Skipping Stones

Yesterday we all went to Stroud’s Run State Park. Pato was disappointed at first because we had told him we were going to a park. He tried logically arguing with us that this place wasn’t a park because it didn’t have slides and swings. I didn’t offer him the word playground, I just argued him out of his narrow definition of park. Once we got out of the car, though, the kids enjoyed themselves, and Karina and I tried to point out that they could have fun in nature, without metal and plastic equipment to climb on. We showed them a bird’s nest high in a tree (Pato took a picture of it). We ate sandwiches for lunch, sitting at a wooden table, besieged by ladybugs. (They may, in fact, be evil ladybug emulating Japanese beetles, imported by an impatient farmer or an idiotic government agency to fight aphids and protect soy crops, I’m not sure. What is sure is that they’re everywhere, they bite, and they stink.) We sent the kids running to trees and back (they always got confused about which tree they were supposed to touch, never suspecting that it didn’t really matter). We then went over near the lake (Adi wanted to go out in a canoe), slipped down a small eroded embankment, and threw rocks in the water. I decided to skip some stones to amaze my children. My erratic tosses had the doubly satisfying result of amazing my children with my successes and entertaining my wife with my flops. I was lucky, too, that there were perfectly flat shale-like (I don’t know my rock names) pieces of rock jutting out from the eroded earth. With some of my throws, I got over ten skips (including huge first and second skips: a good twenty feet). On other throws, the rock just perklunked.

Of course, Pato wanted to try. His instinct for holding and tossing wasn’t quite right, so I held his hand into the right position, and showed him the arm motion he wanted. He picked it up right away, and though he didn’t skip every stone he threw, he did skip a few, including one that skipped twice. That made him purely joyous.

So here is this filter: I haven’t skipped stones for a long time now, and the activity is no longer so satisfying in itself. But with my children as audience and my son as a student, and with their pure joy in the—what? defiance of physical law? unexpected behavior? control over magic?—I, too, receive a measure of purity and joy. This was the first time my son ever skipped a rock. Not, perhaps, as momentous as his first word, or his first steps, or his first day of school, but, then again, maybe.

PatrickHistories11/03/03 0 comments

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