When I was seven years old, I’m pretty sure I just existed. I didn’t cared much about having friends, knowing my parents or sister intimately, or even being entertained. I always had thoughts going through my head, and I didn’t mind sitting on my own for hours, doing nothing. In fact, I would have rather sat around doing nothing than just about anything. I didn’t feel bored. I didn’t necessarily need to read books or watch TV, although I harbored an impressive love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Most of the time, I just wanted to exist, though. This introversion manifested itself in my obsession with playing with blocks, hotwheels cars, and paper airplanes. Whenever I stayed home sick from school, I would fold about ten paper airplanes and line them up in the kitchen. One at a time, I’d throw them down the hallway to see which one would go the farthest. Then, I’d line them up at the end of the hallway and throw them back. This wasn’t exactly fun, but it was the kind of thing that allowed me to sit by myself and just exist. Maybe that’s why I like video games nowadays.
I’ve gotten way off track.
So when I was seven years old, my family lived in Flagstaff, AZ amongst the squirrels and pine cones, and our story starts on a day when I just felt like existing. I think I was stacking up some wooden blocks in the living room, probably walking little people up one side of a block structure, then down the other side. It was either a Saturday or a summer weekday, and I’m pretty sure it was just Dad and me at home. He came into the living room and asked me what I was doing.
“Playing with little people,” I said.
“Do you want to run some errands with me?” he asked.
Sometimes running errands really wasn’t that bad, but I didn’t want to do it that day. Running errands with Dad was way different from running them with Mom. Usually, I’d spend a lot of time sitting in the car while my dad dragged me from hardware store to post office to who knew where, and I just didn’t want to go.
“Do I have to?” I asked.
“Yeah. Come on.”
“NooooOoooo,” I whined. “Can’t I stay home?”
‘Nope. Get your shoes on.”
I was a relatively obedient kid, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t complain. I whined while I put on my socks. I whined while I put on my shoes. I whined while my dad locked the front door and led me out to the car. I actually felt like crying because I don’t think my dad had ever so unflinchingly forced me to do anything before. He was the kind of dad who woke me up at two a.m. so I could eat freshly made cinnamon rolls before they cooled off. He was the dad who took me to Dunkin Donuts on the way back from music lessons and let me eat poptarts for breakfast (yeah… I was highly motivated by food and still am).
Why was he doing this to me? I pouted at my dad. I pouted out the car window. I pouted and pouted and pouted.
Then, something magical happened. I saw the strangest, coolest thing ever!
“Dad!” I perked up. “Dad! Look! Look it! It’s Leonardo! Rafael! Look Dad! Look!”
Just a block or so away, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were hanging out, talking with kids!
My dad smiled.
“Can we go see them?” I asked.
I became really nervous as my dad parked the car and we headed over to where my heroes stood, just in front of a movie theater. I was more than a little chicken, so I didn’t really want to talk to the turtles. I just wanted to look at them from closeby, which I got to do as my dad led me to the movie line and got us tickets to see the newest Ninja Turtle movie, The Secret of the Ooze.
It was pretty much the coolest day of my young life.
After watching the movie, my dad took me straight home, and I completely forgot how angry I’d been at him just a couple of hours before. At some point over the next few weeks, though, it occured to me that we hadn’t run any of my dad’s errands. Then a few days after that epiphany, I found out that there hadn’t been any errands to run. My dad had concocted this entire plan just to bond with me. Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?