My teenager is at that age where he is drawn to the macabre. He likes dark lyrics and existential quotes, desolate art and dissonant music. I’m expecting him any day to ask to dye his sandy brown hair black.
It doesn’t alarm me–he’s still the same fundamentally upbeat guy he’s always been. So I try to repress my maternal reflex to put a happy shine on every sad or grim sentiment he pulls out of his pockets, and honor what he’s exploring instead.
Lately, he’s into illustrating quotes with his drawings and photos from his iPhone. He tells me he’s found a line of a verse he thinks is cool.
“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,” he recites.
So they are.
I’m so excited that he’s discovered one of my favorite poems, but I’ve learned these conversations go further when I don’t come on too strong. I look up and smile. “That’s one of my favorite lines,” I tell him. Then I look back down and resume sorting mail.
“Do you know what comes after those words?” I ask, not looking up.
As it happens, he does.
But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
“It’s about commitment,” I say, trying to keep my schoolmarm tone out of it. “About going on.”
I sneak a glance. I’ve surprised him. He’s thinking about it. What lies beyond that enchantment. The reasons we press on.
My own adolescence wasn’t so long ago that I can’t remember the pull of the dark and the deep. Angst is alluring when you haven’t lived long (or when you haven’t grown up yet). By the time you get to be my age, you’ve gotten familiar enough with darkness that the infatuation has worn off. Sorrow and pain aren’t things I go looking for; when they want me, they know where to find me. I hang out in the light. It’s deep and lovely here, too.