Thursday, July 03, 2008

Reading at dusk, rolling in the dirt

The other night I took the girls to a little poof of educational effort during the summertime hiatus known as "Lanterns for Literacy."

Sponsored and led by the litany of librarians from our public elementary school, a free hot dog, drink and cold treat await any and all school aged children who want to bring a blanket to a local park as the sun is setting and be read to by selected members of the community.

For "bigger" kids such as my 8.5-year old, it was merely a chance to hang out with buds in a safe and secure setting, get a few microns of outdoor time when we'd normally be indoors avoiding the biting bug rush at dusk.

However for pre-readers and the young-uggers that still dig a good readin'-to, it's a must attend event.

Unfortunately, July in OK means the sun doesn't completely set until sometime past 10 p.m., and the need for actual lanterns is nullified by the brilliant violet, gold and sienna sunsets of the season. But press on we would and read on they did.

After the books had all been read and the hot dogs were happily digesting in stomachs aflutter on the nearby playground equipment, the big people gathered in small clumps of parental pockets and discussed matters of heightened importance -- such as who the new elementary school principal would be, how your trip to Branson was with all the kids in the Suburban, and whether or not it's going to rain on the upcoming 4th of July celebration at the park.

Just another small town moment, I'm afraid.

Me? I excused myself from the gib and gabber to participate in a tried and true tradition whenever I get near a park with one of these whirling deathtraps of doom populates the playground.

While the chanting kids scream out their own name for the game, "MAKE US PUKE, MAKE US PUKE!", I've always called the tradition, Danger Roll.

See, as a kid, my Pop loved watching old war movies. John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Van Johnson, all grunts in black and white, shooting up a storm, storming up a beach, beaching a Normandy half track, and tracking the enemy wherever they lay.

Sure, guys still like watching old war movies, but unlike my Father, I don't really see myself sitting down with my pre-teen daughters and firing up a good afternoon viewing of The Longest Day, or the Sands of Iwo Jima anytime soon.

None-the-less, of all the life lessons those war movies taught me, the simple "roll away from danger" held fast to my psyche.

Out in the open and you start taking enemy fire, drop and roll away from danger.

Motar shells starts raining down at you, roll into a nearby fox hole...away from danger.

Parachute deploys too late and you are coming in for a hard landing, bend your knees and roll away from your drop zone...and away from danger.

Basically, there didn't seem to be a danger in war you couldn't roll away from, at least from my adolescent point-of-view.

I took that very same lesson to the playground as a kid, and it served me well, especially when I found myself flinging off the merry-go-rounds of death as they approached supersonic speed and massive negative g-effects.

As I was flung off the spinning apparatus, I would hit the ground and instinctively roll AWAY from the point of contact...away from danger. What may be common sense to most was a life lesson learned from hours of war movie viewings with my Dad and brother.

And as I attempted to explain to the kids on the merry-go-round that I was about to push, pull, and manhandle to supersonic speeds, the theory and practice behind "rolling away for danger" if they should happen to fall off, I realized that without the benefit of this most important lesson in common sense self-preservation, the resulting accidental injury could be life changing.

So instead, I gave the aging, decrepit go-round a few sturdy common sense pushes for good measure and walked away, amid jeering boos and hisses from the spinning crowd of go-rounding kidkins.

Who says men never really grow up.

While my status as a "fun Dad" may have taken a few hits for the sake of safety, the twisting motion of the few go-round pushes I did manage, had a surprising side effect of actually alleviating some of the back pain I've had these last few days.

Trim work and detail painting in the mudroom (almost finished and ready for the big reveal) always tweeks my back in the oddest places.

Nothing a few harried moments pushing an ancient off-kilter mild steel kiddie playgroud-go-round wouldn't fix right up.

And not one kid had to roll away from danger.

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