Saturday, February 28, 2015

If You Give a Boy a Pencil...

If you give a boy a pencil, he's going to ask for a piece of paper.

When you give him the piece of paper, he'll probably ask you for some consonants and vowels.

When he's figured the letters out, he'll ask for a story to tell.

Then you will have to tell him that he has to write his own stories.

So, he'll probably ask you where to find the stories to tell.

And then you'll have to show him the big, big world where all the stories are being told.

When you do that he'll start looking at things differently. He'll look around him and see the hearts of those he's with. He'll look down and see those who need a hand up. He'll look up and wonder what could be beyond those stars.

And, if he looks into the stars, he might get carried away.

He might not tell his own stories all the time.

He might begin to make some up.

Or, he might begin to tell the truth which can hurt a lot.

When he hurts a lot he might want to say more things, tell longer stories, until he finds himself all grown up with little boys all his own.

Because he's all grown up, he'll probably ask you for a computer.

If you give a dad a computer, he'll probably want to start a blog.

If you give a dad a blog he will come to know wonderful people in a land called Cyberspace.

When he finds those wonderful people he might want to figure out how to meet them and be a part of something really big.

So, he'll probably look for a place where he could meet them.

Then he will hear of a place called Dad 2.0 Summit and he will want to go there.

If he wants to go to Dad 2.0 Summit he might have to ask for help.

If he does ask for help, he'll probably begin by saying:

“If you give a boy a pencil...”

Apologies to Laura Numeroff. The Dad Blogging community did give me my pencil, as it were. It gives me a place to tell my story. It gives me the encouragement and courage to continue when there seems so little point. It gave me my voice. I would like to thank all those who have showed me kindness and encouragement on my journey - I'll see you all in 2016... I'll bring the cookies.

Or a heart-shaped meatloaf...

I am glad you could take a look today, I'll be back to my regular programming soon.  Peace to you and yours.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Between Then And Now

The last time I was here I tried to explain my conflicting feelings of trepidation and excitement as I headed towards San Francisco and The Dad2.0 Summit.  I am back now but the feeling has not really gone away.  I have some stories to tell, some observations, a humorous anecdote or two, small things.

I was impressed at the food service at the hotel we stayed at.  (This is where I am supposed to use a "hashtag" and drop the name and tweet or something, I'm not going to, it won't matter in the long run.)  Breakfast and lunch were hot and tasty and fresh, well-prepared and presented, clearly created by caring professionals.


I happened to sit at a table three of the four meals I ate which was attended by the same waiter.  He was older, balding with a short cut around the gray edges, tall and kindly.  I always take a moment to thank those who serve me and I did as I left the room after the first breakfast.  We chatted a bit, I mentioned how nice everyone was.  He stood upright and spoke softly in an East Europe syntax and meter.  Finally, he smiled and, well, he took the empty coffee cup from my hand, looked me in the eye and said I needed another cup and proceeded to fill it and add two sugars and too much cream - just the way I like it.

He'd been watching.

I went into the ballroom to put my things down before the last lunch they were to serve.  I had a Coke and put it at a my place, turned to go, and there he was, a place-setting in his hand, a smile.  He set it down, patted me slightly on the shoulder and said that I'd have to carry one less thing this way.  He asked if I needed another drink.  I thanked him and said no and went out to get my lunch - a sliced chicken sandwich and the grilled skirt steak sandwich, a bag of the blue, sea-salt chips.  I'd eyed the cheesecake on a separate dessert table but I'd decided to come back for it.

As I was finishing up and talking with some people at the table he came by and took my plate.  A minute or so later he returned and said quietly to the side of my head, "I saw you wanting the cheesecake.  Have some."  He set down the plate, with a fork.

He'd been watching.

As I got up to leave I walked towards him, he smiled, and tilted his head.  I thanked him, noting his kindness and skill of anticipation.  Yes, the man, responded, it is an important skill, not for just work, but for life.  I agreed, recognizing his wisdom.  I asked if there was a dinner that evening with the beer reception.

"Sadly, no," he answered.  I said that that was too bad, mentioning that the city seemed expensive and I was feeling a little too worn-out to really have an adventure that evening.  I may have said I was a little afraid and overwhelmed.  I thanked him once again and shook his elegant hand.

There was time before anything else started and I wandered aimlessly looking at products I didn't really understand and speaking with men I understood all too well.  A while later I stood off to the side, alone, looking out on a floor of good men - in fact I was thinking that, thinking about how right and decent it all seemed when a voice said from beside me.

"I wrapped a couple of sandwiches for you, sir."

He handed me the linen napkin, I could feel the sandwiches were wrapped in film and a bag of ships crinkled - I was sure they were blue.

Grateful, I said, simply, "You are very kind, thank you."

He stood straighter for a second and said, "I heard you make speech, you are good man.  You are all good men, so many good fathers, good persons."

I tried to interrupt but he would not let me.

"I was not such good father," he continued, "I was not proud like you all.  I was... hard.  You understand?"

Of course I did.

"You make me remember good times of being Papa."

I wanted to hug him as I watched his eyes dampen slightly.  I wanted to say a million words to him and cry as many tears with him.  In a way we did, I knew the depth of his sorrow and he the depths of my gratitude.

A father says, it was not enough.

A son says it was.

He clasps his hand to my shoulder, squeezes it gently.  I want  more from him, more with him, but he's said his piece - found his peace.

"You want cheesecake, yes?"

I shake my head.  The gears of time recatch, lunging us forward.

"Thank you," I offer, lamer words never said.

"My pleasure, Mister," and he turns and walks towards the kitchen.

A son says thank you.

A father says it was a pleasure.

He'd been watching.


I'd planned more today, but Nick is sick.  I had to pick him up from school, so I am just going to wrap up here so I can sit on the couch with him and watch some Looney Tunes.

But, in a way, that is my point.  I spent three days with men on the vanguard of real change in societal attitudes towards dads - working dads, work at home dads, single dads, stay-at-home and long distance dads.  I spent three days with dads who, and this is important, consider fatherhood - theirs, ours; our father's, theirs.  I was left with a feeling of the bigness of it all.  The echoes of history and the winds of change seem unending and limitless, overwhelming.  I left with an unease as to how I could fit in the damn bigness of it all.  And then I realized that perhaps my place, your place, everyone's really, is between the bigger ones.

Maybe the best way to advocate for fatherhood is between the moving speeches and underneath the earnest, worthy words.

Maybe it is looking into the misty eyes of fatherhood, into the fearful eyes of childhood.

Maybe it is through a handshake, a hug, maybe in the cars and on the couches, maybe in the quiet of simple tenderness, maybe, maybe that is when we best and undeniably further our collective cause.  One small moment at a time.

Thanks for coming around today.  There was a piece of this I didn't get to write today.  I had an image ready - a church, thanks for asking - but, perhaps I'll get to it in another post.

Wile E Coyote's waiting.

I wish I had a piece of cheesecake...

Oh, and since you asked:

Just out of view there on the left is a statue of St. Joseph...  that's the story for another time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Just A Folk Blogger

I have to get ready. 

I have to write one more piece before I go.

I need to memorize my "spotlight" thing so I don't freak out.

I need to learn how to fly in an airplane again after twenty years.

I need to figure out what to wear.

I need to do it all right now.

I need to not freak out.

I should do the laundry and go to the store and make chicken salad and clean the bathroom and shovel the driveway and give extra hugs to the boys and and make the  meatloaf and I was going to by a new sport-coat and get my hair cut and...

It is a snow day. 

The boys are here. 

I won't get most of these things done.

I should be better prepared.

I say I don't like to write about blogging, however, it is sometimes necessary when it is the medium I use.  I am going to a blogging convention of all things, the Dad 2.0 Summit, to be precise.  "The Dad 2.0 Summit is an open conversation about the commercial power of dads online, and an opportunity to learn the tools and tactics used by influential bloggers to create high-quality content, build personal brands, and develop business ideas ."  That's what it says on the site... embarrassingly, I'm not sure I really know what that means.

The more I think about it the more intimidated and scared I get.  I am not sure I should be going.  Ya'll know me, I am, frankly, out of my league.  I know it, and I suspect a lot of other folks do to.  I feel like a guy bringing an old homemade cigar box guitar to a Martin festival.  It's a sweet and strong little thing, the box guitar, but it cannot compare to the elegance and sophistication of the mother-of-pearl inlays and golden tuners and torrified spruce of the high-end models.  I am almost afraid to take it out of its little cardboard case, afraid to show to it the other guys... ashamed of it perhaps.

But... but...  I put a lot of time into making it.  I know every curve of it, every mistake, every messy glue spot, every flaw.  I know at what angle it is prettiest, where the shine is most lustrous, where the line is straightest.  I know how to make it sing, I know where the sweet spots are, it is comfortable and capable in my hands.  I know I love it, I built it as a labor of love, I built it for others.  I built it with hope in my heart and my heart on my sleeve.  I know I should be proud of it, that I have every right to be.

So, I'll pack it carefully.  I'll take it out tenderly and I'll show it proudly.

I had every intention of extending this metaphor a bit more.  I'll say this - the kind men who have extended me welcome, kindness, encouragement and love over the past few years will be happy to see my little hand-crafted instrument.  In their minds it is a Martin.  They see beyond the imperfections and see the very soul of it.

I want to look every last one of them in the eyes and thank them for that.  I want to thank them for showing me theirs.  I want to shake their hands, hug them, praise them for the beauty they've shown me, the beauty of self.

You see, it's not just the instrument, it is the song it sings.

You know what?  I'm not gonna get much done today, I'll put it off until tomorrow.  It is a snow day you might remember, and, although it is fifteen degrees, the boys deserve a sled ride, some hot chocolate and a cozy fire.

This is how it forever feels to be a boy when it snows (or when you're going to your first convention):

I am not done, I just saved this for last, perhaps hoping you wouldn't get this far.  I mentioned in a previous post that I love folk art, I love folk stories, I love - and play daily - folk music.  Last night as the snow fell and the wind blew and the fire sank into embers, I thought to myself, I am a "folk blogger."

I'm cool with that.

Thanks for coming around on such a frigid day, I appreciate it.  I will be at the Summit in San Francisco from Thursday until Sunday.  On Friday I have graciously been invited to read a past post, The Green Ball of Courage, as part of the "Blogger Spotlight" series in which a bunch of great bloggers read, well, past posts - they asked me too.  I have confidence in the song... and the instrument.  Think of me, if you get a chance, this old raggedy cigar box is coming a little unglued.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Today's Post or Caveat Emptor

The boys must once again endure the "fun" of the traditional Valentine's Day Party at school.  They weren't very thrilled about it last year, and this year, well, they'd've opted out if the could've.  We were unable to find any cards they wanted to be associated with at the store, so they opened their trusty craft boxes and designed their own:

This is Nick's page of four:

I am a star... that, uh, star, well, may not be.

Zack did these:

Awesome = Valentie (sic) so... Be Awesome  Yeah, that's pretty clever, little dude.

They were quite proud of these, I even found a paper cutter to make them nice and neat.  They carefully chose which would best for each fellow classmate, Z even wrote a little message on each one.  It was fun both watching them making the cards and listening to them decide who would get each.  It softens my heart to know they have considered each child in their class with at least some tenderness.

From Marci's  "...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat..."

We were reading aloud as a family and came across the phrase "sleeping like a baby."

Nick piped up, "Hey, that's a simile."

"You're right, Nick," I said.

To which he shrugged and said, "Ever since our teacher introduced us to literary devices, I see them everywhere."

*will played, educators, well played*

I'm a sucker for a well-placed literary device...

Listen, I'm gonna break character here for a bit.  I don't usually offer opinions or try to comment on things that are trending or the like.  In the past, when I have, I haven't felt so good about it, and, well, it does not serve the essential goal of this blog.  Anti-vaxxers and Bronies and MRAs and assault rifles and circumcision  and same sex marriage and extremists are all things on which I have an opinion.  I'd guess the vast majority of the folks who come around here could guess my position on all of these.  That's not my point, really.  In twenty or thirty years - or minutes - a lot of this isn't going to be in the forefront of thought.  Some, perhaps, might seem anachronistic, quaint even, looking back at them.

So, I avoid all of it.  On purpose.  Mostly because trolls (again, anachronistic in a few years) are not to be tolerated.  They are not welcome here, or in polite society.

All that being said, I'll go on and tell you something.  We didn't make the cards you see above by hand because we had some particularly high-handed motive.  We didn't do it because they really wanted to do them on their own or because they wanted to exercise their innate creativity.  Nope.  We did it because the choices for store bought cards, well... sucked.

As I stood looking at the display in the grocery store, two in fact, I felt so bad for my sons.  There were, what, a couple dozen designs and all but one had some commercial tie-in.  From Star Wars to Little Kitty to every Disney show, Cartoon Network show ever conceived.  There were Barbie Cards and Sponge Bob cards and superhero after superhero after superhero, ad nauseam.  Truly... add vomit.  I mean, there weren't even any Arthur cards.

Now, to make our family sound even more provincial, I'm gonna tell you this - the boys don't know who the vast majority of these characters and shows are.  Any they do know, they do not want to celebrate nor associate themselves with them.  Come on.  Would you?

I was willing to go back if they really wanted Captain Avengerman, Jaba the Jedi, or Ted the Builder... whatever, to represent them in a considered exchange of cards.  They didn't.  I told them there was one pack of sort of plain cards with cat and dog stickers to go along.  They just said they'd make their own.

I'll stop here, I'm already in trouble.  One simply does not joke about superhero or Starwarian names.

I'll say one last thing.  Nick and Zack did not watch any commercial television until they were well over six and it is only in the last year or so that they've started watching cable shows on the alleged children's channels.  From day one we have emphasized their role as fodder in the world of capital consumers in this world.  They are healthy in their skepticism of advertising, they know how and why they can be manipulated and, well, sorry world, they ain't buyin'.

One particularly enraging part of all this was that the one pack of non-commercial Valentine's Day cards was three (3) times as expensive as the others.  I mentioned this to my wife and Nick said:

"Well, that's because the Star Wars and Disney ones are basically just ads for their shows."

There ya go.

Thanks for stopping by, I'll shut up now...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What The Fire Asked

For more than fifty years the fire has been watching the boy.  Fires know we are always boys, children, new.  Ancient things always see us as boys, we boys.  A yachtsman is just a boy with a toy boat to the Sea.  A cowboy is always a boy on a rocking horse to the Earth.  An astronaut is a sparkly-eyed boy to the Sky.  An artist is just a boy with a kite humming to the Wind.

To the old fire the man-boy looks sad today.  Fires know sad faces, fires know us.  Before there was Art, before songs and stories, before speech, the fire has been watching us.  All that came after - the long narrative of humanity - the fire has conjured.

The fire wonders what would lift the man.

"Where is the music, Bill?" it whispers through the dancing flames, calling him by name, by soul.

The man wanders away and comes back with the wooden music box with the strings and sings songs to the fire.  He sings stories to the embers and a tear trickles down the lines of his weathering face and sparkles like a gem to the old fire.  He sings of people and places, sons and hometowns.  The fire knows the songs but listens like it's the first time the song has been sung.

The man leaves and comes back emptyhanded yet fullhearted.  The fire has taken the sadness and will keep it for another time.

The fire watches the man watching it.  The familiar lines of loneliness and regret begin to carve and age his face.

"Where is the beauty?"

A basket of logs sits next to the fireplace.  He is drawn to one in particular.  A gnarled, knot-holed log, driftwood gray in a sea of warm wood tones.  Pretty.  Once it meets its old friend the flames dance in a spinning vortex, up through the hole, the dry wood catches fast.  It is beautiful and natural and right.  Without the loneliness, nothing is beautiful, nothing sweet.  Without regret the now seems vague, unformed.

The fire blazes and reflects itself back from the eyes that have long been watching and recognizes the sadness that comes from memories.

"Where is the Love?" the swirling flames cry out.

A picture of a young man with his arm around his younger soon-to-be wife.  Another, the black and white faces of two boys looking out into the what-is-to-come.  Pictures of family, friends, the departed, near and far.  Pictures of cats and boys and the silent, haunting outline of an old oak in the greytones of an Ansel Adams print.  Memories swirling from one to the other, a wave of love, all of it, at once.

The quiet in the eyes is for the fire only.  It knows now is the time.

"Where are the words?"

Right here, dear old friend, right here.

In lieu of telling more of this story, here are some images.

The images are important to me.

I can't really say why yet... because, well, I'm not sure.

Thanks for watching the fire watch us, it was nice of you to come.  Bring your axe next time, I'll put new strings on mine...

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Unintended

I blundered into all this.  I thought I'd be all cutesy and funny and stuff, showing you the creations and imaginings of the boys' young minds.  Honestly, that part went well.  Unintentionally though, behind the images I'd shown, I found myself peering out.  Out from behind a tree, out from a face in family drawing, out from under a shed, out from their present and into my past.

With no idea it would happen, I began seeing the stories.  First the story of something they'd created, then some stories I made up about how things may someday be, and then... I began to see my stories, my childhood, my history, my dreams and hopes, begin to mingle with theirs.  It is a tricky place to navigate sometimes.

You see, until I had kids, I hadn't thought much at all about my childhood.  I didn't see it, as a young single man, as a useful tool for fixing and maintaining my adult life.  For instance, I never considered learning to tie my shoes as a kid, and, if I did, I would have seen it as just another lesson childhood taught.  Now I see how difficult and frustrating it is and, I remember now, how damn hard it was.  In my mind, before I had children, growing up was just a necessary learning period, an apprenticeship of sorts, training to be grown up.  It's a silly perspective in retrospect, but the 'now' consumed me then, so much to do, so many to meet, so much to experience, so many to love.

It all began because I started looking at things carefully.  When they used Crayons, I remembered using Crayons.  Their baseball glove became mine.  We walked the sames creeks, struggled up the same long hills on a bike, shared the same fantasies of the big hit, the big play, the pretty girl.  I don't think I'd have recognized all this if I hadn't become vested in the the things they made.  I watched them carefully, for all the right reasons, of course, but also with a selfishness I've not admitted before.  An eager hope that I would somehow find myself in them.

My childhood was fine, don't get me wrong, but even the best times are laced with sorrow and loneliness, anxiety, fear.  The boys have been suffering some anxiety about the barrage of testing that is coming their way in the next few weeks.  Frankly, I couldn't care less about how well they do.  I know them.  I know they are smart and all.  We talked a little about it the other day and what they seem to be most worried about is that they are not ready, "unprepared" Nick said.

I'd been out from school with a sore throat for a few days.  I returned on Friday and there was a big test I knew nothing about, a science test about the layers of the earth's crust and all that.  I remember I'd seen the diagram in the textbook and I did the best I could.  I also remember a tear falling on to the purple mimeographed paper and smearing as I hurried to wipe it with the tattered sleeve of my sweatshirt.  I was scared I'd get a bad grade, I was frustrated that I didn't know there was a test, and my heart ached at the unfairness of it all.

As I watched Nick tell me through sobs, as Zack listened tears in his eyes, how he felt, I remembered my own feelings of injustice.  I saw so clearly that purple stain on that long forgotten test, and I wept again, with them.  For a few minutes we were three little boys, lost, afraid, confused.  I told them the story, I told them I understood - which may be a lie, I told them I believed them, I told them I loved them and I silently vowed to help them as best I could.

It is just a little story, maybe not even a good one, but I do not think I would have told it, probably wouldn't have even remembered it, if I hadn't started looking around for things to write about over three years ago.

I sometimes think we are under the impression that we mature, as though it is something we do.  In my case, though, life is maturing me.  I see and feel and understand and love things not because of some clever decision I've made to do so.  No.  Life reveals things to me when I need them.  It is, however, my duty to look for them, to welcome life's lessons and reminders, to embrace childhood memories, good or bad, to wallow in the sadness of growing up, to revel at the newness of it all, to cry again somewhere between then and now.

This transition would be a lot better if the test I'd not known about had been a Social Studies test, say, perhaps on the Bill of Rights...

Or even a test on annoying Frenchmen:

But, it's not that easy sometimes.  And, sometimes you have to twist and bend life a bit to learn the lessons.  And, sometimes you just gotta write bad transitions...

From Marci's  "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

"That is SO not on my bucket list."

*who knew 9yr olds have bucket lists*

If I had to wish one thing for you today it would be this, remember deeply and go where you are taken - that's two things, I know...  Thanks for coming by.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Labeled With Love

When the boys first began to catch and get off the bus, I went out with them.  Marci did as well, of course, as often as she could.  They are midway through the fourth grade and we still do.  I walk them out and I greet them when they get off - every day.  I hope to still be doing it when they are seventeen.

Nick gave me hug before the bus came today, he was anxious about a math project he is presenting today so he lingered a bit longer than usual in my old, worn coat.

"This coat smells like you, Dad... and our family home."  It's not the first time he's said "family home," and I hope it's not the last.

But this is about something else.  This is about that old, worn coat.  Truth is, this is about two coats.  One is pushing thirty years old and the other is ten or twelve.

They are both LL Bean 'Field Coats.'  The one on the right is relatively new, for me, purchased since we've been married, thirteen years now today.  It's got a wool lining - plaid, red and green - and a cozy green corduroy collar.  It's a nice looking coat, isn't it?

The one on the left, yeah, its heritage is less clear in my memory.  I may be wrong, but I am pretty sure it was given to me in 1987 or so.  I remember wearing it in New York City where I lived from 1986 through 1991... I think.  Here is what it looked like new:

It's faded over the years as beautiful things will do.  It spent a lot of time behind the seat of an old, sometimes unreliable, S-10 pickup truck I once had as an emergency blanket or jacket, back in the nineties.  It's torn here and there, both cuffs have been resewn.  There are stains and it smells of woodfire and tobacco smoke, bacon, dust and time.  It's a nice looking coat, isn't it?

Initially sold and marketed as hunting jacket in 1947, the coat has evolved into a more multipurpose role over the course of some seventy years.  Just for fun take a look at the original:

Isn't that delicious?  "Color Brush Brown."

This all started because of a button, this button:

I called LLBean to get some new buttons for my Field coat.  The nice lady on the phone was unable to figure out how to get me buttons.  I thanked her kindly, and got to thinking a little more about it and decided to email their customer service folks.  Nancy got my buttons for me, sent them out the same day I emailed her.  That is model customer service.  No questions, a kind smile, an understanding nod and, three days later, I've got a new button on my jacket.

So, that all got me thinking about things and I glanced over and saw the two jackets hanging side by side, which they normally don't.  The new one hangs in the hall closet with all the other respectable coats.  The old one hangs by the door just off the kitchen and usually smells of last night's dinner or this mornings eggs and of our 'family home'. It waits by the door, to take the trash out or get the mail or shovel the drive or rake the leaves or get the wood.

"Get the wood..."  I would say every piece of firewood the boys ever put into a fire, on a camping trip or here in the house, I split wearing that old coat.  I get a wheelbarrow full of bigger logs from the shed in back, wheel them around to the garage, and split them into more manageable sized pieces and then stack them on the porch.  That old, worn coat, got to meet each one.  Along with me it it considered each log, judging the best way to spit it, laughing at the hits off the mark, rejoicing in the perfect splits.  That old coat sleeve protected my arm as I stacked the wood up it to bring into the house, to warm a family and unleash imaginations.  In fact, I hooked that sleeve on a door handle once bringing in some wood.  I stitched it up later that same night.  In front of the fire.

That old, worn coat has armored me against every snowstorm and every sledride and every attacking snowman and in every snowball fight the boys and I have faced together.  It's been crusted with snow and soaked through wet, but the warm wool soul of it kept me safe.

And what of the new one?  It's seen soccer games and preschool Christmas shows and Holy Days and doctors visits and plays and parties.  It's known quick trips in a cold truck for antibiotics, milk or pizza and long, dark, snowy trips up the highways or down the hill into town.  It'll see so much more, the scenes of adolescence and manhood yet to come.  It may feel me bend to the weight of memories as I grow older.  It may get borrowed, thrown on quickly, and come back smelling of smoke - the right kind, wood... I'll know.  That's a damn lucky coat there, all that to come, all that to witness, all that hope ready to be embraced.

I know they're just a couple of coats.  But, in a way, they are also every coat I've ever had that's served me well.

Also, they are the coats that Nick and Zack will remember me in...

My Dad wore an old white canvas coat to do yard work in.  It was from a local department store at the time, McCalpins - I remember the label - and had seen better days when I'd finally grown into it.  In hung in the basement and I'd wear it to shovel, or take a walk, or work on a car, or smoke a cigarette.  It had a a knitted collar, pilled and worn from the stubble of his weekend beard.  It, too, smelled of smoke and winter and wood and the lonely wind that blows through the Midwest.  It was once off-white but had grown darker with stains and time.

I'd give anything to wear that coat again.

I don't really remember how I got it.  I sort of do - someone left it in my dorm room I think, or I found it on the ground walking across campus, or maybe I stole it from an early roommate.  It was a pale blue chamois shirt with flap pockets and, I think it is still in the back of my closet...

I knew it.

This is the shirt she was wearing as she made breakfast that morning and we... wait, I can't tell that story.  This is the shirt she wore home and then called me to come back and get so...  nope.  Frankly, I can't tell any of the storied this handsome shirt has conjured in my memory.  Someday, probably, but not yet.

You know, there is something this shirt taught me that I can share with you.  It's a secret, so don't go telling all the young guys.  Do you notice how that collar is sort of flipped up on the right?  It always did that, sort of bothered me at first - not for long.  I was standing at a bar, I know which one, in Athens Ohio when a very pretty girl came up to me out of the blue and straightened it out and smiled and looked all twinkly and happy as she commented on how soft and cozy it was.  It happened more than once, at parties, in rehearsals, in dorm rooms and kitchens.  I realized I could fold the collar of any shirt up, or leave one button on a button-down undone, and a girl would come to fix it.  And you know what?  They were always nice, sweet girls - girls I was glad to meet, the right kind of girls.

In gratitude, I've been kept that shirt for over thirty years.  Maybe I'll let Nick have it - it's too tight on me anymore - when he grows into it.  He likes cozy things.  He likes soft things.  He likes reliable things.  He likes the stories things tell... and, I'd like him to meet a nice sweet girl.

I've lingered too long an this today.  I know why.  The memories are comforting in an old, worn coat.  The future looks brighter in sturdy, decent coat.  And, forgotten stories are fun from a wise, sky blue chamois shirt.

I guess I should say that I've not been compensated for any of this.  The fine folks at LLBean were kind enough to check their archives and provide me with the images of Field Coats past you see above.

Truth is though, I've been duly compensated.  A tent that lasted weeks in the storms of the Arizona wilderness; rain gear that's kept the family dry camping or at a baseball game.  A schoolyear's worth of reliable shoes for the boys in third grade, basketball and all.  A twill cap in the eighties, a pair of black gloves I'll wear today.  Boots, scarves, more boots, a compass, a flashlight...

All Bean gear.

All memories made.

I believe we are here to serve each other.  I believe we are here to be served as well.  The people at LLBean understand that.

Thanks for going through my closets and pictures and smokey memories with me.  I'm glad you came by.

The first picture I took of the two coats came out a little fuzzy so I didn't use it.

I saw the image just now and couldn't help but think that in it they looked like comfortable old friends leaning into each other to share a secret... or, dare I say it, like father and son.