Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Used to Know All These Things

This past weekend we had some of our grandchildren, (AKA The Cowboys and the Super Heroes) out to the farm for a play day. The two sets of cousins love to play together and they get along fabulously. The Super Heroes had come to the farm early in the morning and they were ready to go upon arrival. The Cowboys were scheduled to arrive about noon so we had some time to kill.

 We started our day by Grammy and I taking the Super Heroes down to the pond in my truck to water “Grammy’s Trees”. Grammy’s dad and mom, Nana and Papa Mac, gave us two trees to plant and we planted them on the pond berm. The kids love to fill containers and water “Grammy’s Trees”. It is my hope that one day the kids will climb on these trees. In the interim, we are constantly on the look-out for good “Climbing Trees” here at Four Sisters Farm. We have 13 grandchildren and tree climbing is going to be a big part of our future. So, periodically we explore the farm to evaluate the “climbability” of trees. While Grammy and I get input into which trees make the list, it is the kids who ultimately decide. On this morning, we drove all around the farm trying different trees and making a mental note of likely candidates.

 At noon, the Cowboys arrived. This was a celebration in and of itself and the day just got better. After a quick lunch, we got busy playing. The kids divided and conquered. There were two on horse swings, two climbing trees and two in the tree house. It was Grammy’s and my job to play safety officer, swing the horse riders and occasionally rescue the tree climbers. We ran from one to the next and laughed and teased and totally immersed ourselves in play. They ran wide open for about an hour and then the two little cousins had to surrender to a nap. Grammy took the two "Littles" inside and I was left to spend the afternoon with the big boys.

 At this point, the four big boys and I started gathering equipment to go to the pond for the afternoon. I had plans to fill the game feeder and set up a game camera so I started gathering the supplies to accomplish these tasks. I was not sure what was on my crew’s agenda but they soon enlightened me as to what they would need. We stood around the truck (as men like to do) and negotiated what equipment would and would not make the trip down to the pond. After serious negotiation, the list looked something like this:

  • 2 Ropes 
  • 2 BB guns (nixed at the last second by Pop; “You’ll shoot your eye out”) 
  • Beef Jerky 
  • Water bottles 
  • Sunflower seeds 
  • 2 Five gallon buckets 
  • 1 Hideout (AKA pop-up hunting blind) 
  • 4 Frisbees 
  • Gloves 
We drove to the pond and unloaded the equipment. I parked my truck strategically so I could keep an eye on them without appearing to hover. They scoured the area and made a group decision about the most covert location for a hideout. I provided the skilled labor and set up the structure. Afterward, I wandered off to get my little jobs done while still staying within acceptable distance to supervise four boys. As I puttered around I began to realize that I was enjoying two separate and distinct experiences. On the one hand I was accomplishing a few tasks in the “physical” world as I worked on my projects. On the other, I was peripherally involved in the world of “play” and “make believe”. 

This is a magical world where you are no longer subject to limitations based on age, physical ability, financial constraint, social status, laws of physics or anything that borders on reality. Time is not important. Physical environment doesn’t much matter. Nothing has to make sense or conform. You can literally be a spy one minute and a cowboy the next. You can magically develop ninja fighting skills and find yourself fighting beside the Incredible Hulk to save the world. You can call time out, pee on a tree and resume the battle right where you left off. It is not unusual to develop X-ray vision and morph into a Power Ranger to fight gallantly beside a secret agent. It is totally acceptable to play multiple roles and use different voices for each character. The only rule is...there are no rules. No limitations. If you can imagine it, you can incorporate it into this wonderful world.

I used to know this world. At 53, my memories of it are faded and distant. When I try to clear my mind and go there, too many adult things get in the way. But, I do remember that the outdoors was a sanctuary for me. It was a place to hide when chaos reigned. It’s where I was most at peace with myself and the world. So, I closed my eyes and tried to get my mind to return to this other world. Try as I might, I had little success. Then, I took another approach. I closed my eyes and listened. I mean really listened to our grandsons at play. In just a few minutes, I was moving in the right direction. Children can help you go back. Only children can help you because they do not even entertain the thought that this world is foolish or silly. They will reintroduce you with no thought or preconceived notion about whether you belong. And, if you are really lucky, you might get to play a major role in an epic battle. When’s the last time your world offered that possibility? Let me just tell you, when I got my chance to join in and save the world, Grammy would have been proud of her man. That’s all I’m saying.

At some point during the afternoon I finished my work. I let the tail gate down, crawled up in the back of my pickup and used a rolled up sweatshirt for a pillow. I laid there watching my boys and listening to their play. Here are some of the things that I used to know but had forgotten:
  • A stick can be a sword, drum stick, gun, shovel, grappling hook, machete, hammer and back scratcher. 
  • A rope can be a rope, lasso, saw, force field, electrical power cord, fire hose, fence and an island (use your imagination). 
  • A bucket can be a drum, ladder, bomb, hat, helmet, and seat (which you can sit on and eat jerky). It is possible to be invisible. 
  • Peeing on a tree is good. 
  • Good guys always, always win (I had totally forgotten this). 
  • Play “fast” is the fastest “fast” there is. 
  •  It’s OK to just eat the whole sunflower seed. 
  • A time-out can be called at any time under any circumstances. 
  • If you spread your arms out and run fast, YOU CAN FLY! 
  • To climb up 4 feet in a tree is scary and takes much courage (but can be done with encouragement of your buddies). 
  • Being cousins is second only to being brothers. 
No one who knows me will describe me as peaceful and laid back. It is just the way I am wired and I have learned to accept it. When I do experience times of peacefulness, I cherish them highly. On this day, at this moment, I was at peace. So this led me into a spirit of thankfulness and drew me into conversation with my Heavenly Father. I thanked Him for letting me live long enough to see my children’s children. I told Him I knew I had done nothing to deserve such rich blessing and to the contrary knew I had failed miserably so often in life. I discussed grace with Him and told Him I was so grateful for His grace, forgiveness and love. I promised to try and pass on these gifts as best I could. I told Him how much I love our precious grandchildren and how much that love has helped me (at some level) understand His love for me. I asked Him for the wisdom and understanding to be a blessing in the lives of our children and grandchildren. I shared with Him that I wanted to be a source of support and encouragement for them. I told Him I trusted Him with them. I asked Him for the strength and courage to be their protector if ever called upon in this life. I petitioned Him for the ability to believe in and understand them even when the world does not. I asked Him to make me more than I am so I can be more to them.

At some point, I was beckoned out of my conversation with God by a tiny voice calling “Pop”. I got up and walked around the truck to see Grammy walking toward us with the two little cousins. Super-girl was running as fast as she could toward me calling my name. As she approached, I knelt down and she ran straight into my arms. She laid her head on my shoulder and gave kind of a contented sigh. Almost immediately afterwards, the littlest cowboy arrived and hopped on board too. We checked on the big boys, played a little longer and headed to the house. It was an awesome day. I got to play and it was good. After pondering the experience, I highly recommend it. You really ought to give it a try. You might remember what you forgot! You might be like me and remember what’s important.