K left her family behind this weekend. It involved yarn. Many of you will understand. There was also a beautiful mountain retreat and food involved. But mostly it had everything to do with yarn. I suggested she bring her hiking shoes; she looked at me like I was crazy. “All I’m going to do is sit and knit.” She said this not with any reservation nor remorse. I happen to know she also got a massage, but mostly it was entirely about knitting. If you understand this, then you are either a knitter or you are sleeping with one.
K left her family behind this weekend and we were just fine. Better than fine, in fact, as we had all our own adventures. They involved the following.
First, Grace and I dropped off Anna at a dance audition. Grace and I waited to get the oil changed in the car and, although it inspired a great deal of envy for Anna, we drove through a car wash. Anna didn’t miss out on all the fun, though, because it was “Science Saturday” on campus, the first ever, where we learned about carnivorous plants, microscopes, and surface tension. Surface tension was our favorite.
There were also errands to be run. Dog food, of course. It’s always dog food. We left the pet store, barely managing to get out without one from the small village of cute homeless kittens — a perfect storm for a debate between father and daughters. As we negotiated the car through the parking lot, I announced that we had only one more stop. Anna groaned, seeing the Old Navy we were approaching and fearing that I was going to make her search for clothes that fit her lanky stringbean torso. I assured her we didn’t have to stop there, but was entertained by a subsequent discussion of who it was worse to go shopping with: Mommy, Oma, Gramma, or Daddy. I was a clear winner in this. Then, I suggested we stop at Lowe’s hardware, just for a reaction: “Nooooooo!” my precious daughters protested from the back seat, more vehemently than their protest to the discount clothing outlet. I then informed them I was just kidding, and that, in fact, we were going to the liquor store. “Yeaaaaaaaa!” they cheered. The liquor store is where, by some strange twist of fate or time-space continuum here in Utah, parents can get alcohol and their children are offered suckers. I know that there is something so very wrong with this, but it amuses me so much that I love to take the girls with me.
“Are you getting beer for our movie night?” they asked me. That struck me as odd, but I suppose that beer is my treat when others in the family are helping themselves to ice cream. I wasn’t really sure how to respond because, in truth, I was thinking of just making sure I had enough beer for my mother-in-law’s visit. But I wasn’t prepared with an answer when they pointed out that Oma didn’t drink beer.
After movie night, later that evening, the girls helped me bottle a batch of my own beer that had reached its peak in the fermenter. They both agreed that they loved the smell of beer like they loved the smell of coffee. As they loaded bottles into crates, I couldn’t help but think what a good father I am.
I should note that we also rode bikes on Saturday. And, as Grace informed me that it was Johnny Appleseed Day, we each had an apple. It was our snack while we watched the movie about the carnivorous plants. Perhaps it was only fair that we ate something from the plant kingdom as we witnessed plants eating something from the animal kingdom.
The following day we had pancakes. And then we cleaned. And then, best of all, we drove to exchange my backpack that had a tear in it and also get new tubes for Anna’s bike. She’d found her first set of thorns while heading off on the road less traveled. The girls helped me pick out the appropriate replacement pack — we chose green — and I agreed that a treat was a good idea.
As we headed back home, Grace asked if I knew how long ago the constitution was signed, paused briefly, and then blurted, “I know!” Her first answer, 202 years, I questioned; then she revised it to 222 years ago. Her second grade class had just learned about the constitution on its anniversary of signing, and subsequently the 7-year-olds came up with their own constitution. It involved things like being kind to one another, respecting each other, listening, and taking care of their classroom. If only we adults could be so clear on the concept.
For whatever reason, I asked Grace what was in the constitution, probably because I use my children as unwilling and unknowing research subjects. To my surprise, she started to recite the Preamble. Ever heard a second grader start in on “We the People, in Order to build a more perfect Union?” I was stunned briefly from this kid who, last I remember, was staring up at me from the table on which she measured 19 inches, blue eyes piercing me as though she’d been around this place before. I can only suspect she’d recited, or perhaps wrote, those words in some previous life.
But then — and this is the part where the educational researcher gets excited — then Anna started to describe the Constitution in answer to my question. She explained that that Abraham Lincoln signed it; but then she paused, thought it through again, and clarified and explained her thinking. “Oh, at first I thought it was Lincoln who freed the slaves, but then remembered that that was Martin Luther King Jr.” I’m patient with these things; never particularly good with history myself, and I realized that, unfortunately, what MLK Jr. did and what Abe Lincoln stood for was all within that other document stating,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Funny how we can continually muck this up. It’s easy to confuse the efforts of so many, even though they’re separated by a span of a couple of centuries.
But Anna also redeemed herself and surprised her father, because that’s just what she does. She continued, telling me that “Harriet Tumbman is my ‘star.’ And Rosa Parks, too.” I started to picture Harriet driving the bus and letting Rosa sit anywhere she pleased, but mostly I just thought that maybe my daughters were getting just what they needed out of history studies after all.
We got home and I started fixing bike tires. K got home an hour later. She really did knit almost that entire time. I could make some terrible, forced metaphor about how the girls and I knit our own yarn together, but it was anything but an organized pattern. It was apples and bikes and surface tension and Harriet Tubman and beer. And that’s just the way we liked it.