I lived in Clarks Summit from 1989 to 1995 and my favorite way to get there from Pittston was via Coxton Road and the scenic Newton-Ransom Boulevard. Any current drive on that two-lane stretch makes me think of rolling along with my nine or ten year old daughter sitting next to me and her six or seven year old brother on a booster seat in the back.
I was lost in that reverie one day last summer when I drove past the little miniature golf course at Red Barn Village. It was my son's favorite place in the world. On the way back, I stopped, took a photo with my smart phone and emailed it to Michael with this message:
Janis Joplin sang in the song Me and Bobby McGee, "I'd trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday." That's a preposterous notion, Mike. But on a beautiful summer's day, standing here at Red Barn Village, it gets me to thinking.
That little tyke with the golf club turns 26 on Thursday. He lives and works in Chicago now, and I can't remember the last time we played miniature golf. On the other hand, if you give me a minute, I probably can. There's very little about his youth I do not remember and this time of year conjures up one of the best recollections.
The street department policy in Clarks Summit was to rake your leaves to the curb in front of your property and the municipality would come along and vacuum them. It not only made a beautiful sight around town but was also a pretty sweet arrangement for homeowners.
At our house, the trees, and therefore the leaves, were in the back yard.
Acting on the advice of a neighbor, I addressed the problem with the help of a bed sheet.
I'd spread the sheet on the grass and rake as many leaves as I thought it would hold into the center. Then I'd gather each of the four corners in my hands, give them a twist or two, and sling the whole thing over my back like Santa's sack. Out front at the curb, I'd release my grip and, voila, leaves ready for the vacuum.
The kids, of course, always "helped."
The first time we did this, it wasn't long before Michael figured out the role he wanted to play in the operation. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him creep into the center of the sheet.
I, the unknowing dad, played my part perfectly.
I just kept raking leaves, ostensibly unaware of his presence, until he was covered completely.
All the while I kept asking Greta, "Now, where did that brother of yours get to? He was just here a minute ago."
This prompted giggles from under the pile of leaves, but I knew my character in this drama was not only supposed to be blind but also deaf.
Greta played along, too.
"Maybe he ran into the house for something," she said, a finger to her lips while pointing to the pile of leaves, just in case I was that stupid.
By then, I was ready to hoist the sack.
"My goodness," I groaned, pretending to strain under the load, "this is the heaviest bag of leaves yet. I must have raked too many."
The struggle to the front was punctuated by more groans and grunts and comments like:
"Am I getting weaker?"
"Did someone put a cinder block in this sack?"
Giggles from within – again, apparently inaudible to me – filled the crisp air.
But my best performance was reserved for the emptying of the sack and the shocking discovery of the surprise inside. I played it to the hilt.
The crazy part is that we immediately went to the back yard and did the whole thing all over again, right down to the "Where's that brother?" and the feigned surprise at the unveiling.
And then again and again until all the leaves were deposited out front.
The other day my son was telling me about the game he plays in his apartment with his dog and cat. "Truman," he'll say, "find Gizmo." And the dog goes scurrying off until he locates the cat.
At times like these I tell Michael the thing about him that pleases me most is that he knows how to love. That's more important to me that any career successes.
The reason he knows how to love might be because he's been loved. Gratifying as that notion may be, I deserve no credit. Loving him – and his sister – is the easiest thing I've ever done.
And it keeps getting easier. Which means I suppose I wouldn't trade any tomorrows, after all. They hold too much promise.
Besides, all the yesterdays are right there in them.