Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ode to Lucky

A story from camping...

"My son Carter went to a carnival with Grandma. Carter has very blonde hair and big blue eyes and he won a goldfish at the carnival. It came in a plastic bag and Carter named it Lucky. Carter loved Lucky and got a nice fish bowl and some pebbles for him. He would feed him once a day and watch him swim. "I love Lucky," Carter told Grandma. 

Carter took Lucky camping. Holly and I met up with Carter and Lucky in grandma and grandpa's RV. Lucky certainly was a dapper little guy, but I was apprehensive. 'What if Lucky dies?" I asked Holly. For winning a goldfish is certainly the cruelest prize you can give a kid at a carnival. It's an unfortunate time-bomb of maturity. But Holly and I tried not to think of it.

This morning, I woke up early to start breaking camp. Carter woke up. His eyes looked like wildlife in the darkness. "What are you doing dad?" he asked. I explained I was starting to pack up since we needed to leave early. "Okay," he whispered. He fell back asleep, trusting in the world and all that parents can control. He woke up later. He went in Grandma's RV. He ate his breakfast. Then my mother in law came out and whispered news to me. Lucky was not so Lucky; but Carter didn't know it yet.

True to our motto, Holly and I tried to keep it real. We finished packing, loaded the boys in the van, and drove away with hugs and high-fives. Perhaps Carter would forget about Lucky. No. His older brother, Parker, asked where Lucky was. We said he was still with Grandma. Carter asked why. So we gave The Talk. Howls commenced. Then, when the howls were expired, tears. We tried The Talk again. More howls and more tears. So we sat in silence and let them cry.

Tears eventually reduced to sniffles. The sniffles soon came at longer intervals. Now, at this fragile moment of tranquility, a song came on the radio. It was a song with a chorus of "getting Lucky." Not our Lucky, of course, but an inappropriate lucky. Real naughty stuff. Holly quickly turned it off, but Carter had heard. Sobs again. "I want to hear about Lucky!" So we changed it back and let him listen (let him think it's about his fish) and he chanted and bobbed his head up and down. Just think, he must have imagined, the radio is sad for Lucky too, and it is singing his praises all over Rochester.

When the song ended, by good luck, Carter's favorite song CUPS came on. And amid the percussion of plastic cups, the lyrics "You're gonna miss me when I'm gone" and Carter's mysterious depth of silence, we rode our mini-van off into the sunrise. Transcendence had been reached; A child successfully learned about life and death.

And then, suddenly, quickly, unexpectedly, Parker started clamoring for a granola bar, Anderson dropped his water bottle and started to howl, Carter started whining about a Pop Tart, and the fragile moment was lost. But it was there for an instant, I swear it." 

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