Working with natural wood has always been a source of pleasure and camaraderie for my sons and me. On hikes we often spy gnarled driftwood or twisted tree roots that would make beautiful lamps. We decided to make a number of these lamps and sell them to fund our way to the 2013 and 2017 National Boy Scout Jamborees. For those unfamiliar with the Jamboree, it involves ten days touring the historic sites of New York City, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Mount Vernon, and Washington D.C., then ten days at a high adventure camp in the mountains of West Virginia. About 40,000 scouts attended the 2013 Jamboree. Here is a picture of our troop’s camp area.
Pictured above are myself (one of four troop scoutmasters), my sons John and Caleb, and my nephews Thomas and Todd (four of 36 scouts in the troop), posed before a reconstructed winter quarters cabin at Valley Forge.
We hope to make Baker Brothers Lamps a successful going concern. But in the meantime, we are learning skills and making memories together. Each post on the Rabbit Lane: Woodcraft page will feature one lamp or other woodcraft project created by my sons and myself, pictured here on September 11, 2011, before attending Sandy City’s 10th anniversary commemoration of the World Trace Center attacks.
We may think that as parents we have plenty of opportunities to shape and affect the lives of our children. And we would be right. But some opportunities, when missed, cannot be recaptured. They are lost, and we cannot know what we have missed or how we may have helped another. The best we can hope is that we won’t miss the next indispensable opportunity. This poem is about opportunities gained and lost, and hints at the need for making a commitment to make the most of them when they arise. Our children need us.
I lay on my back
and wondered if I should
go to his room,
where his light still shone,
and talk to my son,
a young man.
I lay on my back and wondered.
I lay on my back and thought.
But when I at last arose,
I found his light too soon turned off.
(Note. This poem is not about suicide. But it could be. If we suspect that our child is depressed or sad or lonely or wanting to take their own life, we need to take a moment to reach out, to express love and support, and to ask the hard questions that will help pave the way to safety. QPR training–Question, Persuade, Refer–is a useful tool for all.)
–I need the light on to keep my eyes warm. (Caleb-3)— –I need the light on to go to sleep because I can’t see. (Hannah-3)—
Early one morning I notice a light in the Weyland wheat field next to Rabbit Lane. The soft circle of lantern light bobs around over the newly-sprouted wheat, magically as if without a master, seemingly unattached to a farmer. The night sky begins to lighten, and I can see the dim outlines of a man checking the sprinkler heads on a wheel line.
Ron starts his big John Deere early, headlights blaring, before I can see its trademark green and yellow. The tractor pulls behind a homemade harrow: creosoted rail beams loosely chained together with railroad spikes pounded through. The harrow tears at the rooted wheat chaff, spewing up dust that creeps over Rabbit Lane like a heavy, brown fog. Continue reading →
–Wow, Caleb, you have lots of brains.– –No, I don’t! I only have one brain!– –I mean, you have lots of sense.– — I don’t have any cents, only three pennies.– (Caleb-3 with Laura)
“I hate it when things die!” Erin (7) sobbed bitterly.
I have tried to teach the children not to hate because hating makes you feel hateful. But I understood her sentiment: her pet goat had died. She didn’t want to feel the deep grief of the loss of things loved.
“We never even gave him a name,” she lamented. “We just named him Goatie.” Continue reading →
The hour was 10 p.m., long after the children’s bed times. I had come home late from city council meeting, and had settled into the sofa with cookies and cold milk, Grandma Lucille’s crocheted afghan over my lap, and a book of Sherlock Holmes mysteries in my hand. Finally, it was time for a little quiet enjoyment. Continue reading →
—You are my best friend and my big buddy.—
(John-3 to Dad)
The day-old chicks arrived at the store in a box delivered by U.S. mail. While I had ordered only half-a-dozen specialty breed pullets, they came boxed with two dozen unsexed White Leghorns for cushioning and warmth. I had hung a heat lamp—a warm if impersonal surrogate for their mothers’ downy breasts—in a makeshift pen because the chicks were too tiny and frail to generate enough of their own body heat against the chilly Spring nights. The hanging lamp radiated light and heat downward to make a spot of warmth in the straw where the chicks gathered close to rest. I don’t think they ever fully slept, for the light. But they were warm and safe and comfortable. Continue reading →
–Our garden is going to grow because of this beautiful rain!–
Caleb (2) loved to feed the goats. We kept a bucket under the sink into which we scraped all the table scraps and vegetable peelings. Each time Caleb saw the bucket, he cheered, “Goatie, goatie!” I carried the bucket in one arm and the boy in the other to the goat yard, dumping the bucket’s contents into the lopsided plywood manger I had made. At 14, one of Caleb’s daily chores was to empty the scrap bucket into the pig pen, and it was no longer an occasion he looked forward to. Continue reading →
So many times I have caught myself reflecting on the fact that I am as old in a given moment, involved with one of my children, as my father was when involved in the same way with me: camping, throwing a baseball, swimming and sailing at scout camp, choosing not to spank a stubborn child, asking about girlfriends, counseling through challenges, on bent knees begging for a child’s welfare. I often sense a melding and shifting of the generations, from me being the child to being the father of a child, and yet I remain the child. I muse on this time-defying phenomenon in this poem, Generations, and on the Chapter 11: Austin post listed in the Rabbit Lane: Memoir page of this blog.
I am the center and the circumference,
the present and the past.
The generations are one before me,
the memories of years
a single infinite scene,
shifting and stirring within me,
slowly moving to embrace the future
even as it becomes the past.
I am at once a boy and a man,
a son and a father,
my child: my father: myself.
I gaze at my child
my father gazing at me
a father’s agony,
as I look to my father,
and my child looks to me.