We’re Right Behind You Dad

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When I was a boy, we moved from the city to a farm near my grandparents.  Our little trailer house was nestled right between three things that often kept me awake and worried after dark at night.  They were a dilapidated hundred-year old two-story house to the west, an even older (and only a bit smaller) barn to the east, and an ancient cement cellar with a heavy metal door to the north.

By day, these three places were a boy’s adventurous dreamscapes and were replete with hidden closets under creaking staircases and musty smells and scratch marks from who knows what kinds of animals.  There were boxes of old newspapers and various pieces of archaic furniture in the old house’s nearly collapsed attic and large leather harnesses and ropes and pulleys hung from wooden slats of the dark stalls that lined each side of the old barn.  The dimly lit cellar was a great place to think of spooky stories to tell my younger sister and an even better (and brave) place to hide in a game of hide-and-seek.

By night, these three places were another thing altogether.  They represented every scary movie that I had ever heard of (and I only knew of a few at this point in my young life) and seemed to surely be the birthplaces of every monster and ghost and eerie sound that the world of a young boy’s mind could muster.

By day, they were my Mt. Everest.  By night, they were my Legend of Boggy Creek.

Today we visit the old house, the spot where the barn once stood, and the musty cellar with my children and I tell them of the feelings I had when I was their age.  I keenly remember the experiences, the sights and sounds of it all, as the memories come flooding back to me – the fun and the fear and the courage and the weakness and the dark and the light, the dreams and the nightmares.

While we were searching through the ruins of these familiar places, I noticed that when we would enter a particularly dark or cobweb-infested area my youngest daughter would say, “We’re right behind you dad.”  And then…they would only take a step after I took a step.  They would only move ahead after I moved ahead.  They would only laugh after I laughed.

And it all makes me think – I was only taking a step because I knew they needed to take a step.  I was only moving ahead because I knew they needed to move ahead. I was only laughing because I knew they needed to laugh.

Then as a boy, I remember how it felt to try to navigate my courage and my fear, my dreams and my nightmares, all at the same time…for myself.

Now as a father, I know how it feels to navigate my courage and my fear, my dreams and my nightmares all at the same time…for them.

 

‘The Farm Adventure Continues’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

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*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. His backstory can be found here.  Enjoy!

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn and…buried treasure!  Here is his story:

With a wave goodbye to his family, Baby Frederico set out to make his way across the long stretch of tall prairie grass that lay between him and his destination. (And just between us, getting there would be half the fun!)

The first obstacle was a rusted iron gate that included a thick cylinder-like chain that Baby Frederico had to use all his strength to unlatch.

The second obstacle was the tall giraffe-like grass that spread out in every way before him, and that he had to use all his jumping skills to get through.

The third obstacle was a long snake-like creek filled with water that he had to use all his swimming skills to get across.

The fourth obstacle was a dark grove of gnarled evergreens that he had to navigate through with his compass and his flashlight and his courage to get past.

Finally, he was at his destination, a large windmill that stood a hundred feet in the air. It was the only thing left of the home and farm where his grandfather Frederico had been born and raised.

Baby Frederico climbed to the very tip-top of the windmill and looked far off across the fields and out into the deep blue sky. He felt that he was surely on top of the world!

As he looked, he noticed a dark and eerie cloud forming nearby. The wind was blowing and a drop of rain landed squarely on his nose.

It was time to head home and get there as quickly as possible. Baby Frederico was on his way in no time.

More next week!!!

‘The Farm Adventure Begins’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

BF Farm

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. His backstory can be found here.  Enjoy!

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn and…old metal windmills!  Here is his story:

Baby Frederico woke up to the sounds of the wind.  It had never blown quite so loud or quite as fierce at home as it did out here on the wide open plains of his family’s ancient farm.  His grandfather Frederico had been born nearby, in what was now a mysterious overgrown hollow in the far north fields of the land, and that was where Baby Frederico intended to go today.  He knew one thing about this wonderfully hidden place that few people outside of his immediate family knew or even cared about – it was going to bring him what he loved more than anything else in the world…adventure!

Baby Frederico was up and ready in no time.  His Mamma had prepared a snack sack with breakfast and lunch for him, and his Papa had prepared the family’s famous adventure back pack – an old green backpack lined in red and covered in fabric patches that nearly held the entire thing together by a thread – with the kind of things a Baby Frederico would need for such an adventure:  a compass to find his way to and from the site, a flashlight just in case he found the old cellar, extra batteries, empty plastic containers for storing treasure, one walkie-talkie (his Papa kept the other one) just to check in with his parents throughout the day, and paper and pencil for making notes and drawings.

As he left the familiar surroundings of the homeplace and his family, he looked off into the distance and caught just a glimpse of a burst of light as the sun bounced off the rusted metal blades of the century-old windmill that awaited him.  It was the one landmark that still rose high above the farm and always seemed to invite him to come for a visit.  He couldn’t resist it anymore, and he was on his way.

Baby Frederico had no idea that a storm was brewing far to the north in the borderlands, and that it would sweep across the path of his adventure before the day was over.  It would also bring with it an experience of which he could have only dreamed.

Stay tuned…

P.S. Parents, if you are reading this story to your kids and they have an idea for what might happen next, I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Bored = Imagination

In a recent Time Magazine interview the creator of the wildly popular online game Minecraft, Markus Persson, talked about how “his lack of artistic ability turned into one of the game’s defining traits, ‘A tree doesn’t look like a tree, but you know it’s a tree. It makes it feel more real, because a larger part of it takes place in your imagination.’ ” I can’t tell you how many times I heard that word ‘imagination’ or how many times I was told to “use your imagination” when I was growing up; and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my own daughters to “use your imagination.”

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I was just one of those kids who loved to complain about there being nothing to do – and I grew up on 400 acres of farm and wheat land, which included two old creepy houses (with cellars!) that had been abandoned decades before I came along; there was a creek that wound its way through the farm and a couple of old, rusty windmills and big, red wooden barns near my grandparent’s farmhouse. There was not one thing about this place that could really be described as ‘boring.’ Not one thing but me…

Yet my grandmother, who lived not far from us on the other side of the farm, loved to here me say that I was ‘bored.’ No sooner had I proclaimed that magic word than she would spring into action and send me off on outdoor adventures to gather this or that somewhere among those 400 acres and then return to her home later that day with what I had found; and then to have her ask me to help her make these amazing mini cherry cheesecakes, play games like Payday or Concentration, or rearrange her bookshelves and the long row of cabinets beneath them.

Ah, those cabinets beneath the bookshelves. I loved them, these little hidden spaces behind closed doors, stacked completely to the brim with books of all kinds and shapes and sizes. It was a space so full of books that you had to shut the door quickly to keep them from spilling out onto the living room floor. Honestly, it was amazing and it was a treasure to me. There were all kinds of books in there, but the ones that stand out in my mind today are mostly children’s books from my dad’s childhood and comic books and baseball cards used as bookmarks and handwritten notes scrawled inside the book covers from people I had never heard of or only heard about. I would lose myself in these cabinets and the boredom would lose itself there, too.

I’m grateful for my grandmother and that old farm and the books that she drew me into and taught me to cherish simply because she cherished them and had no intentions of ever having too many or relegating even one to be put away in a box or attic somewhere. Though she now lives in a house in the city, she still has most of those books in nearly every room of it…and I still get lost in the shelves and their cabinets when I visit her, some 30 years later.

My 80-year old grandmother and the 20 or 30-year old creator of Minecraft have something in common – they understand the value of imagination. And imagination often comes because of good old-fashioned boredom. Both are valuable for us all. So next time your kids tell you they’re bored, applaud them and tell them what my grandma told me – “use your imagination” – then smile and walk away. 30 years later, they will be glad you did.