Sunday, March 3, 2019

Three In a Tonka Truck... Passing Fence Posts

"How strange it is that when I was a child I tried to be like a grown-up, yet as soon as I ceased to be a child I often longed to be like one." -Leo Tolstoy

I hear the sounds of birds and the ebb and flow of Dad pushing the lawn mower somewhere out side of my window. The sunlight warmed my face before I opened my eyes. I'd stretch my legs out and look down at my Spiderman footie pajamas. It was summer and imagination fueled my daily adventure. 

After breakfast I'd grab my old sneakers, pull on a favorite pair of jeans... both legs at a time, grab a couple of Kellogg's fruit bars, and set out on the Tonka Dump truck to explore the outer regions of the frontier. 

The yard of my childhood home was a rectangle shaped fence-line that had been set by my Dad and Grandpa. A one-acre tract was an endless and somehow safe expanse of wilderness that required careful reconnaissance. G.I. Joe figures, usually Duke and Snake-Eyes, would go in the bed of the truck and we'd set out along the rusted wire and rough wooden posts. 

The muddy and stained knees of my jeans were layered with scratchy ironed-on patches that shuffled along hour after hour as Duke and Snake-Eyes made their way through the foreign territory, talking to each other about life and taking in the expanse. They felt how small they were in the world, and they recognized that together they were enough to face absolutely anything that came their way.

Birds the size of houses would sweep and dive their way, dogs that were large enough to eat them whole, and sometimes terrapins or snakes from pre-historic times blocked their path... but nothing could turn them away from their mission of securing that fence line. 

My mind would wander forward into the future... searching for what life might bring. And now, some thirty years into that future, I stand in a dusty antique store, looking at that same truck, meeting the gaze of my wonder-eyed self. 

I reached down and turned the truck so the dump bed faced me as I dropped down onto my still jean-clad knees. I gripped the sides of the bed and remembered the feel of that grass and dirt covered fence row. I closed my eyes and traveled back to that time and that place. The experiences of the decades that separated me from that boy... vanished.

Once again I felt the breeze and I heard the birds as the wind moved the leaves in the surrounding treetops. I remember the adventure of those days, the endless expanse of being a boy in southwestern Ohio, and the sense of taking over the world in a day. 

I remember who I was. I remember how I wanted to take life. My mind began to reconcile where I've been, what I've done, and how I might measure up to my young hero-self.

"Dad, come and look at these old post-cards!" The voice of my fifteen year old daughter brought me firmly back to the present. I stood and I looked over at her. She is beautiful. She stood radiant among the dust of time and eclipsed the memories of what once was. 

Once again I found myself wondering into the future. Her future. The fence-posts and horizons that she'll take. I smiled at her as I walked over to the post-card rack. 

With a nod back to my childhood self who stood waving back by the Tonka truck, I walked over to my daughter, ready to walk past a few fence posts and milestones of life... together.