Monday, May 4, 2015

The Great Adventure

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where we stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Martin Luther King jr.

Laura left for DC at 6:00 in the morning. Jay fell back asleep until 7:30, but when he got up he knew his mom was gone, and probably for a while. Sure enough, she won't be home until Friday night. We have a week of single-parent-bachelorhood ahead, and we dug right in.

After a pancake breakfast we loaded some tubs of water into the bucket of the tractor to go douse our newly-planted baby Christmas trees. I bought him a Spiderman watering can on Thursday, and he's been itching to break it in.

Unfortunately, as we came off the road into the field, one of the tubs spilled and was crushed by the tractor.

I thought we were going to need to have a memorial service for it.

It was so upsetting to Jay that we couldn't finish our task. We had to hop back onto the tractor and circle our proverbial wagons. Mom's only been gone a few hours, and we weren't ready for failure and disappointment. The ride back to the house is about 150 yards. When you have (an apparently deeply-loved, if only-recently-met) crushed orange tupperware in the bucket of the tractor, it's much, much farther than that.

Time to call Rowan.

Rowan is Jay's best buddy. He's seven months older and about 15 pounds lighter, faster, and if Jay is unbounded energy, Rowan is the Big Bang Theory. They are perfect together, fight and love like brothers, and he was the salve we needed for Jay's emotional wounds.

Thankfully his mother, Kate, answered and was ready for action. We were both single-parenting this day, as her husband was away at an art show. She suggested we go to Merck Forest and let the kids ride bikes and pet animals. It was a perfect suggestion.

Merck Forest is a sustainable farm model owned by Merck Pharmaceuticals. They have sheep and lambs, pigs and soon piglets, horses, chickens, make maple syrup, and fruit trees and berries. It's free and open to all, and it's a wonderful place for a hike or outing with the family.

We got there first, and while we were waiting we stopped at the visitors' center. The resident cat immediately took a swipe and a bite at Jay. I sat and held him while he cried, running my fingers through the thick hair on the back of his head.

And felt a bump.

Yes, just that right size and shape. Crap.

I plowed through his hair, searching and tugging and brushing, and there it was. A big gray tick, recently embedded. So he's been bitten and scratched by a cat, dad's yanking at the back of his head, and somewhere at home an orange tupperware lies in an unmarked grave. And mom's gone.

"Let's go see if Rowan's here yet."

No Rowan, but a horse trailer pulls up. Distractions are good, thank you...

...and there they are.

They boys put on their helmets and tootled off on their strider-style pedal-less bikes, and Kate and I lagged behind to catch up on life.

Oops, back to the loo. We made it just in time. And, onward to the picnic tables. We picnicked, enjoying the advances of a few curious and hungry hens. And...

the blowout.

Poor Jay just...

...blew out. He'll stop feeding me some day for writing this, but yes. He had an accident, the kind you read about (like, say, here...). Massive and mushy. And far from help. I ran back to the car for his bag while Kate helped him to side-step and shuffle back to the visitors' center bathroom. We cleaned up, bagged the undies for permanent dismissal and the rest of the clothing for washing. His German stoicism was finding its way back into his mindset. He was a champ.

We collected ourselves, washed and washed and Purelled and washed, and set back out to see the farm.

Nose-to-nose with a lamb. Squawking at chickens. Threatening tadpoles and salamanders with sticks. Biking and running.



Into Page Pond he goes.

Now I get why his bag has TWO changes of clothing.

He didn't much like it (being wet). I think mostly it was embarrassment. He, the perfect one, the infallible Jay, had fallen.

I let him stay wet for a while, just to let him know he would live with a bit of water on him. But, when I turned around and both boys were bare-assed to the wind, peeing into the grass, I decided we may as well put some dry clothes on. We changed, and biked/ walked back to the cars.

We said a teary goodbye (WAY past nap time). I gave him the last of his juice, a cup of Cheerios, and clipped him into his big boy "Cars" booster seat.

I wondered how he was feeling about everything that had happened to him. It was quite a day.

As we tooled down the broken two-lane highway, I looked back to see his eyes nearly closed, his head bobbing. With his last breath before nodding off, he let me know exactly how he felt.

"Daddy? I had a great adventure today."

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