- Ted & Debbie (Photographers)
An Arab Spring InstaKarmaCrammed, peeling back the last page of the Mayan calender to reveal a fiscal cliff calculated into shape like Play- Doh. Reality reigns, as the world of nonsense kicks in and brings smiles to our proud mom and dad faces watching Simon and his fellow kindergarteners laugh, sing, sniffle, nose pick and lip sync. through The Billy Goats Gruff, The Little Red Hen, The Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks.
The GPS exiled to the glove compartment, its touch screen cracked from too heavy fingers, I wind my way out of Minneapolis towards Mankota in the south to watch Sam play tennis. I somehow end up on a scenic byway, a frontage road. Questioning my confidence, I start asking people along the route if I’m going the right way.
Smelling of scallions, two farmers confirm that I am going the right way, “Stay on this road, and you’ll pass through Le Sueur, St. Peter and you’ll run right into Mankota.”
Relieved by this information, I head back down the road. On my left a peaceful lake reflects a line of trees showing their fall colors while the soon to be Harvest Moon peeks over their tops. I drive on and pass through Le Sueur. On my right the sun is just about down and I pull over to watch.
Duck going where ducks go, their quacking reminds me of the father swan in E.B. Whites’ “The Trumpet of the Swan” whose driven sense of paternal duty forces him to crash through a music store window to purloin a trumpet so that his silent son Louis can communicate with the girl swans. I think of Sam who just texted me that their bus is “somewhere in Minnesota. Probably around 30 mins from the hotel.” I respond, “have u eaten?” “We ate back at school.” The ducks fly into the sunset as I make my way south through the central time zone to my Mankota motel.
I pull up to the courts the next morning and look for Sam amongst the grunts and squeaks coming from the mouths of young men and their tennis shoes. Sam appears out of nowhere and I give him a hug. He feels skinny under his Grinnell sweats but it’s really great to see him. Sam wins his first match 6-4, 6-2 and we go to lunch afterwards. We both have BLT’s and talk about school, his brothers, and baseball. After lunch we go to a thrift store across the street where we rummage through cardboard boxes filled with old vinyl. I get John Lennons’ “Imagine” and Sam finds “Surrealistic Pillow” by the Jefferson Airplane. We both score nice copies of “Abbey Road” too at a great price.
Sam loses his next match to a senior from the host school Augustus. A Division 3 powerhouse who takes tennis quite seriously. I meet Sams’ coach, Coach Hamilton and we talk about the match, Sam and Grinnell. He’s a good guy, a players coach, and I’m glad Sam will have his presence for the next few years.
As the sun starts to go down the tournament moves indoors to “The Bubble” as many indoor courts are referred to. A white inflatable arena smelling of stale recycled air, B.O. and bratwurst. It’s noisy and rowdy in “the bubble”. The quiet rooting approach of USTA tennis obviously doesn’t apply here in division 3 with team members and coaches loud, boisterous, and supportive. I ask Sam if he wants to stay in my room tonight since there are two twin beds. He says yes because one of his teammates is doubled up in a twin bed. Sam makes his way down to the bleacher next to a Grinnell match and he blends in with the rest of the red and black team colors. Sam is done for the night so I tell him that I’ll see him later in our room.
He gets in after 11:00pm. I got ESPN on- my background noise when I’m in hotels. Sam takes a shower and goes for a team meeting in his pjs. He gets back, turns on his nightstand light and opens up the copy of “Game of Thrones” which he has been reading since last spring.
Sams’ familiar alarm rings at 6:30 the next morning and I fall into my familiar mantra of, “Sam, your alarm is going off!” I tell him i’ll see him at courts soon after I’ve had a decent cup of coffee.
I watch Sam lose a heartbreak doubles match which they were ahead 5-3 but eventually lost in a tiebreak. He played really well, his serves were big and accurate but the match just seemed to slip away. Immediately after this Sam is warming up another Grinnell doubles team about to play and coach Hamilton asks me to drive down to the team bus to get some Gatorade with another player. When we get back one of the Grinnell players, Jimmy, has a cramp in his thigh and is on the bench in serious pain. Coach Hamilton gets a trainer and asks me a to stay with Jimmy so he can watch another match. While the trainer gives Jimmy a massage, I muster of words of encouragement like “hang in there buddy” “breath deep” and “you’re going to be ok” Jimmy loses the next game along worth the match and I pat him on the back, and tell him “You did great Jimmy, get some Gatorade and ice your thigh.”
I find Sam warming up his teammates wearing his Where the Hell is Grinnell t-shirt. Coach Hamilton is there and he thanks me for all the help and I tell him it was my pleasure. I tell him I’m going to head on back to Minneapolis and we shake hands. Sam walks away with me and I tell him I’m going to take off. We hug goodby and I give him a few bucks to buy some records with. Sam walks into the bubble with a bunch of his teammates and I make my way back to my rental car. Driving back alone, retracing unfamiliar landscapes of plains and prairie, thinking how great it was to see Sam, but thinking how hard it is to leave him.
Just when you thought that spring was here with all its sense of renewal, light and warmth, the reminder of the winter past remains with lingering running noses, fever and barfing. We had a couple of boys home this week with one or some of the above symptoms. Theo is a great sick kid. He stays in bed and sleeps, drinks plenty of liquids and throws up where he is supposed to throw up.
Sometimes you learn a lot when you’re at home, especially when most of your brothers are at school. Sometimes you learn a lot when you are at home, especially when some ofÂ your kids are home sick. Debbie and Theo knitted quietly on the couch. Theo started his at home gnome and Debbie is probably making “fancy pants” for Simon as he likes to call his hand knitted trousers.
In between knitting, Debbie and Simon baked cookies for the firemen that Theo’s class visited for a field trip last week. It’s funny that usually there’s a shortage of parent drivers for field trips and on this one to the fire station mom’s were fighting to drive.
I can go on and on on about how much you can learn at home or how much we all are forgetting about the home when we go out in the world, but I won’t. Well, maybe just a little… Is it really “such a small world after all” when we forget about where we come from or better yet where we are right now, on a couch knitting with your mom.
Sometimes, we forget who are our teachers, who are our students. Our home is a school that really never ends. Yesterday, I left early for work and the kids were still asleep. It was dark outside because of the spring time change. The kids had a hard time getting out of bed. When I checked in with Debbie she said she was not going to worry. The kids would just be late for school. That made me happy.Â So, here’s my point. Is it irresponsible for us as parents to feel it’s alright for our kids to be late for school? Or is it responsible not to yell and rush our kids out of the house in the morning so they are on time but feel bad because they’ve been yelled at and rushed along.
I don’t know what’s right. What’s right is probably somewhere right in between. Well, all the kids are home and it’s too quiet…
So what’s up with this post? Silverware and wood. I don’t know what to say but I’ve had them up on my monitor for days now and I like them. I could tell you little stories about what they mean to me but I don’t want to. Well, maybe just a little story…
One of Sam and Henry’s chores are to unload the dishwasher in the morning. One takes the upper rack and the other the lower rack. On most days Henry is up before Sam, although lately Henry makes his way downstairs just 15 minutes before we have to leave for school. Actually, he has to be removed from his sleep by force. This doesn’t give him enough time to make his bed, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth and unload the dishwasher. On this morning Henry didn’t quite get to the silverware. He merely removed the basket and placed it on the counter. Sam usually wanders downstairs after Henry, Theo and Ollie leaves for school and is supposed to do the rack which remains. Many times Sam forgets about the dishwasher.We’ve initiated a new policy that if one forgets his rack he needs to do the entire dishwasher the next day. I know we are strict and mean.
Every Friday, two other dads and I teach woodworking to the 5th grade at Ocean Charter School. Actually, we teach whittling. Whittling means to cut, trim, or shape a stick or piece of wood by taking pieces off with a knife.Â The wood in this picture is for the next 5th grade woodworking project. They are going to make standing human figures. We have Butternut, California Sycamore, Chinese Elm, and a bit of Maple. Spring is a great time to start the figures and I am really excited to work with them on their final project.
Well, there you go