I can’t find the quote now, but I remember reading an essay by C.S. Lewis in which he explained how different people bring out different things in each other. No one behaves exactly the same way with everyone they encounter. In simple terms, applied to my own life, Mrs. Happy’s Curt is quite different from Jeff‘s Curt. I can see the phenomenon pretty clearly in groups of friends. For instance, my geek friend Rey reacts to me (funny, thoughtful, relishing debate) quite differently from how he reacts to MCF (joking, prodding, argumentative) and from how he reacts to Jerry (bantering, sarcastic, antagonistic). I react differently to each of them. When the four of us get together, we all get to see levels of personality in each other we would never encounter except in the group.
There have been people in my life who bring out the worst in me, and I in them. I don’t hang out with those people. Others tend to highlight the best parts of my personality. The most extreme example of this is my four-month-old son. Before I met him, I never knew I had such a seemingly infinite capacity for love. I would lay down my life for Mrs. Happy, but I would likely not have made such a sacrifice before I met her or when I first was getting to know her. On the other hand, I would have died protecting Tater even before he was born. He has also inspired an all-consuming love in his mother that has made me fall more deeply in love with her than ever before. Even strangers meet him and—I may be reading too much into their reactions, but maybe not—rediscover their sense of wonder and awe at the miracle of life. My son also sends me into fits of frustration the likes of which I have never experienced, not to mention fatigue, anxiety, compassion, and transcendent joy.
So far, my Tater is pretty much the same as a stranger’s Tater in that he behaves in exactly the same way no matter who’s around. He’s beginning to understand that individuals are different, though. As he learns, he’ll glean things from me and his mother and others, and grow into a progressively more complex personality of his own. I can’t wait to see it.