Grasshopper

My dad. I could write a lot about my dad (ahhh, he was a good one) but for now I am going to focus on a memory of my dad. I am sure all sons share a fond remembrance of their fathers one liners , after all all we refer to them as “Dad Jokes.” If there were a contest for the Yoda of Dad Jokes I would throw my dad’s Bass Fishing hat in the ring.

It starts off with the classic “pull my finger”. As the son ages the Dadisms mature. Men’s urinals, lined in a row took some getting used to as a child . Eventually, you understand the stand up urinal routine UNTIL your dad walks in and says “Oh, so this is where you hang out?”

Dad

His voice in my memories is a wonderful thing and there were a few Dadisms that I recall differently now that I am a dad. Just the other day I heard his voice clear as bell as I heard my own voice repeat a Dadsim as I discovered the source, the the scenario that birthed the Dadism.

We were having a family evening at the beach, there is often a stiff breeze at the beach in our neck of the woods. My youngest had to pee and when he states that has to pee, it means had to pee 2 hours ago and must go NOW. He scurried over behind a rock, turned for privacy—directly into the wind and I heard my dad…”you wanna tip? Don’t pee into the wind.” Son of a bitch there it is, I was saying it “you may not want to face that direction” and I watched as my son quickly learned for himself my dad’s sage advice.

Mind in the Sand

Most adults I know have some form of coping mechanism. Reading, exercise, going on walks, drinking, smoking, meditating, outdoor adventuring—coping mechanisms, a way for us to process and deal with our current situation. Why do we assume that children are any different? They have to find a way to process information, transitions and emotions, hopefully it is not number 5 or 6 on the list above.

My oldest son is nearly 9 and since the time he was about 4 he started moving around the room sort with no apparent sense of purpose or rhythm, he would intertwine his hands above his head and make odd noises, sort of like noises or sounds from a video game. I don’t remember exactly how old he was when we finally asked him about what he was doing. He said, “I am playing in my mind.” Okay- the kid has an imagination. As he grew older we noticed that Playing in his Mind was clearly away for him to have alone time without actually being alone. He has special tactile pieces like rocks or legos that he uses and not any old thing will do, he is specific. Whatever is going on in that mind, obviously calms him down. It is his way of processing. We asked him to explain it to us…”what is going on when you are playing in your mind?” He tried to explain it, “there are different characters and different levels.” It seems very complicated to me. I try to imagine what is going on but from an onlooker, it appears as if he is walking through spider webs while making video game sounds and his feet are constantly moving–he is almost oblivious, often kicking things and always in motion.

We were at the beach one day last week. This move has been tough on this 9 year old, he is a boy that likes routine and he misses his friends. This move is BIG for our family but clearly it is taking him longer to embrace our adventure. My wife Alix was collecting treasures, I was playing fetch and the youngest was playing monster trucks in the sand- I glanced over and noticed that Sparks was playing in his mind on the beach and as we were leaving the beach I noticed his tracks in the sand. To me, the marks in the sand represented playing in his mind. If we had the time, it would have been awesome to sit and have him try to retrace or explain his steps, maybe next time but for now I simply said, “look Sparks you made map of your mind.”

Reflecting

When you think back on your childhood or growing up is there a phrase that you remember as if you just heard your mom or dad saying it yesterday? I grew up in suburban New Jersey. It was a great neighborhood and growing up there was a blast. Our block was full of families with kids all around the same age. Our parents had gatherings and we, the neighborhood kids would gather to shoot hoops, swim or play man hunt. I know for a fact, that the one phrase every kid on the block heard as they ran out the door was “come home when the streetlights come on.” Little did they know that occasionally we would shoot BB guns at the lights and blame the lack of light on coming home late but for the most part that was the rule, come home when the street lights come on. We would be allowed back out on the weekends but on weekdays, that was our curfew- street lights. There was one in front of nearly every house so the rule made sense.

This year, if I told my 2 boys to “come home when the street lights come on”, I may never see them again. I grew up with a streetlight in front of almost every house, and now my journey as a teacher has landed me to place void of tall imposing lights lining the road. Once it gets dark, the only shining beacon is a small solar light that illuminates my neighbors American flag and on clear nights, stars as far as the eye can see.

I would never have the moxie to say that I am a Mainer ( you can only be a true Mainer, if you were born in Maine). I have lived in Maine since graduating college. I have guided whitewater trips, hunted and enjoyed Maine’s woods but for some reason seeing this lone light made me think about my teaching path but more importantly it made me thankful for my journey.