It seems, as we grow up, we never turn out quite as we imagined. I'm not talking about being an astronaut or President. I'm talking about the personality we thought we would exude. The charisma or love of life we hoped to retain, if not foster. Maybe, even, a wild or creative side.
But much like the rock that lines the sea, we erode over time. We start out strong and distinct but change shape with the years and tide. Sometimes, some of us come crashing down in a landslide. Life isn't easy. It hurts and cuts and it pushes and squeezes.
I sit in my office, in front of my computer. I massage my temples and try to put my thoughts into the keyboard. Some Boy and Sidekick are supposed to be sleeping but I hear them jumping up and down on the bed. It's the third time I've told them to go to sleep and stay in bed. Neither ate their dinner and now they just won't listen. What's worse, they're on the verge of waking up the baby and it's been a long day to say the very little bitty least.
Like a cold winter gust, I sweep silently and swiftly through the hall. I blow open the bedroom door. My bones are shafts of ice. A sudden startled shock is flashes across the faces of my two inconsiderate little tenants. I bound for the primary culprit, Sidekick, as he is on the stairs of his brother's bed and clearly out of his “zone.” A swat to the butt as I snatch him up like a ravenous spider to a fly, and whisk him out to the living room for time out away from his co-conspirator.
All to end the cacophony of noise bombarding my brain.
He sits on the couch, trying his best to hold back his cry as his lower lip juts out and tears seep through the downcast gaze of his eyes. And I see it. The little rock that he is, sitting on the shore and the tsunami that I am, sweeping him up in an abrupt vortex and taking him to God knows where. He is a little rock. Now my icy core is replaced by sadness and pain. I don't want to change the shape of this little rock. I know he must learn to listen but this was not what I wanted. His giant head and little arms floor me.
It's moments like this I realize how unimportant my world is alone. In fact, it can't really be calculated because I am not alone. I am the father of three little boys. They, as well as Chelsea, make up everything that gives me meaning. And so, I invest in what gives me any value. The only payment I can make is effort and time.
I recently came up with an idea to make sure I could invest time into the only thing that matters to me. A way to separate us from the normal environment and allow us to be together in a whole new way. The Drive-Out Movie.
With two toddlers (and a baby) it's not easy to captivate them or even gain valuable family time through games like Pictionary. But a movie night, together, without distractions naturally placed in the home? It's perfect. We packed up the boys and a few of our favorite family movies and loaded up in The Bear. I set my sights on Anza-Borrego and let the pistons do the work.
I found our spot, a ways away from…well…everything. We set up camp. I also set up our entertainment for the night. I brought my newly-acquired Briggs & Stratton P3000 PowerSmart Series Inverter generator and set it out in our new yard, powering our BenQ MH630 projector as it cast images onto a 100″ VonHaus pull-down screen. Not cheap investments, but well worth it to see everyone's faces light up as the screen glowed brightly. I put the generator on its economy setting (AKA quiet mode) and my ironically-chosen movie filled the area with music.
Our family has iPads and tablets and a plethora of old phones for the boys to toy around with, but we are weirdly always unprepared with movies downloaded to the things. We got an AT&T Unite Pro from Netgear to stream content and upload our own videos when we're on-the-go. I thought it was kind of a silly novelty at first, but it's come in handy more times than I can count for those last-minute work sessions or unexpected travel moments when the kids (and I) need distraction STAT. I added this to my tally of bonus points for preparedness as our drive-out movie became a reality, thanks to hard work and a series of technology converging all at once.
The boys played and danced throughout the movie as Chelsea and I looked on. I can't really describe the joy that filled my heart knowing that not only were we the only ones for miles and miles, but there was absolutely no reason for the kids not to enjoy themselves to their hearts' content. When obvious signs of exhaustion set in, I placed the boys in our CVT rooftop tent and let them talk the night away as Chelsea and I capped off the evening with our own private showing of Twilight with nothing but the stars to distract us.
Shoutout to the Netflix Stream Team for having streaming chick flicks at-the-ready.
I hoped – how I dearly hoped – this would be something the boys remember when they find themselves growing old. And when they do grow old, I hope they look back and see they have not turned out much differently than they dreamed as little children. Still creative, imaginative and full of character.
Strong and steady rocks, just like the ones under their feet so many nights ago.