Saturday, November 28, 2015

street riddles

One of the nice things about being a priest in parish ministry is that for the most part I set my own schedule. This means that I can, on occasion, walk my youngest to school in the morning. He's eight and there's something very special about being able to walk the short journey through the small town we live in together, hand in hand, chatting about random things.

At the moment he's on a riddle-kick. I think his teacher was explaining them at school. Now, of course, I approve of teachers filling my child's head with new and interesting information. I am a little less enthusiastic when it results in:

'Dad, dad, dad! Do you know any riddles?'
Inwardly I groaned. Not because I don't like riddles, but because I don't really know any. There's one that I learned when I was a child and still remember; but that's rude and not really suitable. Then there's the ones from the famous riddle-duel between Bilbo and Gollum in The Hobbit; but I only half-know those ... and since I've read the book to son number four, he knows them better. 

I decided to try for a deflection.
'Well there's Tom Riddle, but I don't really know him because he's in a book.'
'Ha! Good one, dad!'
For a while we talked about Tom Riddle and Harry Potter and I thought the deflection had worked. But I'd only bought myself a hundred yards of breathing space. Then as we reached the hardware store:
'So, dad - any riddles?'
I groaned.
'I don't really know any.'
'So make one up!'
Ah - the confidence of a young boy in his father! How could I disappoint? I glanced around somewhat desperately, seeking inspiration from the street. Something up ahead gave me an idea.
'What can be light no matter how heavy it is?'
He thought for a moment.
'It's not wood.'
'But wood floats. It can be heavy and still float. That makes it light.'
'It's a good answer. But it's not what I was thinking of. Think about the different meanings a word can have.'
He thought a while. We were almost halfway to his school.
'I give up.'
'Are you sure. What can be light no matter how heavy it is? The clue is that the same word can have more than one meaning.'
He thought some more than shook his head.
'No idea.'
'A lamp.'
'A lamp?'
'A lamp.'
'Oh, I get it. A lamp can be heavy and still give off light. Good one dad. Did you make that up?'
'Yup. I looked at one of those tall, metal street lights as we were walking along and that gave me the idea.'
'It's a good one. I thought it was wood. Because wood floats'

That had brought us to the half-way point, the pedestrian crossing just outside the local supermarket on the square. We started talking about why it was that some things can float and others don't. About things like why can a giant battleship made of metal float but a tiny nail can't. That kept us going riddle-free to the school gate. There he took a quick look around to make sure there was no one to see before he kissed me good-bye and trotted off into school. 

The fact that he won't let me walk him to the door any more and makes sure he's not seen by his friends kissing me goodbye reminds me that there's probably not too much time left that he'll be happy to hold my hand walking along the street. Sad to think such a simple pleasure will soon be gone from my life. He's my youngest child and so after 18 years of almost taking such moments for granted the clock is ticking down on them. I'll have to be careful to treasure those that are left while they still remain to me. 

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