In the eyes of a 9-year-old boy, there are few objects which are sacred.
Most of the elements of the world around you co-exist in a symbiotic fashion. As long as you choose not to interact with them, everything will continue to be harmonious. If you chose to sit still in one place all day, all would be well — parents now refer to this as the "iPad loophole".
Nor would anything need to be done. The world, life, family would continue to operate as expected. School, meals, conversation would all chug along without throwing up any flashing lights or error messages. The predictability of it was reassuring, and indescribably boring for the whirring mind of a child. Now, on the other hand, should you choose to try to insert yourself as another cog in this giant mechanism of the world spinning around you, only then would things go wrong.
Hence why, prior to the iPad loophole, it was impossible to not find yourself in trouble. Curiosity, energy, or stupidity took over and compelled you to do something that would cause issues to materialise, seemingly from thin air. You would do a handstand on the couch, fall, and break a vase you had never even noticed prior to when you stood up and found it in pieces. You would swing from a door handle, and it would fall off. These were never your intentions of course, you just wanted something of interest to do, and every time you did something of interest, it went wrong.
You were an explorer of the world, and as is a recurring theme for explorers, you were accidentally obliterating your surroundings a little along your way.
Every explorer needs his tools, and a 9-year-old boy is the epitome of the rule rather than the exception.
These objects would become the focus of your coveting. These are the hallowed objects I referred to. They were not designer, nor expensive. Their value came in their rarity, far greater than mum's apparently rare vase you had knocked over. The urge and draw towards them were powerfully magnetic.
Pocket knives are one of them. Long, straight sticks are another. They saw you well along your quests.
Every explorer is in the search for treasure. Next time you see a 9-year-old boy, get him to empty his pockets. Within them you will find an assortment of novelties so vast that you will not be able to guess any of them beforehand. I'm not able to give enough examples to cover even a percentage of the varieties you might find but there could be a stone, a beer bottle cap, a rubber band, a paperclip, a feather, the piece of plastic which goes around the neck of a plastic bottle just below the cap, an empty box of raisins, an unknown piece of metal. These are all sacred objects, treasures. Myself, I went through a phase of collecting bark. My mother went through a phase of yelling at me to empty my pockets before putting my shorts in the wash.
But the greatest treasure for a 9-year-old boy is not one that can be found in a playground or gutter. It is one that must be bestowed by higher powers, the gods which are the physical education teachers at school, who have the holy powers to impart upon you either the fair weather of T-Ball, or the thrashing storms of cross-country training. And when they are feeling particularly generous, for only the most deserving of disciples, they may occasionally bestow ... a trophy, or medal, for the winners of school sports.
As a child, I excelled at little outside of the classroom, and only slightly more inside. The things at which I did all right always felt like they came as consolation prizes to my lack of talent in sports. Throughout my education I always felt that the pursuits of physical endeavours were the ones filling the school trophy cabinets in both metaphorical and literal senses.
I desperately longed to be better at a sport, any one of the many I tried. I remember contemplating how much a talent in particular subjects, and which subjects, I would trade in exchange for sporting prowess. The history prize doesn't come with a medal, but the 100-metre sprint does.
My taste testers of triumph taunted me — I might occasionally win Player of the Day out of sympathy, luck, or a new coach mistaking me for someone else, but the week that I was allowed to keep that little trophy was a sacred week. It would follow me into whatever room I was in at the time. It was the thing I would run to when I got home from school. The Saturday morning drive to the game where my treasure would be redistributed felt like what paying tax feels like now.
So when I raced in the Coast to Coast last week, and had a finisher's medal placed over my neck, it wasn't going anywhere. It adorned me all the way home, out for dinner, and while I slept in bed that night.
Onlookers must have thought my ego hugely inflated that I had to share with all that I had finished the race. But that was not the triumph I was celebrating at all.
The 9-year-old boy in me is just glad to have finally won a medal of his own.