When I started to form this letter in my mind, the three of you were passed out in the backseat of our small car. We had just spent four days cooling off in the mountains of Colorado, and now, under the cover of night, I was trying to see how much of the 12 hour drive home I could finish before you even realized we were on the road. At around midnight I pulled the car over at a Southern Colorado rest stop.
I’ve driven through the night on the I-25 more times than I can remember, and one thing I’ve found is that no amount of caffeine can replace the re-energizing power of splashing ice cold water on your face, and then turning the hand dryer spout upside down and giving yourself a quick brain freeze. Sure, it sounds weird, but I’m just trying to keep you all alive, so don’t judge me.
When I stepped out of the bathroom I took a moment to inhale as much cool, clean oxygen as my lungs could hold. In just a few hours, we were going to be back under the authority of the oppressive Arizona heat. This was my last chance to enjoy air that isn’t pumped through a cooling vent for at least the next three months. After I had my fill, I turned and made a move toward the car– that’s when I saw it. A toad. It was in the middle of the sidewalk doing that toad thing where you don’t know if they’re technically sitting, standing, or laying down because their fat stomachs drag no matter what.
I reached down, scooped the toad up, and just stared. I was debating whether or not to wake you up and show you what I found, but thought better of it. Who knows if in your groggy state you’d even remember what I was showing you? Worse, who knows if I could even get you back to sleep? I did wake your mother up, who was uncomfortably curled up in the passenger seat. She acknowledged that both I and the toad exist before promptly hiding her face in the pillow. I know she hates it, but waking that lady up to share dumb trivia, attempt serious discussions, or show her cool things is what I live for. If it was up to me, she’d never sleep when I’m awake. I have learned over the last eight years that it is definitely not up to me.
I took a picture of the toad so that I could show you all in the morning, let the little guy go, and then we hit the road again. After a couple of minutes I began to feel a sadness about the pragmatic approach I took at the rest stop. I wanted to go back, find the toad, and wake you all up. Who knows if you’d care about, or even be impressed by the photo I took over a photo of a toad I pulled up on Google images? On this trip we had seen plenty of animals in the wild, as well as at a zoo we visited in Colorado Springs. Every time I had the chance to show you something new, you were all filled with wonder. Your wonder is my drug. It gives me the greatest high imaginable to share any and all of the beautiful, weird, and beautifully weird spectacles this planet has to offer.
Whether it was the first time I showed you bubbles, or bubble wrap, or a caterpillar, or the first time your mother and I let your taste buds discover the magic of chocolate frosting, or the first time you discovered the technological masterpiece known as the garbage truck- your reactions have always been the same. Wonder. The world is magic.
As I drove toward the Colorado/New Mexico border lost in thought about the missed opportunity, I began to ponder the days ahead when you’ll know more than me. Any millennial like your mother and I, who has had to explain to a baby boomer how a smart phone works, has to realize that there will come a day when our kids will be the ones attempting to show us the magic of a rapidly developing world. I dread the day when you’re no longer impressed by who I am, what I know, and what I can show you. The key for us adults has to be that we stay impressed and awestruck by our surroundings- maybe only then can we convey to you youngsters that the world is still a wondrous place, even after you’ve seen all there is to see.
Suddenly, a clear path opened up between the mountains just off of the highway, and I could see the moon shimmering through a distant raincloud. For a moment, the entire night sky was sparkling, and all I could think to myself is how badly I wanted to wake you all up.
The world is magic.