Back to School

I recently took my son to a UNCW women’s basketball game. He is two and a half and I knew it would be hard to manage him in such a loud and busy environment. There were band drums, bouncing balls, a giant Seahawk mascot and countless rows of bleachers for scrambling. It was a trial. Moreover, my wife was in Raleigh and unable to share the work. I saw precious little basketball and only managed fleeting conversation with my friends, but I suppose that is a paltry price to pay for child enrichment.

Let me mention that I graduated from UNCW nearly 20 years ago and it was bizarre to return with a toddler son. There we were revisiting campus, the same social laboratory where I first stumbled into adulthood. Perhaps the last time I had visited Trask Coliseum was to see the Allman Brothers Band, when campus police confiscated my flask. Now I was watching over the welfare of a living child—how had this happened?

Foster and I left with about six minutes left in the game and luckily the Shehawks were pummeling George Mason. The weather was beautiful so we went to explore the grounds. Campus was alive with activity. Young, vibrant students were out throwing footballs and Frisbees on the intramural fields. Others walked dogs and rode bikes and whizzed by on skateboards. The buds opened on the trees and kids in every direction were stretching their limbs and leaning into the sunlight.  Foster rode my shoulders and I could almost feel him getting heavier and older as we went along.

We went on a short hike through the Bluthenthal Wildflower Preserve, along the same flat paths my friends and I had wandered on psychedelic misadventures decades earlier. The energy came back as I sat on a bench in a clearing and watched him repeatedly hit the ground with a stick. Memories shot through me like flares, creating bright parabolas between now and then. The young me and the middle-aged me shared the bench, watching our son romp through the woods.

There’s something redemptive in the passage of time and irresponsible kids can develop into capable and attentive parents. Now and then you should revisit your old stomping grounds and go back in time–flying through your past with your child as co-pilot is a profound and rewarding experience.

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