Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bonus Father Knows Nothing: A Frigid Walk To School

This year marks my tenth anniversary as a blogger, so all year long I'm digging into the archives to feature a few of my favorites from my 30,000+ posts. Today I'm featuring a story that didn't quite make the cut for my Father Knows Nothing book (I wrote over 400 columns...I had to cut somewhere) I think of this one often on cold mornings. My youngest son Sean is now in middle school, but when he was in elementary school, we lived only a few blocks away so we walked to school together every morning. This column is a good representation of what those walks were like. I originally posted it in 2009.

Sean and I bundle up against the elements, and walk to school together every morning. We are easy to spot, especially on cold winter days when we are literally the only ones on the sidewalk. He’s the short one. I’m the one wearing a giant Russian Army hat (a gift from my friend Kim–who got it in Russia).

I’ve seen the looks in the mini-vans driving by: “Who is that crazy dork in the Russian hat that makes his kid walk to school in sub-zero weather?”

It’s me. But it’s not my idea. It’s Sean’s. He sees it as a badge of courage.

“Dad,” he’ll say, “Look. Nobody else is walking again today.”

Nothing makes him happier. He sees us as the toughest dudes on the block. I love the walk to school too, but not for the same reason Sean does. I love it because it seems like he saves up his questions and thoughts for this special Dad & Sean time. This is a sampling…

*”Who came up with the word for ‘grass’?”

*”Why don’t you ever tell me to shush? My teacher says it all the time.”

*”I wish there was a button you could push that would make you learn how to read like (snap) that. Like a remote control or something.”

*”Did you know that basketball shoes make you a teeny bit faster? They don’t help you jump though.”

*”I had a dream last night that Tommy, Johnny & me were inside a video game. You weren’t in the dream, Dad. But maybe I just woke up too soon. You might have been in the next level.”

These conversations are my favorite. He is starting to question the world around him, but is still completely unafraid of sounding silly or strange, and (unlike his brothers) he still likes his father. And after a spirited debate across the frozen tundra about the best outfielder on the Cubs, or the legal ramifications of neglecting to put salt down on an icy sidewalk, he’ll always ask me the same thing at the corner before we reach school.

“Dad, can I wear your hat for a few seconds?”

I hand it to him, he puts it on over his coat hood, and sighs like someone dipping into a hot tub. “Aaah.”

“OK, that’s enough,” I respond after a few seconds. “The bell’s going to ring. Time to get into school.”

He waves to me as he crosses the street, and I wave back, trying desperately to savor every moment of our tough-guy time together.