My dad was really good with little kids. I mean, he was really really good with them. He knew just what to say, he knew just what would be interesting, and he was never afraid to allow them to push themselves to the limit. In the workshop, as the parent of one of those kids, it was hard to watch as my little one wielded a saw. Her look of triumph as the wood fell into two neat slices almost kinda sorta made up for the fact that my heart was lodged permanently in my throat.
I was on CBS last week, sharing the love with Ms. Levine's English-language-learners, and watching myself climb up the ladder to the loft bed we use as a cozy place to read I just had to laugh. There was no way that taking myself up there, in my cowboy boots, with a thigh that resists coming parallel to the floor, was a good idea. But the kids were up there and so was The Snowy Day and we know that book and my presence was requested so up I went.
Do you think it might be genetic?
My dad was the grown-up playing stickball after dinner in the street with the kids.... up until the kids grew to be about 8 or 9 and began to realize that he was changing the rules so that he could win. As the older ones drifted away from his nonsense, a new crowd of younger siblings took their place. I watched as the littlest little ones looked on in awe as he handed them a hammer and a nail and a block of wood and let them loose to wreak havoc on the garage floor. As he respected their abilities, they lived up to his expectations. I don't remember anyone ever being injured. I do remember quite a few birdhouses being crafted and painted on that work bench.
There's a piece of Daddooooo in GRIN, too. He was never one to sit around, watching the world go by. He was always busy. ADHD? Somewhere on the autism spectrum? His immutable character? Born in 1916 he was never diagnosed as anything other than obnoxious, though those report cards with straight A's in academics and straigh 0's in conduct might have given someone an idea that there was a screw loose somewhere. Instead, he was left to his own devices. Some were more successful than others, and the ones that were most successful were the ones which involved people decades younger than he.
For a few years, his best friend on our block was the 5 year old grand-daughter of the lawyer across the street. She'd ring the bell at 7am, wondering if Herbie could come out to play. Those were times when his face was a seamless mask of joy.
As I bought sidewalk chalk and reassured TBG that both the Sheriff's Department and the Parks and Rec people had signed off on its use on the pathway, I felt my dad at my shoulder, bolstering my position. So what if there was a bit of a mess. Were the kids having fun? Yeah? Then what were we worrying about?
Though the students in Ms. Levine's room are unaware of it, my dad is with me there, too. He's the guiding force not only behind my climbing an inappropriate ladder but in asking the kids to help me get down. We got me into this predicament, we'd better get me out of it. No, we didn't need help from the grown-ups. This was our problem and we'd solve it ourselves. I promised not to fall. Through the laughter and the tumult and the anxiety of the reporter and the crew who were watching me put myself at risk at (they surmised) their request, only I knew why I was up there.
Daddooooo was watching to see if I could do it. I was not going to disappoint him.