These Are My People

Claire and I took a trip this past weekend, and I do mean a trip! We drove into the heart of downtown Dallas, Texas to attend the celebrated “Comic Con,” a convention devoted to fans of everything from Star Wars to Superman and X-Men to Back to the Future and every “cool and geeky” thing in between. Claire even dressed up as Wonder Woman!

At one point while we were enjoying the festivities and buying more than a few collector comic books in the grand marketplace, Claire turned to me with the biggest grin and with the most satisfied sound in her voice said, “Dad, look around! These are our people!”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. It was an epiphany of sorts that was bubbling around in my teenage daughter’s mind, this sense that different might not be so bad after all, that quirkiness and passion and fun can make for quite a fascinating world.

I remember years ago my wife and I met an older couple who were sharing their life story with us. When he proposed marriage to her, he said, “Darling, would you be buried with my people?”

It was his way of inviting her to join his tribe, his culture, his home, his world. And it clearly worked!

In this massive, crowded world of the 21st century, there is nothing quite like finding “your people”…even if they’re dressed as a hobbit with a long grey beard or are sporting a large red “s” across their chest.

There’s just nothing quite like it.

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The Family That Scrabbles Together…

Family

I had one of those snapshot-style, great moment-in-time experiences last night with our 14-year old and my 83-year old grandparents. Our teenager had convinced the three of us to play a board game, Scrabble, with her and we were gathered around the table for the big event.

Scrabble was the idea of an architect, Alfred Mosher Butts, and was trademarked in 1948.  Today, one hundred million sets have been sold worldwide (between one and two million are sold each year in North America alone); it is estimated that one in every three American homes owns the game in some form; and there are more than 120,000 words “that may be used in their scoring arsenal.”

The funny thing about it, however, is that my grandparents, in all their 83 years, had never, ever played it! This was to be their very first run at such a venerable old game of wordplay…and boy was I lucky to be there for it. It was beyond hilarious. Here are just a few things that were said during the game:

- (said my grandfather to no one in particular) This game will eat your lunch.

- (said my grandmother to my grandfather) Do you want to do that one? (said my grandfather to my grandmother) Yes ma’am!

- (said by my grandfather about my grandmother) She took so long I can’t remember the great word I was going to play!

- (said to my grandmother and teenager) If you’d let me choose 7 letters, I could whip this game.

- (said to all of us, several times) Whose turn is it?

- (said to my grandmother, several times) You are taking entirely too long.

- (said to no one in particular) Wish I could win.

- (said to himself) Let’s make the rules up as we go.

- (said to all of us, just once) I threw the blank ones back because I thought they were duds.

- (said to me nearly every time) Is it my turn already?

- (said to my teenager several times about the letter m) You can’t see it, but that’s a w!

Tears of laughter reigned through most of the game, which lasted just about an hour.  The memory, however?  That will last much longer.  Therefore, thank you Scrabble.

451 degrees of Reading

 Claire 451

Fahrenheit 451 – do you remember it?  When Ray Bradbury wrote this stark view of a world in which books are illegal and firemen are sent to burn them and the homes they are found in, I wonder if he could realize the impact his book would have upon teenagers in 2013.

Both of my older daughters (whose English teachers have been the cream of the crop) read it as part of their 8th grade reading lists. It was an interesting book and its subject was immediately interesting to them because they are avid readers and lovers of books, but both of them began to realize with this famous work that reading some of these classics are a bit like riding a roller coaster. There are interesting parts and great paragraphs and eerie scenes, but also slow parts and confusing moments and difficult passages.

Because of the ups and downs in this particular book and sometimes feeling like they were having to force themselves to keep reading, I often found myself trying to encourage them to keep reading until the story could capture their attention again.

And then something great happened last evening! We were at a school event and our middle daughter’s wonderful 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Adam, stopped to say hello. We were talking about the common struggle of reading these classic works of literature and our daughter told her about the difficult and sometime-drudgery of reading Fahrenheit 451.

Mrs. Adam said, “The reason to keep reading such things is so you can be ready for literary allusions in the future. The cultural impact of these books will always find some place in an interesting conversation. By reading them now, you will be ready for such things and you can think right along with the best of them.”

No wonder this is a person we define as a great teacher.  She could see beyond the day-to-day (or page-to-page) and into the bigger picture.  She was reminding us that there are important aspects of being a reader that only time will tell.  She was teaching.

82 Stories

82 Stories Glasses Photo

We drove to the top of Mount Scott yesterday. It’s about two hours southeast of us and a place I had never visited but often heard about. We took this drive for one reason – my 82-year old grandparents. It is near the epicenter of their 69-year love affair; a beautiful area of the world they visited on teenage dates in the 1940′s. They called us earlier in the week and asked if we would like to visit the place and see it all through their memories. We were glad to – and now more than glad that we did.

As we approached the top of the mountain in our SUV, I asked them what had changed and they looked around for a moment. “Nothing really…except the route up here,” my grandmother admitted. “It was all dirt and gravel roads back then, nothing quite so manicured and perfect and painted as it looks now. But the view, that hasn’t changed a bit. The sky is still blue, the white clouds still roll over us, the rocks and flowers are still the same browns and greens and purples, and those boats there on the lake…right there…they still look like little toys from way up here.” My grandfather, never a fan of heights, added, “Still too high up if you ask me.”

For a bit of an adventure, the kids and I decided to climb down onto the rocks below the scenic viewing path that encircles the top of Mount Scott. These rocks were slippery smooth and the purple flowers that grew between them were enticing to our youngest. The kids took pictures and laughed and poked around, being as safe as three girls in flip-flops standing on the side of a mountain can be.

When I looked back up the path to see from where we had come, I caught a glimpse of my grandparents. They may have been talking, I’m not sure, but they were holding hands and clearly peering out onto the land below, their eyes squinting through the blazing sun that was nearly at its peak in the sky above them. I told the girls to look and to remember what they were seeing. For in that moment, we were transported in time to the teenage chapters of a long-written storybook, to a portion of my grandparent’s lives lived so long ago and yet living now so close to us that all we had to do to read it was drive them up a mountain just off I-44 and Highway 49.

The stories are everywhere my friends. They just keep coming…