Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Great School Trip Musket Fight

I know I shouldn't, but sometimes it's just too much fun not to play with my kids' heads.

Middle Daughter today came home from a field trip to the state capital where she visited some Revolutionary War barracks and saw a demonstration of front-loading muskets, including how to load and discharge them, by an actor in period costume.

"Did you get to fire the musket?" I asked her.

"No," she said as if that were a silly question.

"Oh," I said, sounding disappointed on her behalf. "When I went there with Evangeline three years ago, we all got to take turns loading and firing the muskets."

Her eyes went wide. "Everybody?"

"Everyone," I assured her. "Even the adults."

Rachel turned this over for a moment, and decided that there just hadn't been enough muskets to go around this year. After all, her class had taken the tour with students from another school, while the tour I'd been on three years ago was just for the charter school. A moment later we joined Evangeline, and I told her that her sister hadn't been able to fire the musket this year.

"Did we get to?" Evangeline asked.

"Oh sure," I said casually. "Don't you remember? They split us up into two sides, one for the British and one for the Revolutionaries, and we shot muskets at one another."

"With real bullets?" There was no skepticism in Evangeline's voice, just idle curiosity.

"No, muskets didn't use bullets, they use those round musket balls, remember?" I said. "They said there was no danger of anyone getting hurt, since muskets have such a limited range and don't aim that well either."

There was silence while the girls pondered this. Their younger sister Alex ran around on the wood chips of the school playground, while the last lingering students either finally were picked up or were herded inside by their teachers.

"I guess someone must have got hurt by accident, and they had to stop letting kids do that,," Evangeline finally said. You could hear the disappointment in her voice, not only for her sister, but for all the other students whom the state would no longer allow the unfettered joys of firing front-loading muskets at their classmates during field trips to state parks. Government bureaucrats can be so joyless and petty.

We got into the car and drove away, and soon the afternoon was filled with other activities like homework, karate class, and play practice, but as I tucked Rachel into bed, I discovered how the day's disappointment still lingered below the surface.

"Dad," she said, after I had given her a goodnight kiss. "I bet they just bought better muskets than they used to have."

I gave one of those who-knows shrugs that fathers are famous for, to concede that she might be right. The state's always ruining perfectly good activities by upgrading their equipment. Why not get new muskets too?

"Could be," I said, and I turned off the lights.

I just wish I could be there tomorrow when her classmates hear about all the great activities they missed.

Copyright © 2011 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

morale builder

Talk about an ego booster.

Seventeen years ago, I was a frequent visitor to House of Blessings at #4 Rue Sambour, Port-au-Prince. In large part, I availed myself of the hospitality of Phil and Lonnie Murphy, whom I had adopted as family while I was in Haiti. ("Abused" might be a better word, but I like to think that I made up for it after my return to the E.U., when I steered some support their way from the Christian school where I was teaching.)

But aside from my time with the Murphys, I put in some time with the children there as well. In particular, I paid attention to Steve and Isaac Adrien, a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old pair of brothers who had just arrived. I played with them, talked with them, and would gladly have taken them home had it been possible and realistic. (It was neither.)

I spoke for a while with Steve, during our recent September visit to Haiti. Now 19, Steve hopes in early 2012 to begin attending a unversity in Missouri, where he plans to major in business administration, so he can return to Haiti and make a difference to his people. I felt a sort of distant pride in him, aware of how much I had loved the little kid he once had been, but also aware how little I'd had to do with the man he was becoming.

Steve also told me that he had recognized me last March when he had been at the Cradle of Life Crisis Relief Center. Like me, he had volunteered with the relief efforts; and while we were there, he had been plagued by the thought that he knew me, but for the life of him, he couldn't recall why.

And then last August I led a team to Callebasse to build houses while we stayed at House of Blessings, and it clicked.

So, reader, be assured of this: If you pour your life and your love into someone, they will remember you.

* * *

Several others who had been associated with House of Blessings in 1994 still are connected with it, and I spoke with them while were in Haiti in September -- Wislande, Tania and Woody all believe me when I say I was there, even though they don't remember me.

After I left in 1994, Phil took in my dog for a month or so, until they were unable to keep him any longer. Ajax was a mountain of a dog, an indomitable Labdrador retriever, rising up over everyone, a mighty river coursing the length of his large pink tongue. He one of the best dogs I've ever known.

They all remember my dog.

And all this goes to prove that if you love someone deeply, you can mean as much to them and make as big a difference in their lives, as your dog.

Copyright © 2011 by David Learn. Used with permission.