When my son was still a toddler and full of puckish curiosity, he’d follow me about the house. “Doing?” he’d ask in a marvelling refrain, “Doing?” The world was full of wonder then and he, in his second year, was its greatest enthusiast. So I made my answers falsely bright to disguise their dreary content: “I’m pegging the washing!” “I’m sweeping the floor!” “I’m cooking pasta!” I’d exaggerate my actions, brandishing the spoon and whisk like the Swedish chef, crossing the kitchen in a Monty Python stride.
In the domestic work that filled my days, he saw only the chance to play. Yet his leisure also contained his “most serious actions”. Play, as Montaigne and other thinkers have told us, is the child rehearsing for adulthood. Here he is voyaging the house in a cardboard box or hanging in a Jolly Jumper like a Lilliputian parachutist returning to earth. Here he is on a swing, a scooter, a tractor, up a tree. And here, just five, on a New York street, breakdancing as one of his alter egos, “Minus Cheese”. In nearly every photo his face is radiant with recent motion.