The Great American Pipe Dream
There is a glorious and idyllic park not far from where we live. It is vast and inviting with all the features and amenities you might expect to find in a suburb facing all the gritty realities of Disneyland, but with less litter. Dogs frolic freely, duck families plucked straight out of central casting waddle in sweet rows and just like in Disneyland there’s treasures galore, without the pesky pirates.
My son Venom Pen has always had a keen interest in treasures of all kinds. He would form swiftattachments to all manner of organic and other matter including dirty feathers, random pieces of plastic and actual wads of paper to which he would add eyes that became his pocket pals. Moving on to more tangible treasures was less confusing but just as traumatizing for his parents and teachers because trying to locate a lost “tiny Blue” (2 inch tall Blue’s Clue dog) without the help of paw print clues is torture. Luckily, his fondness for strange finds has been endlessly amusing. Nothing breaks up a long and painful Pee Wee Little League game like having to explain over and over again that the giant bulge in your kids’ pocket is actually a treasured “gooley ball;” a giant hunk of clay, play doh and gooey substances collected over a period of weeks. Icky, but ridiculously cute.
Now that he is a teenager, Venom Pen’s treasures are less cute and more expensive. Although he still applies egalitarian principles to his possessions and will not turn his nose up at found objects, even when he should. I pulled into the garage recently to find Venom Pen waiting for me, anxious to show me his latest find from the park he loves to inhabit. He pointed to ground as he excitedly explained that he and friend had found something ‘super awesome” in the woods. I looked toward my feet and two words exploded in my head: Pipe Bomb!
My smart son (at least according to the school) had delivered to my home a 24 inch long, approximately 5 inch diameter length of black PVC pipe with white caps on both ends. I stepped back as I replayed all the parenting lessons we have doled out over the years. Didn’t we cover pipe bombs in at least one cautionary tale? Of course I immediately started interrogating Venom Pen, while pulling him away from his beloved treasure; Who? What? Where? How? WHY???? He rolled his eyes, clearly irritated by my buzz kill ways. I am certain that to him the possibilities contained in this pipe were just as magical as the magic wand it resembled.
“Mom! Calm down! It’s fine! It’s not a pipe bomb. We already opened it.” Boom.
He pried off an end and spilled the rust-dusted contents to the ground; one short flathead screwdriver, one pair small pointed scissors, one roll of black electrical tape, another smaller piece of pipe to use as a makeshift handle for the long thin corroded saw blade that clattered to the asphalt. This was almost as bad as a pipe bomb.
I immediately went back in to lecture mode. I revisited my earlier hysteria about the dangers of pipe bombs then I pointed out the additional problems with his removal of this “treasure” from the park in ascending order;
1) What if this was the personal “how to have fun in the woods” kit for other neighborhood kids? (strange, but plausible)
2) Maybe there is an Urban Hobo out there who collected these vital tools over time and needs them for survival on the road. The disappearance of this survival kit may have disrupted their livelihood.
3) Hello? Murder kit! Haven’t you watched enough TV yet? Now your fingerprints are all over the evidence! Isn’t it strange how your friend was with you and yet let you touch it first? Do you have anything you need to tell me?
Throughout my rant, Venom Pen, expelled occasional condescending sighs. So I stepped up my game and called the po-po. A friendly neighborhood officer arrived and gamely examined the Fun/Survival/Murder Kit while sternly advising Venom Pen of the real and present dangers of pipe bombs. Venom Pen paid close attention, answered appropriately, and appeared adequately chastened by the time Officer Friendly left our driveway.
We stood shoulder to shoulder waving as the patrol car disappeared. As we turned back to the garage Venom Pen looked at me with the same giant alien eyes that filled with tears whenever his toddler treasures were threatened and he said, “So. Can I keep it?”
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