5/18/2013 10:00:00 PM Column: Sometimes it pays to take the long way around
Casey Martin Courier Columnist
"Come on, Daddy. Let me show you the shortcut."
Charlie grabs the tip of my finger and pulls me further down the path. I have to say, there was no shortcut, which surprises me a little. Despite being 4 years old, Charlie has the vocabulary of a 4-and-a-half-year-old.
(I'm kidding. Charlie is very smart, and speaks remarkably well for someone her age. But I like to think that I'm self-aware enough to know that all parents think that their child is above average. Charlie is above average, but we don't like to brag).
She leads me south down the well-trodden, obvious, not-at-all-a-shortcut path that leads to another path leading east and west.
Since I have four daughters, I don't have an opportunity to do things one-on-one as often as I'd like. And Charlie and her older sister Jessie are rather close in age, so they tend to get treated more like twins. I relish the opportunity to go for a walk with Charlie, just the two of us. But let me repeat, what she showed me was NOT a shortcut.
We are visiting my in-laws at their camping site by Lynx Lake. It's a gorgeous area, one that I almost always forget exists until my in-laws pull their camper up there to spend a few nights.
It's lunchtime, and I just used my amazing culinary skills to cook some fantastic steaks over the fire. Really, I was very impressed with myself. I shouldn't have been THAT impressed, of course. I'm just awesome.
After the steaks, everyone tends to wander off to grab their bloated, steak-filled bellies. Not everyone is happily lolling around in a dreamy post-meal stupor, though. Charlie is ready to go, to explore, to run around, to smell the trees. And she's not going alone, apparently (and obviously. C'mon. She's FOUR).
We choose to take the left fork, and as we make our way, I see a small white flower on the side of the path. I pick it, pull the remaining leaves from the sides and present it to Charlie, who squeals with excitement before crushing the flower between her thumb and forefinger.
"Oops. I ruined it," she says, trying to pass the flower back to me.
If this had been any of her three sisters, they would've been devastated to "ruin" the flower. My other daughters are more than a tad delicate, and don't handle disappointment well. Chairle, the youngest of the sisters, is unique in that respect. She doesn't handle disappointment well, either. In fact, she handles disappointment very, very badly. But she doesn't get disappointed at things that would disappoint her sisters. Flower-smushing? No big deal to Charlie.
We walk further down the path, and Charlie begins to find "treasures." Again, her vocabulary is rather limited in this regard. I think of treasures as something valuable. Charlie, on the other hand, thinks that beads and pretty rocks are treasure.
Pfft. Sure, Charlie. Let's see how much money you can make from your "rocks." And no one has gotten anything valuable for beads since the island of Manhattan, and since then, people have gotten wise to the whole "Look! Shiny beads!" scam.
Charlie starts to get a bit nervous as we amble further down the trail. The camper is no longer in sight, and she's convinced that we're lost.
"Don't worry, princess. I know EXACTLY where we are." She doesn't believe me, though.
The thing about Charlie is that she's not only unlike her sisters, she's unlike anyone I've ever met. She's funny and serious and she loves scary things, but she always has to have a magic wand and sometimes a tiara. She rarely reacts the way that you think she's going to. She's a fascinating enigma. And you can't help but love her.
We walk a little farther until she gets tired. I offer to carry her back on my shoulders, and she excitedly agrees. As we make our way back, she absent-mindedly smacks me in the face with her fist clutching her "treasures." When we walk too close to a tree, she shrieks and ducks, driving my chin into my chest. She's terrified about me walking her into a tree. I mean, I only did it once, and it was entirely an accident. But she's not a forgiving sort, my Charlie.
When we make it back to the campsite, she shows everyone her treasures. Everyone gamely oohs and ahhs over the beads and rocks and even some pretty leaves and BBs that she has collected. Charlie is a collector. We are always finding stashes of treasures packed away in bags, lunchboxes and shoeboxes around the house. Much to my surprise, she has kept the ruined flower.
She asks for a plastic cup to put her treasures in, and carries them around the rest of the day. When a sister tries to touch her cup, she shrieks, "That's my flower! Daddy gave it to me!" So even though she did not treat the flower the same way her sisters would, it's nice to know it is still special to her.
A week later as I write this, the plastic cup full of dirt, BBs and dead flowers is still in the cupholder of my wife's minivan. It is the stuff childhood memories are made of, but it is too messy to bring in the house.
Posted: Monday, May 27, 2013
Article comment by:
As always, thanks, Rev. Sorry you didn't like it, Remus, though I don't know what my little story about my daughter did to inspire such ire. Also, here's a fun fact: My very first column was about potty training.
Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Article comment by:
You are bored by Casey and Charlie. Are you also too much a masochist not click upon things that upset you so or just envious at not having your own column? For what little my consideration is worth I forgive your failing. Think Casey and Charlie forgive you as well.
Feel better now that you have attention?
Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Article comment by:
Maybe next week we can have a play by play of his kids' trip to Disneyland! What is this stuff? I know all publications need a filler of sorts but this is brutal! Stay tuned for our next publication "Six weeks to potty training"!