Mark Twain Was a Wise Man

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

 

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

 

If more people lived by these words, the world would be a better place.

Happy Birthday Spiderman! On Toddlers Learning to Sing

I was holding my toddler up in the shower when he started singing happy birthday out of the blue. He had never sung it on his own before. In fact, he typically shuns any sort of singing that isn’t coming from some professionally produced media. He has spent the past couple years shouting at me whenever I show an inkling of beginning to hum a tune. When I dare to get into the swing of things, he will run up and slap me on the thigh before firmly directing me to cease and desist. This may actually denote a fair bit of good taste, as I am more prone to breaking glasses than records with my dissonant voice.

It therefore startled me to find him belting out the lyrics so energetically. “Happy birthday to you!”

Each refrain would be punctuated by a wide-mouthed smile, his eyes beaming at this minor miracle of childhood development. He paused. I assumed his moment of grandeur had ended. I was wrong. He started up again, but after his second refrain, he hesitated slightly.

“Happy birthday…Spiderman!”

And so it went. Spiderman had somehow become a celebrated figure in this impromptu epic choral arrangement. I am not quite certain where my boy has been exposed to the daring webslinger, since I haven’t exposed him to it at home. Perhaps the older kids at daycare are fans? What I do know is that Spiderman’s birthday was back in August, so I guess these heartfelt wishes are better late than never!

 

On Toddlers Discovering the Sears Catalog

A couple days ago, I swung by the local Sears delivery point to pick up a brand new bed set my wife ordered online. Since we live in a remote location, these delivery points are a useful feature of the local commercial landscape. This particular one is in the bottom of floor of a little strip mall. It is dim and cluttered, but it does the job.

As I picked up the delivery, the lady at the counter, who was only a few years younger than I, rummaged through a new box of Sears catalogs and popped it onto the ginormous bag in which the bedding came in.
“Did you know that we are also now offering the telephone order service. You didn’t have to get caught up in costly long distance phone calls to Toronto anymore.” The clerk announced eagerly. “You can simply leave a message on our answering machine and we’ll handle placing the order for you.”

I smiled at her offer of such a cutting edge service, but I did not have the heart to tell her about this newfangled thing called the Internet.

She triumphantly held aloft the catalog she had by now liberated from its shipping box. She plopped it down exuberantly on the bed set. I dubiously eyed the addition, since I had decided to use the pickup as an opportunity for a little exercise and had walked down the hill from my house. It isn’t a huge distance, but I wasn’t looking forward to the concept of lugging the bag up while juggling this awkward inch-thick softback glossy paper tome of consumerism.  I politely took it, since I figured at the very least I could ensure that this particular copy would make it to a recycling bin rather than the dump or simply tossed to decorate the countryside with more unsightly trash.

I trudged the shipment up the hill to our house, channeling every ounce of Sherpa mountain guide I could conjure up. The catalog ended up perched on the living room couch while my wife and I adorned our bed in its new finery. During this time, our boy discovered the marvels contained within the catalog’s inviting pages. I almost had to wrestle it out of his hands to get him to lunch. He spent the rest of the day dashing back to ogle its enthralling contents of toys and baubles. By nightfall, he was fixated on a particular page that displayed a few snazzy train sets.

He came running down to the basement where I was working on a report for work with a page held aloft, roughly torn from the magazine.
“Uh, oh, did you break the book, kiddo?” I asked him.

“Noooo!” He thrust his little arm out for me to see. It was the page with the train set. My wife had removed it from the catalog as it was the only one he was looking at and was hauling the document all over the house. She thought this would help him lighten his burden.

After getting him into the bath, we engaged in the nightly book reading ritual. He insisted that it culminate with a prolonged examination of the ripped page. He gazed at it as if it held the secret to life, the universe, and everything. I knew it held nothing but the forbidden promise of unfulfilled dreams, but I wasn’t going to break it on him, as I remembered fondly my own reverie in contemplation of the potential held by similar pages a little over three decades ago. We eventually had to turn the lights off and lay him down to sleep. The page was set down on the floor, next to the books we had read. We closed the door as he drifted quietly off to sleep.

The next morning, he did not wake us. This is highly unusual, as he is usually the first up in the house. He usually comes tearing through our bedroom door to hop on the bed, bounce around, and climb under the covers in an attempt to rouse us from our slumber so as to force us to flip the TV on and give him a glass of milk. Not this time. The house was gloriously quiet. We managed to eek out another half hour of sleep before my wife pulled herself awake. It was probably some bit of motherly instinct, that bit that invariably cooks up conspiracy theories and potential ploys of destruction that your children could be conceiving when all is too quiet, that  got her out of bed. She shambled gingerly over to his room, stiff from the unexpected gift of extra sleep.

“Ha! You have to come and see this.” She whispered back to me.

What? Can’t I just lie here for a little longer? It’s such a rare and precious moment. Sleep. Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

“Quick. Come see!” She insisted.

Ok, ok. I’m up. I swung my heavy legs out of bed and my creaking back cracked and groaned in protest as I stumbled still bleary-eyed towards the kid’s door. There he was, lying face down in his bed with the page from the Sears catalog clutched tightly in his arms.

It was no wonder he was still asleep. He must have been having some sweet dreams.

Food for thought on overconsumption

This profound clip from Samsara will captivate you and make you consider the titanic effort needed to feed the growing human population. It is a powerful statement from Ron Fricke who also made Baraka. The six minutes you invest here could help change your perspective on things.

You can find more potent videos at filmsforaction.org.

A Child’s Love

Thump!

I can usually hear it faintly from a block and a half away. I am walking back from the grocery, loaded down like a pack mule. It is a matter of pride that I make the effort to hand carry all of my supplies, never resorting to the car, regardless of my shopping list’s bulk. I tell myself it’s doing my little bit for the environment, and has an added bonus of giving me an opportunity for a little cardio and strength training. It’s not that the store is that far away. My home lies within the radius of the outer reaches of a large mall’s parking lot from the store. It’s just that I tend to walk back with a enough bags of milk and other heavy liquid supplies to buckle a donkey’s legs. Whatever it takes to keep my boy growing strong and healthy.

Thump! Thump!

The sound is more distinct now. A sharp note breaking the silence of my quiet neighborhood. There is no-one on the street. It’s about at this point every time that my hands start to go numb. I try to shift the weight around, but invariably my pinky finger feels like it’s about to get pulled off of my hand, so out it slips, leaving my load precariously anchored to three or even two fingers.

Thumpity, thumpity, thump! THUMP!

I can now see the corner of my house. The sound is really loud, but I can’t quite bring myself to pay all that much attention to the constant and frenetic drumming that resonates down the street. I heave on my bags, tossing a set over a shoulder. There. That does it. My screaming muscles groan in relief. The moment passes as I realize that I am mere seconds away from losing my grip on the bags I hold clutched in my other hand. Oh no! The eggs are in that bunch, doubtless nestled between something hard and something harder. Regardless, if I drop them over the asphalt road, I am toast.

THUMP! THUMP! THUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMP! Thump!

I look at the living room window. A small head with a huge grin is waiving madly. My boy is ludicrously happy to see me even though I have been away less than an hour. He has been bashing away at the window since I came into view minutes before. I can’t help but evoke a dog eagerly awaiting the return of his master by the door. Speaking of which, I have somehow managed to clear the last few steps to the stoop. I use my elbow to ease open the latch and shoulder my way into the entryway. My kid dashes around the couch screaming “papaaaaaa!” and collides into my leg, arms thrown wide open. The ensuing bear hug is surprisingly firm on my leg, despite his diminutive stature. Somehow, I have managed to retain my grasp on the bags so as to preserve him from a grisly demise, squashed under a metric ton of rice, apples, and a watermelon. What the heck was I thinking when I bought that?

I set the bags down and he starts to rummage through them, keenly eying their contents as a raven would a shiny thing at a camp site. Out he pulls an item and proudly brings it to his mother. He appears to take great pride in contributing to the chore of organizing our kitchen supplies. A grocery bag rolls over. CRUNCH!

Guess I’ll need to get some more eggs.

At least I know I’ll have someone cheering me on all the way!