In Asia, it is commonly said that folding one thousand paper origami cranes makes a person's wish come true.
Sometimes, I have to call out his name to see where he is in the house. He's always been like this, quiet ... and somewhere. And it wasn't like it was with his brothers, never if there's quiet, there's trouble, but more of a, he's quiet, let's go find him.
We'd search him out, and there he'd be; alone, silent, with his drawing pad under the dining room table. Only four-years-old but already sketching a tiger completely detailed with green eyes and a tassled tail; or quietly rolling out anatomically perfect scorpions from clay.
Folding and folding his paper origami.
My husband, who is a conservative white collar worker by day and secret renaissance man at home, is the one who has introduced all three of our boys to what has become the major hobby in their lives.
He began our oldest son, now 17, with piano at age five.
With our youngest, he has shared his love of basketball, football, soccer, anything athletic.
Our middle son, the quiet one, was four-years-old, when one day -- as he sat drawing by himself, my husband sat down next to him, two shiny squares of paper in his hand. Cross legged on the floor, my husband silently, slowly began folding a 6x6 inch flat sheet into an origami crane.
With his thumbnail, he drew a sharp crease in the shiny gold foil, allowing time in between each fold for our son to imitate the precise movements with his own piece. I saw something in our peaceful son's eyes come alive with that very first time of paper folding. As he watched his father, I remember him breathlessly saying, "It's so cool that I can make my own toys."
Our son had found his thing; through my husband, he has learned the art of origami.
He has been folding origami for nine years now.
It suits his personality: he's happy in his own company, he becomes absorbed in his activities, and he is fueled by instant results from his labor. Some of his origami pieces can take up to one hundred folds and an hour and a half of dedicated work. When all the steps are complete, he holds the transformed paper in his hands and with self-affirming pride, admires what he has created from a square sheet of paper.
While he folds, he holds an instructional dialogue with me:
"Mom, did you know that the biggest mistake people make with origami is to not prefold?"
"Mom, did you know that if you think you can't do an origami any longer, you can just try again the next day?"
I have learned that when he is folding, it is the best time for me to catch a glimpse into those thoughts he keeps to himself, to find out more about who this pensive child of ours is.
At times, when he is so into his paper zone that he won't hear us call him, I'll send one of his brothers to go and check on him, to see how he's doing. They always return with the same news, "he's fine, Mom, he's just at the table, folding."
This pastime of paper folding has allowed him entry into the popularity clubs at school that would ordinarily be closed to someone in the outer circle like him. During class downtime, he'll begin to fold paper into fish, or frogs, or boxes, and a crowd will soon gather and with astonished praise, say, "That is so cool! Can you make me one?" In his non-hurried manner, he'll smile, happy to be accepted; reach for another sheet, and begin folding to make the paper crane, cricket, frog, to give to whomever wanted one, while they stand around -- quiet, much like him -- and watch.
I stand behind him sometimes, captured by his hands folding and refolding so deliberately, without a sound. I know that he is nowhere else at the moment, but in his zen of creating.
He once left me speechless with his remark of, "Mom, I know how I feel when I make something from nothing ... I can't even imagine how God felt when he made flowers and bugs."
He is my beautifully quirky son, and he has taught me to seek the quiet, feel the peace of still, and to find a moment by stepping out of the whizzing world for awhile.
"Mom," he asks me, between folds, "do you know the story of One Thousand Cranes? The story goes that if a person makes One Thousand Cranes, that their wish will come true?"
I don't have to make One Thousand Cranes, honey, I don't.