By Mitch Mode
Special to the Star Journal
Bird sings in the Ohio morning. Daybreak; calm and cool. I walk outside and look up, searching for the bird. Bird calls again. I still cannot see him and his song is more like a memory; something I’ve heard but cannot now place. I stand for another minute or two. I still can’t find the bird. I go inside and make coffee. Outside, on high, the bird calls again, a lilting song this morning.
We are visiting friends who live just south of Dayton. They have three boys ages, roughly, three, six and eight. I am not used to children. I am used to dogs. I am used to slow moving mornings, dogs that pick up their food dishes in their mouths and wander off to dine in their own places, and quiet time with coffee. That is what I am used to. I am not used to children.
At least they are not infants. What is it about infants that causes people to pass them around to the unsuspecting? I am forced with infants to hold them, small, squirming little ones, hold them as if I had some remote clue as to what one does with them. All I know when an infant is handed to me is that I best not drop them. This knowledge invariably makes me tense and fumble-fingered, more prone I would guess to actually dropping them. This has not happened to date but the potential for it worries me.
These boys are fully ambulatory and as an added bonus, are able to speak. I see this as a good thing when I meet the trio; communication is always a positive trait.
I watch the children at breakfast with an interest bred of curiosity at something uncommon. The youngest pushes food from his plate to Sally’s; the oldest reads voraciously; a Star Wars book. The middle son is rarely at rest, mixing eating and talking, admonishments to keep mouth closed while talking roll off him like water off a duck. He, the middle son, has large blue eyes and any attempt at stern talk melts under his unwavering, unblinking gaze; how can one be serious when looking into those eyes? How can one allot discipline?
I watch this all with interest. I never had children. I have never been down this road. I look at all this as if I am in a foreign land watching native customs, an observer but not a participant. The children may as well have been wearing traditional clothing and performing dances. It is all very interesting to me.
There is a barely controlled chaos as the three leave for school or pre-school or, or what? What is it that children do these days? Where is it that they go after breakfast? All I know is that suddenly the house is quiet when they leave and it is as if something is missing, that part of the heart and soul of the house is gone.
These are barefoot boys, alive with enthusiasm and curiosity and an underlying joy in life. These are baseball playing, light-saber fighting, basketball shooting, outside-voices-used-indoors, fun-loving kids. These are, against all odds, Packer fans, Packer fans who have never lived in Wisconsin, who grew up (if it can be said they’ve grown up; they have not) in Maine, near as far from Lambeau Field as one can.
Sally and I watch this. We do what we can to be part of it. I soft-toss whiffle balls to them; the boys take their turns, swing mightily; white plastic balls fly like comets across the backyard. I give up easy baskets in one-on-one basketball on a seven foot high hoop; the kid can shoot but he can’t count; 2 points for him; one for me. He beats me easily. We watch the kids run as we had watched our dogs run as puppies, full of joy and exuberance and life; full of potential and promise.
They fight fatigue even as their eyes come to half open. They go to bed reluctantly and sometimes with tears. Then the house is quiet in the dark Ohio night.
Ten, maybe twelve years ago the boys’ father had climbed Mount Everest. Did it without a guide. Did it with a friend, just the two of them. The friend came up short. The father climbed to the summit of Everest on his own.
In the Everest range of high peaks there is one named Makalu and that is what he named his middle son; Makalu. And now Makalu is called Mak and has beautiful blue eyes and the innocence of the six year old that he is. Who wants to be an owl in another life.
The three boys go off to school on the second morning in a whirlwind of energy and sound and excitement and the house is quiet again as if a wind has come and gone. In the yard the basketball lies in the grass; the baseball bat on the dirt. The basketball hoop stands lonely.
They, both of the parents, tell of living for each day and the joys they bring. Every day a treasure for them. Every day chasing the three boys. I wonder how they get the energy; the parents, not the boys for the young are full of energy as if they take from the sun and the air and for all I know that is what they do.
In a few hours the boys will come home from school and we’ll say our goodbyes and drive to Canton, Ohio and a family reunion. I’ll connect with cousins some of whom I have not seen since we were kids, when we had the energy and life was full to the brim and the highway of life ahead of us.
We’ll leave our friends with plans to meet again. The boys will stand in the driveway and wave and we’ll wave back. Then we’ll drive down the street and they’ll fade in the rear view mirror and overhead a bird will sing a melancholy song in the Ohio sky.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander. Call 715-362-5800. To comment on this story, visit StarJournalNow.com.