Thursday, April 2, 2015

Rowing Ducks or Crepe Paper Thumbs

I pride myself on a good title and I think this is a good one.  I don't do it right.  Apparently, I should be putting in keywords - something about "search engine optimization," I don't really get it  - so more people might come and visit.  Oh, well...  I'd really rather title something what I want to call it rather than what might get people to come and look at it thinking it was really something else, yeah, still don't get it.

We are in the middle of Spring break around here.  It is hard to find large chunks of time to devote to writing.  In fact I am not writing today.  It's "Throwback Thursday," yet another thing I don't really get around the social media world.  But, since today it works to my advantage, I'll go with it.

I wrote this piece awhile back for the Dad2.0Summit blog.


Crepe Paper Thumbs

You know crepe paper, right? In recent years, it has been replaced with a sort of plastic substitute that is stronger, more colorful, and, importantly, color-fast. It is vastly improved over the crap I used as a kid, but there was something about the way the original felt, a unique roughness.

I smiled as I saw it outside the gym where my 9½-year-old twin boys practiced at basketball in a school built in the 50s, a school exactly like the one I’d gone to 45 years and 15 miles away from this one.

The paper was white and red, framing a holiday-themed bulletin board, pine trees and snowflakes and wishes. It was January, and the display was tired. Situated next to an old porcelain water fountain, one edge had been spattered, and the red paper had bled into the white in Pollack-like patterns. I reached up and pinched it between my fingers and rubbed slightly. My thumb came away pink.

My dad is hunched down, flat-footed, knees fully bent – a “hunker,” he calls it. I am on one knee, incapable of a hunker. A 70s-style bike, banana seat with a sissy bar, long fork in front, you remember, is between us. We are weaving crepe paper around the spokes, decorating the bike for a parade my small Ohio town has each summer, “Community Unity Day.” I am weaving blue, and he is weaving the red in an alternating spiral.

“Dad, why don’t you ride your bike in the parade? Lots of parents do, and the guys in the Grange, and the teachers, and even Father Jim and Reverend Silven.”

My dad thinks about that for a moment. He finishes the wheel with his paper, straightens up, and peers at me above the swoopy, vinyl seat.

His tender eyes say it before he does, “If everyone is in it, who’ll watch the parade?”

His fingers are pink.

It is an important memory to me, and I still believe in the lesson he taught me, as I focus a great deal of time and energy watching the parade of my sons’ youth. But, that is not what I’m getting at. No, it’s the damn crepe paper; every time I feel it, I remember the story of that day, when I was 10, and his fingers were pink, and his soul was sweet.

Two wooden screwdrivers, dented and dinged with red handles, sit in my toolbox. The boys couldn’t be without them for a few months when they were toddlers.

A story.

Two teeny baseball gloves sit in the bottom of the baseball duffel. I know I should take them out, but when I find them, touch their smallness, I remember.

A story.

Two backpacks wait to be thrown away but never are. Two years of preschool and one of kindergarten were carried in them.


I hide little things like this away frequently. A pair of sweatshirt jumpers—one blue, one red—are in the rag drawer, but I’ll never use them to polish my truck or dust the shelves. A diorama of an owl’s habitat, a crazy computer made of paper, outgrown soccer and baseball socks, two candles they made at school, a notebook of homemade trading cards, six small cups they’ve used for every meal they’ve ever had here at home.

It is not the things I am holding on to. No, it is the memory they will serve me, the stories they will give me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the little toothmarks in the screwdrivers, the scent of those socks and jumpers. I can recall the hours spent making those owls and trading cards, each detail still bright. But the markers fade, the paper crumbles. I’d love to light the candles, but the stubs would seem so sad. And God, those cups. Every meal and spill and tears and laughter filling them. I hope I have them forever.

To tell me their stories.

We are the curators of childhood. Whose, I am not sure, I get mine mixed with theirs sometimes. Most times. We tell the story of their parade.


I wonder what I meant by "rowing ducks?"

Oh, I remember.  I've been trying to get my ducks tidied up around here.  I feel things blowing differently around here, the winds of change, perhaps, maybe it will even blow my candle out here.  I don't know.  I do know that I want what I've written all in one place.  And, I think that place should be here.

I've no faith left in Face Book, I'm only a pawn in their game and I don't know how much longer I'll be staying at young Mr. Z's party.  Consequently, I don't want to write anything particularly clever there for fear he'll want to charge me for it later.  I've had some pretty good conversations on the FB chat thingee, I've been capturing some of the things I said on those and pasting into my journal.  Might be some good topics for posts in there, I don't know.

The vast majority of bloggers have Twitter accounts.  I opened one, looked around for about ten minutes and found it to be salacious and mean and incredibly self-serving and, well, have you ever known me to get anything said in a few words - not my style.  I couldn't figure out how to close the account so I... well, that's not true, I forgot the password and didn't feel like jumping all the hoops to figure it out.  Oh, well.

Here's the hard part.  I like writing about the boys, I really do.  I like knowing I am writing the stories down I will want to remember in the future.  Up until now I've felt comfortable telling them to you.  This week alone I can think of four stories I wanted to tell that, after some thought, I decided I shouldn't tell - for fear of embarrassing them.  I don't know what to do about that.

Well, time's caught up with me as I knew it would today The boys will be ten on Easter.  I wanted to write a post about that... I didn't.  This week is Holy Week.  I'd intended to write a bit about that... I didn't.

Maybe later.

Maybe never.

Wait.  It's Thursday and I can post pictures and stuff from another time, right.  Baseball season opens on Monday.  Here's an image of the boys and I watching a game a few years ago.  It's a cute picture:

Thanks for stopping around again.  It's been sort of hit or miss around here lately.  I'm not really very good at all this, really.  Or, you know, maybe I am...

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

"I don't care if it is pink, I like it."

*slow clap*

Remember I mentioned there were several stories I'd considered telling you this week about the boys?  This is the end of one of them.

This is the end of another, one that is perhaps not mine to tell.

 Thanks, Nana.


  1. Bill I love your posts. It's so sweet and so sad to be a parent - both at the same time. You really capture that in your stories. Thanks for doing this! I always look forward to reading your words. It's clear that you love your boys very much.

  2. I have a twitter - figured I 'needed' it. I don't really get it. I'm not so crazy about Facebook either. Maybe, I'm a throwback.
    Anyway, I like that reasoning from your dad about watching the parade.
    If you put the tow things about together - if everyone is screaming look at me, who is going to be left looking.