Dear Jack: Please Do Not Bring Anymore Snails to the Dinner Table!

7 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

Immediately following the events of your frozen custard breakfast last Sunday morning, you suggested to your sister, “Hey Holly, you want to go outside to the back porch and catch some bugs?”

With absolutely no hesitation, your sister responded like she had just heard the most clever idea ever:

“YEAH!!!”

So while Mommy was upstairs handling the laundry that I had just carried up, I supervised the two of you downstairs.

It didn’t take much time at all for you to find a little black spider, which you temporarily captured using the clear container you got slime in the day before.

About that time, your sister decided she was ready to come back inside; as you were pretty quick to follow, seeing all the action was all moving back into the house.

You announced to Mommy as she just happened to be coming back down the stairs:

“Hey Mommy, look… I caught a snail. It’s right here!”

(This was the first I was hearing about the snail, too.)

Her response easily sums up the theme of you being a 2nd grader right now:

“Jack, please do not bring anymore snails to the dinner table!”

Mommy and I then reminded you that snails are especially nasty creatures and that we don’t want their germs in our kitchen where we sit down to eat our meals.

However, I am willing to admit that snails are a delicacy in France.

But we don’t live in France. We live in a house where Mommy makes the rules when it comes to cleanliness and I make the rules regarding discipline.

It’s like Law and Order: Parenting Edition.

So while we both can greatly appreciate your passion for science and The Great Outdoors, it’s important not to bring that science from The Great Outdoors indoors.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

4 years, 9 months.

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Dear Jack,

This is the 1st of several entries in my new miniseries, Family in a Camry. In August while on our annual family vacation, Toyota loaned us a 2015 Camry for our road trips around California.

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

So I decided to compile all our video footage and photos into a narrative to remember our trip.

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

After a day of flying from Nashville to Sacramento, you and I set aside a day to spend together; just father and son.

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

I struggle for a relevant phrase to describe a fun father and son day of activities. In the past I’ve referred to it as a “dadventure,” but “daddy date” is the phrase most people identify.

http://www.toyota.com/responsive/vehicles/2015/camry/#!/Welcome

However, that’s a tricky phrase because it typically refers to father and daughter dates. When you talk about a father and son having a “date,” it does sound kind of weird.

Oh well, I’m committing to the phrase. I don’t care.

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

But I should also acknowledge there are critics out there who would say, “Why do you have to call it anything at all? Why can’t a father and his son hang out without it having to be a big deal as compared to if a mother spends time with her child? That’s like when people say a dad is babysitting.”

My reasoning is this: Mommy and I both work full time. It can be challenging enough for us all 3 to have good quality time together; much less just 2 of us at a time.

118Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

Therefore, it’s worth celebrating when I can spend a whole day with you. I am very aware of the unique dynamics that occur when you and I get to hang out together doing fun stuff.

So with that being said, once we settled in, you and I had some good times together at the Elk Grove Park; in the midst of a family reunion. We discovered that you and your cousin Scarlet have the same owl toy; you got yours in the Nashville airport on the way there.

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

You and I went fishing. It was something you had been looking forward to for weeks. You even especially packed your bug catching net for the event.

Yes, you are a vegetarian and I am a vegan, but we still made it work…

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

We didn’t have much luck with the fish in the pond there at the park, but you were very successful at “catching snails.”

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

For some reason, there were large, vacated snail shells all around the edge of the pond. So you filled your net with them and you were quite proud of your catch.

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

Later we went to go a see a movie together. While you were set on going to see Minions, for some reason you changed your mind on the drive there. Actually, I’m glad you did, because we loved Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. I’ve written a couple of blog posts about it, too:

5 Reasons Why Inside Out is the More Feminine Version of Big Hero 6

Who Is the Real Villain in Disney Pixar’s Inside Out?

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

I thought it was funny how you told me your favorite part of the movie was the female character, Sadness, who you told me is “a boy with long hair.”

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

For lunch we went to a vegan restaurant, which is a franchise, called The Loving Hut. I let you choose what we’d have for dessert. You chose the orange vanilla cake; we split it 50/50.

I was happy that successfully shot you with the straw wrapper.

Of course, I created a 2 minute video that features everything I just told you. So here it is:

But wait, there’s more…

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

We also spent a couple hours together filming the 19th webisode of Jack-Man as well. Here’s that video as well.

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

So there’s the 1st official entry of my Family in a Camry miniseries. Still more fun to come…

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

Dear Jack: Family in a Camry- “Daddy Date”

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Snail Trails: Your Memory May Be the Only Proof an Event Ever Happened

Nothing, not even a blank screen. Then suddenly on April 20, 1983, life as I know it began. Not the day I was born, but the day my memory started. With all my family gathered around me at the kitchen table, my first memory of life begins with a song- “Happy Birthday”. Maybe I was simply overwhelmed by that many people in the room at once. Maybe I thought the song had a sad tune. Maybe this is where I got my fear of being in front of a bunch of people with nothing to do or say. But all I had to do was just blow out that giant number “2” candle on my Mickey Mouse cake. Instead, I cried.

Flash forward to the summer of 1985. I put on my cowboy boots, grabbed my He-Man lunchbox, stood by the front door, and announced to my mom, “Okay, I’m ready for school! I want to meet friends.” I wasn’t even enrolled for pre-school yet, but my mom took care of it and a month later I was present at First Methodist’s “Mother’s Day Out” program (the year before Kindergarten: 1985-1986).

Though I was four years old, I can specifically remember that Simon Milazzo had a toy dog that I liked so much that my mom bought me one like his. I remember Meg Guice crying one day because somebody ate her pineapples when she was looking the other way. I remember Laura O’Dell gave me a valentine with a scratch ‘n’ sniff vanilla ice cream cone that smelled really good, while Alex Igou gave me a valentine with Darth Vader that said “Be Mine or Else…”.

I remember having a daily “play time” where we all went to the dark green carpeted fellowship hall where we were often forced to play “Duck, Duck, Goose” or sing and act out “The Farmer and the Dell”. Meg Guice would always want to be the wife when “the farmer chose a wife”. I never wanted to be chosen to play a character.

Instead, one day I wandered off to play with my fire truck. Alex Igou also managed to escape from the group, going to the opposite side of the room. We both got in trouble for doing this so the teacher put us in “time out” together. Alex said to me, “Do you like your truck I got for you?” (It was the one he gave me at my birthday party.)

I used to think I was weird for having such detailed and vivid memories from such an early age. But while in my Childhood Developmental Psychology class in college, the professor asked those of us who had a vivid memory from age two or younger to raise our hands. Twenty-five percent of us raised our hands and then had to share with everyone what our memory was. We were told that having a memory that clear from such a young age isn’t common, but it’s not abnormal either.

When I think of elementary school, I don’t remember much about what I learned, but I definitely remember clear conversations and events starring my classmates: In 2nd grade (1988-1989) while in line for a relay race during P.E., I was standing next to Cody Vartanian and Charles Robertson. In honor of the new Nintendo game, Cody said to Charles, “Skate or die!” Charles firmly responded, “I don’t have to skate if I don’t want to skate and I don’t have to die if I don’t want to die”.

Last week I told the story of breaking up a fight while dressed as a giant wolf exactly ten years ago, during my final month of high school (see “Cry Wolf”). I feared that it may come across like I had in some form exaggerated the details. According to my memory, no one I was friends with was there to witness it. So I was much relieved when Adrianne McClung Smith commented on the story, saying she was fortunate enough to see the event in person.

For many childhood memories we have, however, there was not a “constant” in the equation. In other words, without someone else who was there who still remembers a specific event taking place, in essence it only happened in our own minds. It makes me think of the “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it…” question. My immediate response was always to ask if I could put a tape recorder in the forest before the tree fell. My next response was to realize I didn’t care if anybody heard the stupid tree fall anyway.

In the same way, I exclusively hold thousands of memories recorded in my mind. Memories about people I grew up with. Memories these people would never have known happened unless I tell them. Since I am the only person to verify such specific events, in theory they happened BECAUSE I remember them.

All anyone else can do is question the validity of my memory. But I know for a fact these memories are real, not simply evolved from a dream or an old snapshot. Everyone else has this ability though, at least to some degree if nothing else. Every person alive owns exclusive copyrights to memories involving other people.

I am constantly disappointed with the sad truth that even in the year 2009, there is no such thing as time travel. So badly I want to go back to those actual random memories; I want to replay them. In the back of my mind I’m hanging on to this thread of a hope that somehow someday I can revisit my past. Not to change it. Just to see it again, like a good movie.

This hope that when I get to Heaven there will be a series of doors with a different year written on each one, allowing me to revisit- in the likeness of Disney World’s Epcot Center how you can visit several “countries”. Evidently I have a condition which causes me to leave a trail of me behind throughout the history of my life, like a snail. At any given point, I am living in both the present moment and simultaneously each year of the past since my memory began in 1983.

As a writer and as an every day conversationalist, things seem incomplete to me without a nostalgic year or story in there somewhere. Some people have a habit of going off on “rabbit trails”. I end up on “snail trails” instead. My short-term memory is awful- I can’t remember who won American Idol last season. But my petty long-term memory is a little bit Rain Man-esque.