My copy of Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece is inscribed in red marker on its first page:
Who rolls by himself quite well
... may you find a missing piece.
Was this, I wonder, a gift to some four-month-old (now 28!) who was already tumbling off beds and changing tables? A mischief-merchant? A world traveler in the making? The type of resilient little charmer who would inevitably grow up to savor life’s journeys: the walls we run into, the road songs we sing, the rain, the snow, the inconspicuous little beetles, and butterflies miraculously perching? The slings and extravagant arrows we absorb, dislodge, repel, forget, and too fondly remember? The adventures?
And Karen? The dotty old auntie who could not conceive that a book this simplistically illustrated was nevertheless deserving of older, sophisticated readers? Or did she? Maybe Mark was a grown-up already, a ne’er-do-well and experienced heart-breaker. And maybe this was an eloquent reference, a playful poke in the ribs, an admonishment even. Settle down! Will you ever settle down?
‘A’ missing piece – not ‘your’ missing piece – prescribed Karen. Was she his missing piece? Was he missing one? Did he not even know it? And ‘rolls by himself’ - a rebuke? Or congratulations?
Mark? Mark Vallarino? Are you out there? Have you found it? Are you still singing your happy song?