The Children’s Table

Red_morning frost

2014-10-19 – Just got back from taking Lefty on his early-morning walk in the park. The sun was still low, lighting the treetops in greens and yellows and reds. The soccer fields were still in deep shadow—and covered in a light frost. The first of the year.

The frost covered only the open fields. The lawns near the houses were without frost. I assume that the heat from the houses was enough to prevent frost from forming there. Mists often form over the fields in the park on days that are crisp and clear in the city streets. As I write this, the sun is getting higher. If I go out when I am done, the frost will surely be gone.

As I was walking in the park, and Lefty was maniacally running left and right, sniffing for some rabbit that was long gone, I was thinking about a family gathering we attended last night at a neighborhood restaurant. It was a good sized gathering, so the group divided itself up, as usually happens, into an adult table and a children’s table. Only the children’s table isn’t a children’s table anymore.  They are all adults.

My son Nat was at the new adults’ table. He was on a week’s break from his first semester of college at Beloit in Wisconsin. He’s older than most first-year students. After high school, he went to culinary school, then cooked for a couple of years at a couple of Chicago’s top restaurants. He then decided he wanted to go to college. He’s going to be majoring in biochemistry, hoping to go next to medical school. A second career with white coats and knives. Nat is the age of last year’s graduating class.

I went straight from high school to college. Nat’s younger brother Cal did the same. I always wished that I could have taken some time between high school and college. I wasn’t ready. Some kids are, some kids aren’t. I wasn’t. But I would have gone to Vietnam if I would have taken some time off. I needed to grow up, but I didn’t want to skip past adulthood to dead. (Yeah, most soldiers came back—Kit has two brothers who went and came back—but that’s not what I was thinking at the time.)

Nat is ready. He’s not a kid going to school. He’s an adult going to school. He’s serious about his studies and doing well. And, while he understandably looked forward to seeing his friends on this break, he was happy to spend some time with me and Kit. He picked up my guitar and learned a new song: “Let Her Go” by Passenger. I was happy to strum along (on my old guitar, which was first used to play songs protesting that old war—“when will they ever learn”).

Later today, when the frost is gone, we’ll be driving him back to Beloit. It’s about a two-hour drive. Nat’s vacation is over. And he’ll be taking my old guitar with him. After we get him back to his dorm, Nat will go off to his job cooking at a campus restaurant. And Kit and I will take a walk along the Rock River.

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