Please enjoy this encore essay originally written in July 2020. I'll return with fresh stuff (relatively speaking) next week.
It was Saturday morning, and the weather was perfect for just about anything (unless you’re an umbrella). As the Sun rose into a cloudless sky, I went for a run, my activity of choice most mornings.
As I shuffled through the neighborhood, into adjacent subdivisions, past strip malls and through a small park, I saw others on early morning walks with their dogs or spouses, people getting ready for a day of yard work, or sitting on their front porches enjoying a cup of coffee.
About halfway into my run, which takes me past an elementary school, I noticed two workers excavating a large patch of dirt and grass near the school’s playground. I didn’t give it much thought, since work had been going on there for weeks (new sidewalk, drainage pipe, etc.),
As I neared the work site, something else caught my eye. It was a man, probably around 30, dressed in normal weekend wear (shorts, t-shirt and tennis shoes) standing near the work site, watching the two guys. Given his wardrobe and the fact he wasn’t wearing any safety gear, I knew he wasn’t with them, and that’s what made me curious. “Why would a guy his age be watching this?” I thought as I approached, adding to myself (in my head), “Seems like something I might have done when I was four or five years old.”
Like many – or most – little kids, I was fascinated by heavy equipment, what I called “diggers,” and I loved to watch them whenever crews worked near our house. My dad – and later, my brother – drove 18-wheelers, so big trucks were my first love, with freight trains and the aforementioned "diggers" close behind.
Suffice it to say, any big, loud and powerful machinery interested me back then.
On Saturday, as I got closer to the work site, the rest of the story unfolded, as things tend to when we let them play out instead of making immediate assessments or snap judgments. (I’m good at that; it’s not one of my better qualities.)
When I passed the site from across the street, I saw the man wasn't alone. Next to him stood a little boy, about five years old -- who I can safely assume was the man's son -- his eyes locked on those two workers and that machinery.
Dad’s job was to hold the boy’s bike (which may have been the smallest two-wheeler I’d ever seen), while the boy slowly sat down on the curb, settling in for a nice long show, better than anything he could see on Saturday morning TV or whatever happened to be the device of choice in his house.
As I passed, I waved and yelled over the din of the digger (I still call them that), “Looks like you’re gonna be here a while!” Dad nodded and laughed, and then, I saw him grab his phone, no doubt to text his wife that they’d been waylaid by some important business, but not to worry, they’d be home soon.
It’s moments like those, the simple, unplanned “gems” that show up on a Saturday morning when you’re on a bike ride or walk with your young son or daughter (or, on a run as a middle-aged man), that really makes one realize how quickly time passes, and how precious a gift we give ourselves when we slow down and let things happen in front of us, wondering how it all works, maybe wishing we were at the controls of that digger, train or 18-wheeler.
Kids, even today in the “age of devices,” still have that sense of wonder, and I wish more of us – the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – maintained a better grasp of that childhood wonder, that ability to stop your bike, sit down on the curb and just watch and appreciate, without judgment or evaluation.
Just sit and wonder. Wonder what it would be like to be at controls of that digger, to be an adult, someone who put on that hard hat, drove to work before the Sun came up, packed his own lunch and ate it while sitting on the grass before climbing back onto that piece of machinery to finish the job.
Stuff a five-year-old would think about.
When I was little, I envisioned my dad cruising down the highway, sitting high above the cars, his left arm resting on the open window of his semi-cab. I thought about him eating his lunch (summer sausage on rye with a cup of coffee from his thermos) and having a quick smoke before climbing back into his rig and getting on down the road to the next stop.
I also remember thinking about what life was like for a train engineer, wondering who sat in the caboose and what went on in there. (You don’t see cabooses these days. That's disappointing.)
But, for adults, including the two guys excavating at the elementary school on Saturday, these are jobs, and while we might like or love what we do for a living, at the end of the day (sometimes a long, exhausting one), that’s exactly what they are to us and nothing more: jobs.
But to that five-year-old on Saturday, and like so many five-year-olds like him and before him (including yours truly), those aren’t “jobs,” they’re everything that little kid wants to be at that moment, because all he sees, hears and feels is the wonder of it all.
Saturday morning, I was transported back to a simpler time, a time when the world and everything in it was big, exciting and new. I loved to learn, and I appreciated all the trucks, trains and diggers I saw, along with the people who worked on and in them. It brought back vivid memories from my childhood, ones I’m grateful for.
Ones I’ll hold forever.
And, as I went on with my run and my day, it made me smile to know that little boy had a great morning with his dad, who let him stop and watch those two men work. I’m sure when they returned home, the boy told his mom all about it, and I’m sure it made her smile. I hope those two workers realize the impact they had on that little guy as well.
Wonder. Appreciation. Hope. Innocence. Perspective. We can learn a lot from five-year-olds.
© 2020 David R. Haznaw