without his parents' suffering a blemish on their reputation. The prospect for the future was dark; the father had been conscious of his own so-called sin when he had withdrawn to the summer field and stayed alone with the grass and the clouds, beyond the domination of others.
Copyright © 1958 by H. Aschehoug & Co., Oslo, Norway. Used by permission. English translation copyright © 1966 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved. Use of this material falling outside the purview of "fair use" requires the permission of the University of Wisconsin Press.
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