My son, J.J. ( Red's dad) had stopped over to help me cut up an old tree that had fallen in the yard during a recent wind storm. It took us a couple hours to cut and stack the wood and to drag the brush to a pile for later burning. We were sitting on the back porch enjoying a cold lemonade and admiring the nice wood pile that we had built. We were flush with the feeling of job well done - and from the exercise. And then our conversation turned away from the wood.
"So, Dad," he said, "Red tells me that you guys have been walking and talking."
"Indeed we have, J.J.. And I must say you have raised a very bright young lady there."
"Yeah, I know." He added proudly. "She's a straight 'A' student, you known - always has been."
"Well, she's a joy to talk to and she's quick to pick up on new ideas."
"Well, about that, Dad; her mom and I are a little concerned that you are filling her head with a bunch of nonsense."
"Dad"; he laughed. "Remember who you're talking to here. I know about some of your wild ideas - first hand. You and I used to take walks too, remember?"
"Yes, of course I remember. Those were great times and we had a lot of fun with it. Didn't we?"
"Yes, they were great - and yes, we did."; He admitted.
"And what's so wild about expanding your mind a little?" I pleaded; "What's so wild about thinking out-of-the-box once and a while. It's good exercise."
"I know that, Dad."
I pressed on; "And it's an exercise these kids don't get nearly enough of. Everything they see and hear tries to make them conform to some standard. Even in school - especially in school - they teach them how to pass standardized tests so that the teachers and the school systems can rank highly on some scale so that they get money to continue operation."
"Dad, Dad, Dad, " He interrupted, "you're preaching to the choir here. I know all this. I agree with you!" He continues; "It's just that her mother is worried that you're going to get her in trouble."
"How can I get her in trouble by just talking about 'what if'"
"You know how some institutions in our society react to new ideas and how they treat other people who think too far outside of their little boxes."
"Yes," I admitted, "I remember that, too. But what does that have to do with Red?"
"Well she talks to her friends and to her teachers and she's been telling them about what you guys are talking about."
"That's great. Maybe it will get them all thinking a little outside of the box. How can that hurt?"
"Her mom doesn't want her to be stigmatized any more than she already is."
"How is she stigmatized 'already'?"
"She's a smart kid who gets straight 'A's'. Dad, where have you been? She's already labeled a 'nerd' and soon she'll be old enough for Jr. High where the 'cool kids' always make fun of the nerds."
"So what?" I insist. "Let them make all the fun they want. In a few years she'll be writing her doctoral thesis while these cool kids are saying 'Do you want fry's with that'.
"I know, Dad. But life is all about making connections and networking with other people. If she starts coming across like some whack job maybe her teachers and counselors will shy away from her and not give her the support she needs in order to get into a good school."
"Oh poop! I can't believe that would happen."
"Neither can I, Dad, but Gwen and I just don't want Red to miss out because of some whack-o ideas you put in her head during these walks of yours."
"Yeah, but you know that we're just thinking! We're just having an adventure of the mind. We're not even imagining that we're right or that we're even asking the right questions or anyting. This is just a mental exercise. A puzzle to keep our minds sharp and open to new ways of lookng at things."
"Nobody knows that better than me, Dad." He sighed; "I remember some of the walks you and I took when I was young."
"Those were great. Why'd we stop."
"Maybe I got too busy with other things: sports, girls, you know..."
"Yeah, I know. That stuff kind of takes over. But that was too bad. We had some interesting adventures."
"I remember walking down those old train tracks and talking about what our souls are made of and where they come from."
"We had fun with that didn't we? "
"Yeah, we sure did ...."
J. J. and I just sat there for a while quietly thinking back on those days when he was young and we used to take long walks together - adventures of the mind. Our favorite place to walk was along the old railroad line that crosses the road just down from our house. This used to worry his mother because she was always afraid that we'd get hit by a train or something. I don't think I ever saw - or heard - more than one train a month go by on those old tracks and by then the tracks were in such bad shape that the trains were never going more than a few miles per hour. Not likely to sneak up on you or catch you off guard.
Those tracks are gone now. They've pulled them all up and replaced them with a bike path / snowmobile trail. Nobody uses trains anymore. Too bad.
J. J. finally broke the silence; "I think we were onto something there, Dad. You know?"
"I know J. J., I do too. We were very close to figuring that out - I think."
"Yeah, too bad we gave it up, huh."
"J. J"; I said.
"This story is about Red and me, you know."
"Oh, yeah." Our brief revery broken; he continued; "I guess you're right."
I sighed; "The story of the tracks is for another time and another place."
"You're right, Dad. I guess I'd better get going, huh."
"Thanks for coming over and helping with the wood. That really means a lot to me and I still love doing things together whenever we get the chance."
"Me too, Dad. I wish I had more time. But you know with family and work and all...."
"I know. Give my love to Gwen -and tell her not to worry so much, Okay? And tell Red that I'm waiting to continue our adventure."
"Will do, Dad. Love you."
"I love you too."; I said as he turned and walked inside to say goodbye to his Mother.
I just sat there for a while, thinking about the adventures J. J. and I used to have; and trying to remember all the things we used to talk about as we walked. I wish those tracks were still there. If I remember right, they were part of the framework around which we fashioned our theories and 'experiments' at the time - they would help us remember - if we ever wanted to go back and try to pick up where we left off. Oh, well. Like I said, that's another story.
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