I woke up on June 9th, 1974 to a mild spring day and clear blue sky in New Jersey. Like any Sunday morning, some of my neighbors on our suburban block were heading off to church, others were sleeping in and still others were working. There was nothing unusual or special about this June morning, except for that sky. As a 5 year old, the cloudless sky, on a Sunday, made it special. Oh sure, there were plenty of cloudless, mild, blue Jersey skies. But this one was a Sunday, a day when my hardworking father couldn’t work if he wanted to. Of course my mom could always task him with yard work, or a list of things to be fixed around the house. She didn’t, because she knew how special a clear Sunday would be to her little boy, what it would mean. It would mean something better than riding my bike, better than playing with my G.I. Joes, better than watching Wonderama. It would mean getting outside with my dad!
At that age, the view of the world from a trail or a lake was one of adventure and wonder. We hiked over the same trails countless times, but there always seemed to be something new to discover or learn. A familiar log across the trail, stepped over hundreds of times by my dad and me, today has a wingless dragon stretched lazily across its top, there soaking up June’s sun! On the outside I’m riveted, captivated by being so close to a “deadly” creature that could eat me in two seconds with only my shoes left to tell my mother where her boy met his fate! Of course my dad was rock solid, marveling at the beauty of the thing, how it glistened in the sun even though its scales are dry. Something in the way my dad is rooted in place with awe rather than fear clips the wings of my flight response. He talks about this western rat snake as if it’s an old friend. Why they call it a “western” rat snake when we live in north Jersey is only the first of many questions that day.
I really miss those days hiking, camping and fishing with my dad. Having someone to fill in the blanks on the world out of doors pulled the shade up on a young mind’s fear of the unknown and allowed the light of understanding to encourage even more exploration. Nowadays I still get outside when I can with the family. We hike, bike, swim, boat and explore probably even more than I did as a boy. Yet, some things are different. The wonders I had as a 5 year old and the many years to follow were answered in many cases by my dad. The woods, streams and fields held the questions, he was the answer. He was my “Wikipedia” in all things outdoors. Today, “let me Google that for you” has found its way into more and more of our lexicon. Things don’t seem to hold the same wonder or mystery today for my 5 year old as they did for me at the same age. I find myself providing context and interpretation to my kids both on and off trail. I think I get it now, now that I’m a dad myself. The pure joy that comes from connecting with my kids and providing an understanding of a part of the world that’s important to them, whatever that is. For me, it was the world outside.
Let us know some of your happiest Father’s Day moments and how you will be spending it this year. From all of us at Campmor, have a great Father’s Day!