Go Fish

Posted: July 26th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Miss Kate | No Comments »

My dad and I did lots of fun stuff when I was little. On account of the divorce, the time we spent together tended to be activity-based. So, we’d take day trips to Faneuil Hall in Boston, hit the mini-golf green and follow it up with an Eskimo King ice cream chaser, and poke around seemingly endlessly in dusty crowded hardware stores and even dustier crowdeder flea markets.

What made these forays memorable was not only the destination, but the car-trip conversations. My father always talked to me like I was an adult. I don’t even remember what exactly we talked about (though there was a lot of counting how many states and/or countries we’d each been to–and clarifying the rule that you can’t count a place if you’ve only changed planes there). But whatever I’d spout off about related to school, or current events, or people, I never felt like my ideas weren’t worthy of serious consideration because I was a kid. Even if he disagreed with something I said, we’d wrangle over opposing viewpoints in a pretty egalitarian deferential way.

I can also remember times when my dad seemed to welcome the opportunity to get down to my level–particularly with my school science projects. Of course I’d love to say that this happened a dozen or so times, since I think it’d make a better story, but I think it was truly only two or three times. I’d have some assignment to do something like make a volcano with a lava eruption. This was a chore to me–a waste of a big chunk of my weekend when I could be watching Creature Double Feature or crank calling Phil Kinder.

My dad, on the other hand, could think of nothing more fun to do. First off, these projects required a trip to a hardware store (sheer bliss for him to actually *need* something there). He’d have his brain in overdrive about how to best tackle the project. And whatever crap idea I’d have, he’d try to respect, but couldn’t contain himself to not offer his two cents. And call it a moral compass of some sort, but I just didn’t feel right going into class with something that my dad had done 90% of. Despite feeling comparatively inadequate, I was compelled to stick to my half-baked plans. But I also didn’t want to rain on the guy’s parade, so I’d eventually just convince him to complete his own version of the project, working alongside me.

Of course, this inevitably ended with me firing up a sagging lump of a volcano that let out a weak fart and a teeny wisp of smoke. In Dad’s corner he’d be pushing down on the TNT box to erupt an immense model of Mauna Loa with faux lava pouring forth over a small village he’d whittled out of balsa wood. Okay, so maybe his wasn’t quite that impressive, but the 40 years he had on me did give him a bit of an advantage.

So, today I got my first taste of how this parenting thing can give you an indulgent opportunity to let your inner child loose. After a lovely night spent near Santa Cruz for my friend Kristen’s 40th b-day, we ventured with the kiddies to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. My God, that place ROCKS.

I was practically elbowing kids out of the way to check out the sea otters at their feeding hour. And those huge billowy bright orange jellyfish! They are beautiful and putrid at the same time. Impossible to not be transfixed by. And the gargantuan tank with the sharks and the sea turtles and the big swaying columns of seaweed two stories tall that kinda make you dizzy when you’re standing at the base of them looking up. I could have stayed for days.

Kate was koala-bear-hugged onto me in the Ergo pack, and together we walked around in wide-eyed wonder. Kristen chased her two-year-old through exhibits at what seemed like Mach speed, while Kate and I dreamily lingered over each display. She was mesmerized by it all, including the mass of humanity that was cramming their strollers into any free nook near a tank and taking bad photos with cell phone cameras. Between gawking at fishes, Kate took in the other kids, safety railings, ceiling lights. It was all good.

In that way I have of sometimes getting ahead of myself, I was having so much fun I couldn’t wait for the next time we could go back. Maybe we need to rent that house in Santa Cruz again with the Grippandos and come here one day, I thought. Or maybe Mark’s mom has never been here–or would be willing to come again. The cool thing was that Kate really did seem to dig it, so I wouldn’t even have to make up a fake excuse on her behalf to go back. (Maybe a B&B weekend in Monterey this fall?) This is educational! Kate needs to come here often in order to develop into an intelligent, curious, and well-rounded person!

If today was the first time I got to release my inner kid while taking Kate to do something, I can’t wait for the years ahead. Disneyland! Paddle boats! Petting zoos! Hooray!

But for help with any projects involving balsa wood, I’m sending her straight to Mark.

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