On this father’s path, I often straddle the line of past and present on the way to the future. It seems harder to be a kid now, but maybe not. When I think of the challenges of growing up back then, it seems much like today with different trimmings. You can argue about the impact of technology, social media, and the break-neck pace of life, but it seems that making sense of what matters most is always a quiet and private activity. In the seams between the latest entertainment, distractions, and problems you end up reflecting alone, praying, or weeping with the ones you love.
I’m reminded of this when I find what I choose to remember. The innocence and wonder of figuring out how things work, the biggest of which is one’s self, evident in a young boy observing and making sense of a big world:
A part of my morning ritual involves a good cup of coffee. One morning Evan decided he wanted to be on the inside of this process and plopped down on the kitchen floor with a sippy-cup of milk to take notes. Noticing his interest, I shared the critical steps in the brewing process. Sounding like an adult version of show and tell, I told him about the coffeemaker, the grinder, the beans that become grounds, and the filter. Finally, I added water to the reservoir, and as I flipped the switch I decided to test Evan’s retention. The coffeemaker came to life with a hiss and as I pointed to it I asked, “So, what does this make?” He looked at me, then at the coffeemaker, and said, “Noise.”
Calmly, he rose, snatched his milk cup, and left for more intriguing venues.
As is his way, Evan asks questions with a unique tint or flavor that is all his. One day he asked Melanie, “Where did we get Daddy?” Without hesitation, my wife replied, “Food Lion.” Evan’s face lit up as he exclaimed, “No!” I was so taken with his question, and so amused by his reaction, that I never asked what he thought of this answer. My guess is that he was surprised since he’d never seen a “Daddy” aisle or because he thought that I was more likely to be from Target.
We were carving jack-o-lanterns for Halloween when my wife asked Evan what he thought would be inside the pumpkin. Evan took his thinking pose but never gave us his answer. After Melanie carved the pumpkin and removed the top, Evan peered in and said, “Oh man, no dinosaurs!”
On Young Monkeys:
One day Evan and Melanie were talking about animals, a favorite subject of Evan’s. Melanie was teaching him the different names species have for their young, such as, “joey” for a baby kangaroo. Then she asked him what he thought a baby chimp was called. Evan replied, “A swinging furball.”
On Arts and Crafts:
One day I came home to find him at the kitchen table for arts and crafts with Melanie. I stole up for a peek at his latest work and asked, “What are you making, Evan?” Without lifting his head, he continued to swirl his hands in the wet paint. Still focused on his masterpiece, he replied, “A mess.”
On the Horizon:
Each year, about a month before Evan’s birthday, our family heads to the beach for our summer vacation ritual. We spend a week together, just us, sand, and surf; and it is the highlight of our year.
One morning in between fishing, digging in the sand, and beach games, Evan stopped for a look at the ocean. He pointed to the horizon and said, “I wonder if that line is the end of the ocean.”
It would have been very easy for me to talk about the earth’s curvature and, eventually, I did offer Evan a brief explanation. But, it was one of the moments I chose to linger with, watching Evan’s curious and innocent gaze beaming in the morning sun. I wonder… such lovely words.