Sunday, December 8, 2013

Meet Maddie!

More photos of Maddie are here.
This Thanksgiving I had a great reason to be thankful as I finally got to meet my granddaughter, Madeline. I told my friend Kevin that I might start crying when we first meet (he said that I should let it flow if that happened) but I was more in awe. Here's someone who carries something of me with her (the good and the very bad): so quiet and innocent, but with the potential for so much in the future. I know that there are literally thousands of babies in this world at any given moment of time, but for me Maddie is so very special. She is a very mellow baby who likes to be held and sleeps a lot. I have to admit that I was really greedy and wanted to hold her the whole time, but I knew with all of the family there I would have to pick my spots.

I am also thankful that I got to see my daughters and their husbands. God has been revealing to me how He has put into me the joy of one on one time. It used to be "daddy date nights" when the girls grew up. Now looking back, I really cherish those times. I also know that I regret not doing them enough especially during their teens. These are the tough lessons I have to learn and I hope that I will correct over time. Ariel and I shared a late meal and talked about parenthood and our upcoming trip (I'm taking each of my children on a once in a lifetime "one on one" trip). Amanda and I had a light meal (morning sickness is in full effect right now for her), and visited some art galleries. I hope that I can continue to have these times with them when we get together. I fully grasp that they have their own lives now so these times are special. I also got to have time with both Ron (Ariel's husband) and Michael (Amanda's husband). My hope is that I can be there for these guys as God has brought them into my life and I personally feel the desire to invest in them. My hope is that I can be a support to all of them. I hope that I can help them avoid so much of the failures that I have had in my life. Also, I want them to feel my care and love. Like Gilgamesh, life can be measured by those you have have loved and invested in and in spite of your own frailties. Perhaps there's an epic in all of our lives, even mine.
Perfect moment: holding Maddie and watching football.

As for holding Maddie, it felt so amazing. She drooled on my shirts. She would eventually find a comfortable position and fall asleep on me. This vulnerable, sweet, innocent baby had somehow found peace with me. I was instantly bonded to her. I seriously wanted the moment to last forever. Even cooler was that I could hold her and watch football with her. That felt like the perfect moment and maybe something we could share in the future (I can always dream).

What I do know is that if I loved this little girl from afar, having her this close to me made me love her more. This was most obvious when we had to leave. I had to find a private place to mourn leaving her. That was not expected. I was deeply depressed during the first leg of our plane flight home. What I now see is that even though I have three children, I never had any of them as babies. Fox was about 11 when he came into our lives. I sometimes forget that I'm not the girls biological father since I can't imagine my life without them. Even more so, I can imagine me loving them more than I do right now. But in reality, I never held them as babies. It was a process for us to go through to become father/daughter (and one I am so thankful for). So for the first time in my life I was bonded to someone that loved and trusted me instinctively. It was also the first time I then had to let go of that bond. Continuing in my process to live from the heart, I felt the depth of that loss. It was truly overwhelming. So I did cry when I met Maddie, but it was more for the fact that I was mourning her absence.
So here's to more meetings with Maddie and with Amanda expecting grandchild number two, a more full and deeper (and likely louder) Thanksgiving future.
That's how you make your granddaughter cozy!

Looking forward to more moments like this.
It's never too early to make sure your granddaughter knows how crazy Jiichan can be!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Something Is Sweeter 'Cause We Met Along The Way

Ephesian 3:20-21
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

"Happy, happy, happy."
Phil Robertson

Random thoughts from a new grandfather...

First I have to say Happy Birthday to my beautiful and amazing granddaughter Madeline Brow. Welcome to the wonderful and crazy world that God has created for us! After the year that I have been through (losing my dad, losing my cousin, having shingles), Little Maddie, as I'm going to call her, is a very welcome gift from God.

From Wikipedia, here are some people that share a birthday with Maddie:
1903 – Walter O'Malley, American lawyer and businessman (d. 1979)
1940 – John Lennon, English singer-songwriter, musician, and producer (d. 1980)
1940 – Joe Pepitone, American baseball player
1944 – John Entwistle, English singer-songwriter, bass player, and producer (The Who) (d. 2002) (I got to see The Who on my birthday only a few months before Entwistle passed away)
1948 – Jackson Browne, German-American singer-songwriter and guitarist (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band)
1953 – Tony Shalhoub, American actor (Monk)
1954 – Scott Bakula, American actor (Quantum Leap, Star Trek: Enterprise)
1958 – Michael Pare, American actor

1958 – Mike Singletary, American football player
1960 – Maddie Blaustein, American actress (d. 2008)
1962 – ┼înokuni Yasushi, Japanese sumo wrestler, the 62nd Yokozuna
1970 – Kenny Anderson, American basketball player
1975 – Sean Lennon, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actor (and John Lennon's son)
One notable event occurred on October 9th: The Cincinnati Reds win the 1919 World Series over the Chicago "Black Sox".

Last night, the San Jose Sharks (the team Ariel, Maddie's mom, and I follow) gave Maddie and early birthday present with a 9-2 win over the New York Rangers. 19 year old Thomas Hertl scored four goals including one of the most amazing goals in hockey history:

Looking back the whole process started with the stunning news of my new found role as a grandpa. I was driving to the mall for some reason and just got into the parking lot. I'm thankful I was parked since I think that I would have put my car in a ditch if I was on the road. Ariel just said the words, "You're going to be a grandpa!" I think she thought I would react, but I was in stunned silence. It was like I was hit by a tidal wave. There was so much emotion: happy, excited, scared, and old. Steely Dan's "Reelin' In The Years" was playing in my head. I wish that I could have reacted more excited for Ariel, but I think I was in shock. It was a good shock, and after a moment it felt really good.

The next big news was finding out the baby is a girl and her name is Madeline (I'm going to call her Maddie or Little Maddie). I think that Ariel was connecting the name to those wonderful children stories of the little French girl Madeline. For some strange reason I kept connecting the name to the TV show Moonlighting which had the character Madeline Hayes. I think that's the first time I really heard the term Maddie used for the name Madeline. No matter what, I really love hearing the name. It now reminds me of someone very special to me.
My new motto!

Going forward I am looking forward to being a grandpa. Wow, that word still is going to take time to get used to. I'm wondering what memories we're going to have together? I'm looking forward to Maddie giving me a hug. Maybe she'll like hockey or ride motorcycles. Perhaps she'll be more into ballet and reading. To be honest I don't care. I hope I can read stories with her or eat ice cream with her at the mall. I like the thought of being able to spoil her with gifts and have lots of fun with her. I hope laughing is one of our favorite things to do together. Some day, I'll get to see her in a prom dress and tell her how beautiful she is. Even further down the line I can see her in a wedding dress and tell how proud I am of her. These are awesome thoughts that make me long for times to bond with her.

It's so strange to think how fast this has happened. Somewhere between graduating college and now, I've had three kids coming and going through my life and today a grandchild enters the picture. Being middle aged forces us to face the past and the future with some sobering thoughts: past triumphs and epic failures; great moments and missed opportunities; exciting challenges ahead and facing your own mortality. There's a lot there to take in. Somehow a little baby grandchild can put it all into perspective. She provides so much hope for the future, a legacy and another life to influence. She shows me that life will continue on even when I'm long gone and a distant memory. She will also carry a shadow of my self (both good and bad) in her. These are awesome thoughts.

So today I venture out to a new realm and new title. With it comes all of the joys and challenges. It will somehow be an adventure.

We'll walk by night, we'll fly by day...

After having to remove my dad from my address book, it was nice to add this to my calendar.

More pictures:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

For Every Generation There Is A Gap

Deuteronomy 6:6-9
"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates."

Since my dad's passing, I have heard many people tell me of how much of a role model, mentor and shining example my dad was to them. This included those he coached, those who worked for him and some friends. I heard how he mentored those who worked for him and that he taught them how to excel as an engineer. I hear how his coaching went beyond the game and how peers of mine received teaching that prepared them for life. It's funny that I just never felt that from him. Part of it is my selfishness or the fact that we don't appreciate those closest to you, but I found that this feeling is almost universal between father and son. This sort of realization gave me a deep empty feeling. My dad was a good man in most respects. We always had a roof over our heads and food on the table. I learned a lot of things from my dad from throwing a spiral, to algebra to performing an oil change on a car. Somehow, if he did it, I missed the affirmation I deeply needed.

Even my friend Pete Damianakes mentioned when he hears that type of compliment about his dad (who I mentioned earlier), Pete didn't feel that he got the same type of affirmation from him. It's so strange that I felt that from his dad but he seemed to have missed out on it. It also makes stop and wonder what my kids think of my parenting and the gaps that they have because of me. Perhaps it's an impossibility, but ideally your dad should be the hero, mentor and guide that you remember most as the one who was "there for you". Sadly, for many it's someone else or nobody at all.

Several times I have mentioned the fact that our relationship with our dads and our sons leaves "gaps" in our lives. What we need and crave for from our dad is not provided and so we end up with missing emotional pieces that I think is best described as gaps. What this leads to is all sorts of addictions, passivity, anger and fear. At this point in my life, I'm really wishing I didn't go through all of my years with so many gaps. I never have felt that it was my dad's fault, but for some reason, there's a disconnect and it passes down through each generation.

To all of this I go back to the one truth. We need a real Father who is perfect. He has to be powerful but also very much patient, forgiving, loving and compassionate. I continually ask the question of what would my ideal father look like. I can see my dad has some of these qualities but I also long for the qualities that he lacked. I know that he was human and thus flawed and so I don't hold it against him. What I do know is that only God can fulfill the role of my perfect ideal of a father. I know that concept from the first time heard the Gospel, but only later in life after I have lived life as a son and dad do I really understand the depth and transforming truth of knowing that God is my true Father. All others are imperfect (even if they were great in many respects) and will leave us with emotional gaps. This process of knowing our perfect Father and the healing that He provides is a life long process as he fills the gaps. I really long for the day when there are no more gaps to be filled.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Letting Go

"Nothin' makes a dad happier than seeing his daughter with a smile on her face and her boyfriend with fear in his eyes."
Willie Robertson

Job 42:15
Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

I have recently gotten hooked on the TV show "Duck Dynasty". It follows a self proclaimed redneck family that have created a multi-million dollar business selling duck calls (and merchandising now that the show is so popular). Beyond the great (and clean) humor is a clear devotion to family and God. It is so nice to watch a TV show where I'm not having to beware of something edgy or profane being shown or said. There's also that refreshing feeling of observing the humor of every day family life: sibling rivalry, raising children, balancing business and leisure, and having that crazy uncle that you sometimes aren't really sure of.

Recently I caught two episodes that I could fully relate to. The lead character Willie Robertson is your typical businessman (if you ignore the camouflage and beard) and the father of four and notably the father of a teen aged daughter named Sadie. The first episode that hit me is "Duck Be A Lady" where Willie goes dress shopping with her daughter for the homecoming dance. To be honest, I never got that involved in shopping with either of my daughters but the struggle of finding a properly modest dress for your daughter can be quite a minefield. You want you daughter to look as beautiful as you see her, but not "too" beautiful. Oh the dilemmas of being the dad of a teen aged girl! Willie of course goes way overboard hoping to find a dress that was in style some time during the Reformation. "No" seems to be the only answer that he can muster. Finally, with the help of the crazy uncle, Si, he recognizes his true fear. His daughter is growing up and she's closer to being a woman than a little girl. The humorous part is that he ends up saying "Yes" to the first dress she put on. I have to admit, when it comes to your teen aged daughter, logic falls right out the window. It's great to have another man (even your crazy uncle) to help you stay grounded in reality.

Me escorting Amanda during her homecoming

The second episode was title "Daddy's Got A Gun". This one hit right where dads are when their daughters are teenagers. Willie finds out the Sadie is dating a boy. Now if you haven't lived this out, you won't know the feelings that dads go through. You can take the most level headed man you know and have his daughter start dating and he will turn into a stark raving lunatic. I have talked to many men about this and it is pretty much confirmed that it is the one thing that I will guarantee will drive you insane. Most describe it as anger couple with deep stress. I remember at one point during this time when I was watching the TV show "Heroes". The cheerleader sneaks off with her boyfriend and they have a romantic and innocent time together. My wife said something to the effect of how sweet that was. My response was pure rage with me wishing I was the dad with his Desert Eagle waiting to blow the boy's head off. My wife then asked if I needed to see a doctor or a psychiatrist. I think in some way she was spot on. My friend Garland's wife asked the same question of him when his daughter first started dating. The condition is clearly universal. As for Willie, he does the redneck thing and takes the boy hunting. In tow is Willie's brother Jase who has no greater joy than needling him into a deeper rage. As for the boy, he shows himself to be the nice Christian kid with good grades and a high level of respect (he also hunts which should put him in good graces with Willie). This of course is more frustrating to Willie since he would love to find any good reason to see the boy disappear from his daughter's life (or cause him bodily harm). Willie even blows up during the hunt and decides a water snake not only should be shot, but requires a full clip of ammunition shot into it to sooth his burning rage inside. Personally, I'm right there with him on that. Again Willie, like me, has to come to grips with his daughter growing up. My favorite moment in the episode is when Willie hands the boy a duck call before they head out on a date. It's a sign of acceptance. But also Willie warns, "This is the only thing that I've created that you are allowed to put your lips on." Dad may come to acceptance, but he still always commands respect and fear.

Amanda gave me this T-Shirt

For dads we will always want to protect our daughters, love them and be there for them but also we need to let them go. For me, that process is mostly complete whether I do or don't accept it. I see that God put daughters on this earth to teach men the deep truths of the Father's love. We love them so much; want to protect them; want to destroy anything that will hurt them; and in the end we must let them find their way. We have to let them discover things and learn. Through it we have to trust that all of what we have poured into them will flourish. Again, that can only happen if we let go. Isn't that so much of what God wants for us?

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Endowed By Their Creator With Certain Unalienable Rights

Hanging in the hallway of my house is a framed document that I must pass several times each day without giving it much thought. I'm glad to say that today, I took the time to look at it and ponder one of the greatest documents in the history of mankind: The Declaration Of Independence.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,"
Some of the most famous words in history are contained above. What hits me is that in it there's more than just a a licentious mindset of freedom, in fact it is coupled with a legislation that secures those rights from the consent of the people. Perhaps it's the era I was brought up in or the civics class I was required to take to get through high school, but my view on this powerful statement is that we are free not to be selfish, but to be vigilant of our rights that were given to us from the Creator. I'm not the type who would go so far as to use this as to proclaims the United States a Christian nation (as the First Amendment prevents there being any state religion) but I would go in so far as to say our Congress acknowledges God as the ultimate guide in their decision making process and that He has given us a wonderful gift of freedom. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free(Galatians 5:1). I know this verse relates to the Law, but I would venture that one could say that Christ desired to free us from anything that oppresses our hearts. That would include tyrannical rule.
One thing we are losing over time is the fact that our government was established with the mindset that it is to secure our rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit Of Happiness. Furthermore, the power that is bestowed upon them is by the consent of the governed. I would ask us all if that mindset has changed over the years.

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
OK, first I am NOT advocating anarchy, or overthrowing governments when I write the following words so please filter accordingly: it is quite amazing that our Founding Fathers believed that there is a higher law that must be followed. I would go as far as to say that the law that God has established trumps the laws any man made government institutes. Furthermore, it says that when these laws that God has established have been violated beyond repair, and respectful methods are proven useless, that it is one's rights under God and Nature to declare himself independent of such rule.This statement is one that we should all take time to ponder. Much of the conditions of this are subject to personal interpretation and should not be taken lightly. 

“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”
“For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.”
“He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.”
"He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures."
"He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries."
Above are a list of grievances against the king. I find it a bit alarming that one could easily apply these issues in differing degrees to any presidency I have lived through: expansion of government, taxes, redistricting, cover ups and even secret courts. Something for all of us to think about.

Mostly, I am amazed at how the principles and core issues that this document deals with are just as timely today as they were 237 years ago. Are we vigilant in the defense of our freedoms? Do we fully understand that which God has established for us? Do we fully understand that government is established for the protection of our freedom?

Instead of listening to my opinion, I would highly recommend you read the text that we so easily ignore, below.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
Matthew Thornton

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Childhood Redemption In The Land Of Honah Lee

When I was very young my mom bought me one of those sing along albums (yes in the days of 33 RPM records) for children. It had the usual assortment of songs (On Top Of Old Smoky, John Jacob Jinkelheimer Schmidt) but the title song on the album always hit deep with me. It was Puff The Magic Dragon. I had this weird bittersweet feeling every time I heard the song. To be honest I hated hearing it, but still listened to it over and over. When I hear it today it brings me back to my childhood days sitting in my bedroom listening to that album.

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Little Jackie paper loved that rascal Puff,
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on puffs gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whenever they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when puff roared out his name.

First, I'll address the cynical side of the song. Peter Yarrow, who wrote the song clearly states that it is not about drugs. He is pretty adament about it. I know it's cool to find hidden meanings in things, but also I think it goes to our need for controversy. I'll take him at face value on this one. The best interpretation I've heard is that Puff is actually a dragon kite that sparks Jackie's imagination to pretend he goes to exciting places with his magical friend. What could be cooler for a kid then to have these adventures with this fierce magical creature as your friend? As a kid, it sparked my imagination to what those castles and places would look like. It also speaks to the love of boys have for powerful and fierce things. Who wouldn't want a friend like Puff?

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie paper came no more
And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,
So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.

The last verse then takes a turn towards a harsh reality. Jackie grows up and forgets about Puff. New things fascinate him and he moves on in life. Likely, Puff the kite is stuffed in a closet to be forgotten. As a five year old this is a tragedy! Why would Jackie forsake his awesome friend? The moral has a tragic side: we all have to grow up and put away childish things.

What complicates things for me (even today) is that there's a fine line between childish and child-like. I still don't like that Jackie leaves Puff. There's something important that Jackie leaves behind: child-likeness. Yes, we are not to be childish and live completely in a fantasy world. There are responsibilities and maturity to be accomplished. Yes, the kite has to at some point go into the closet. But for some reason, as adults we completely kill the child in us. Christ himself desires for us to come to Him as little children. Christ calls The Father daddy. In all this pressure to grow up we missed something? I think so!
I believe we all still need to imagine, play and laugh. We should fly kites, run through grass and roll down hills. I feel in our stiff theology we miss out on the God that plays, creates and imagines.

Back to Jackie Paper: I've read that Peter Yarrow actually wrote a third verse to the song. He somehow lost the words along the way, but it tells us that Jackie does eventually return to find Puff. Jackie, now a grown man, then introduces Puff to a little girl (implying that it's Jackie's daughter). The little girl and Puff then go on magical adventures and Puff once again has a friend! Given this part of the song I see that Jackie has not lost his child-likeness and has passed on the beauty of adventure, play and imagination to his little girl! I wish at five, this verse was on that album! This for me, heightens the great message of this song. Grow up but don't lose your sense of play, wonder and laughter; that we are to be child-like and live life full of both responsibility and play.

So today, I will take care of my responsibilities and then I am going to go out and play and pretend I'm in the land called Honah Lee.