Here in the northern reaches of the great state of Texas, it was 85 degrees on Thursday – a wonderfully warm winter day perfect for doing nothing in particular. Sean and I took the opportunity to get out and about in the neighborhood where I hoped to instruct him in the fine art of goofing off.
Goofing off is best done in pairs. My dad and I, who are similarly wired, have always liked to goof off together. Whenever I’m home, Dad and I still head out to the garage and make something with whatever we find out there. And then we paint it. We won’t know what it is when we’re done. We won’t even know when we’re done, unless someone hollers “Dinner’s ready!” Then we’re done.
The memories I have of just hanging out with my dad and doing nothing mean nothing and everything at the same time. Nothing in that nothing extraordinarily memorable happened, everything in that we spent a lot of time together over the years (doing nothing) and that means everything. Today they call that quality time, a term I cannot bring myself to use, in the same way I cannot substitute the term dialogue for talk. You may dialogue. I talk. You may have quality time. I goof off.
Now that Sean is two, it’s time he claimed his heritage and learned how to properly goof off. And Thursday was an excellent day for that. Since Sean is still too little for power tools and paint, we set off together out the front door, hand in hand, with no plan and no purpose, just to see what we could see.
It wasn’t long before we found a very nice big stick. People skilled in the fine art of goofing off recognize the treasure in such an item. It was perfect for poking into gofer holes, perfect for swatting against the trunk of a tree and perfect for carrying like the staff of Moses. Sean was thrilled with the find. “I gotta cane! I gotta cane!” he exclaimed. “Papa George have a cane!” he reminded me, brandishing it like a saber as he kangaroo-jumped over the sidewalk cracks.
As we continued towards the pond on our unplanned adventure, we saw a man and his son fishing. Sean held up his stick and a light bulb lit up over his head. “I do go fishin! I do go fishin!” So off we went to the pond to see what we could catch with this fabulous stick. He cast his imaginary line over and over, long and deep, imitating the man and his son. He reeled in a bounty of invisible fish that we pretended to eat. We both agreed that they were the most delicious fish either of us had ever eaten.
As the sun began to set and the wind turned from the north, I hoisted him onto my back like a mother Koala and we headed back down the path towards home. He wrapped his arms around my neck and as he pressed his face into mine and I felt his eyelashes flutter against my cheek. It reminded me of the first time I felt him move in my womb. It had been a good day.
When we reached the end of the driveway, I set him down and stole a hug. Instead of pulling away and running off like he usually does, he leaned into me and looked into my face, in a manner beyond his two years, as though he was searching for something. I wondered what he was thinking. Could it be that someday he will remember how his mother looked on this warm winter day? Probably not. Perhaps like me, he will remember nothing in particular, only that we never missed an opportunity to do nothing together. And that will mean everything.