Beau February 17th, 2010
I know it must be spring somewhere… quite a few latitudes south to be sure. I hope you’re enjoying the weather down there. One of these days we need to come visit. Ah, but lovely February in Missouri. Where would we be without a little cold and snow? Okay, it’s colder up north- you guys have me there. I think I’m just ready for the next season.
I went looking for daffodil tips the othere day, trying to find them poking up through the ground. Too much snow yet to see them, but I know they’re there! Besides, in just a couple of weeks it will be March already. How weird is that?
The weekend past was spent enjoying some new fallen snow, and plowing the driveway. Finally. It’s under the snow where the Shiba is sitting… the wind drifted it up a little.
Our cars do fairly well considering the “big dip” in the middle of the driveway. But it’s a slippery affair. Once last week I was taking a good run back in the driveway with the car squirming all around, steering wheel spinning like four-wheeling through the mud and just barely gaining traction. From the back seat the boy yells, “I feel like a chicken on skis!” I smiled and complimented him on his description of our ride.
So I finally rigged up the old 6′ blade behind the tractor and got busy. It cleared a wider swath of snow than the little bucket could. But you can only do so much with a gravel drive if you don’t want to ruin it. There’s going to be a lot of packed down snow no matter what, and most cars do just fine. This was before we got another 4-5 inches. You can just see the sunset reflection in the house’s window in the distance.
Besides, the next day it gave us a chance to get out the Flexible Flyer! Surely some of you remember sledding long ago, or perhaps not so long ago? Seems like we had more snow when I was a kid, you know, like when we walked two miles through it to school? Maybe like everything seemed bigger as a kid, everything seemed snowier too…
But in the winter I think I lived on the sled. This is one of them… it’s over 35 years old now and the boy is just getting to try it out.
You need some good packed-down snow for it, and the driveway was just the ticket. At least the icy parts around the gravel patches. So there we go- on the far side coming back down the driveway. “Get on,” I tell him as I lay down. He climbs on my back and I demonstrate how to properly steer one of these things. “Wheee!” and away we go.
It was pretty fun… except for the part with the yellow lab running right in front thinking this is some new game for him… we weren’t half way down the little hill and the dog, running alongside as we zoom by, reaches out and snatches my hat off my head and runs away! “Bring that back!” I yell but he’s having too much fun. We roll to a stop with the boy laughing and the dog shaking my knit cap like a rag doll.
Thus educated, the boy proceeded to have a little fun. Even with the limits of our little hill. He tried the bigger slope to the pond. Alas the snow wasn’t packed down enough. Then the sled got away and almost ran out to the pond alone. Fortunately a tree stopped it short. Reminded me of my own youthful adventures….
I was ten or eleven years old and liked testing myself. One snowy weekend morning my brother and I (he a year younger) joined a throng of other exuberant souls at the top of a big hill near some woods. The goal was to see who could start the highest up, and then go down the fastest off a big ramp or jump, fly through the air and then continue all the way through the trees to the bottom.
After watching a few fainthearted boys try their luck, and older ones too, I marched up higher than anyone had gone and stated those fateful words that evey co-pilot dreads, “Watch this!”
Away I went, zooming like mad headfirst toward that ramp looking at the trees beyond. I was enjoying every second and smiling at the sheer speed, blissfully unaware of the total lack of control I was about to encounter. Then all at once I knew, with some primeval instinct, that I was about to enter uncontrolled flight…. I hit that ramp and went soaring high into the air, parting with my sled and feeling mad at myself for not figuring it out better as I hurtled toward a huge tree.
I just remember an enormous “Crash!!!” and the yells of the other kids. I think someone asked, “Is he dead!?”
It was a long walk home, what seemed like a half-mile but was probably less. I cradled my right arm to my chest trying not to cry but it hurt like crazy. I looked at it and told my brother I broke my bones in my arm. “How do you know?” he said. “I just do!” and I was more worried about what my parents would say. Finally we arrived home, meeting the folks outside and I let loose, crying that “I broke my arm!”
“Oh, it’s okay, don’t worry… you probably didn’t…lets take a look…” said Mom or Dad… followed quickly by, “Oh! Umm… well lets get the car and go to the hospital…”
That day provided a good lesson. Something about showing off while doing something you really had no idea about. In a strange sort of way I remember the gleam in the other kids eyes as I was about to launch myself down the hill. I remember the yells and screams… and I remember liking that. And then feeling pretty stupid afterwards too. I think it provided some measure of a data point for the things I would do, and the things I would not do later on. As much as I’ve always enjoyed speed, sports and fast machines, that single day gave me a bit of experience for how things can turn out differently than you thought.
It wasn’t the last of my youthful lessons by a long shot. I was pretty lucky a whole bunch of other times… and I’ll probably write about them too. I wish I could data-dump some of them to the boy… share my stories and mishaps so he doesn’t have to learn them quite the same way. I think Benjamin Franklin once said, “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.” I appreciate his point, and think there’s a lot of wisdom there.
Yet while I’m a big believer in academic learning, mentorship and helping others avoid the hard lessons… most of us seem to have our own stories to tell, and our own scars to mark our experience. You can only teach someone so much, and our experience is priceless. It shapes us in so many ways. Which makes it one of my parenting goals… trying to put it all together so that what shapes the young one as he makes his own choices, isn’t quite so rough along the way. Time will tell.