Saturday, April 25 2020

problems with focus, hat stories, and growing up

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Aren't Saturdays the best? Today, we unanimously slept most of the morning away. Even Rodney seemed reluctant to come out of his room today. The slow morning continues, drinking coffee, grazing on breakfast bars and banana bread, and making crafts with paper at the dining room table.

Marissa gave me the morning to write and work on code. It would have been wiser to finish my journal entry first before getting lost in my side project, but I have very little self control when it comes to when and for how long I work on code.

Sometimes after we head upstairs for the night to go to bed, I'll sit down at my computer and get sucked into another unplanned 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or a full hour of late night hacking. "I imagine that in your head, you just say I'm just going to look at it real quick," teases Marissa.

Sometimes my brain feels like an unwieldy bazooka of focus. I have no problem with thrust and firepower. The difficulty, for me, lies in aiming it at the right things. But we're here now. I've closed all my tabs and coding windows, and I'm not even going to peek at anything until I'm done writing.

Sip. Rodney's new hat arrived in the mail yesterday. Since there's not much going on these days, Marissa and I try to conserve the momentum of Rodney's childish excitement by hyping up everything as much as possible - especially when new things arrive in the mail. He excitedly pulled the hat out of the packaging and held it before him, but he seemed reluctant to wear it.

"Try it on dude," we urged. But Rodney shook his head. "No, it's my baseball hat," he replied.

"Oh, no dude. Hats aren't just for baseball," I replied. "You can wear hats all the time. In fact, just hold on a second, let me grab something from the basement."

I disappeared into the back corner basement, clambering over stacked cans of paint and side tables with my head hunched low. I extended an arm behind the water heater, nudging a tupperware bin free. My favorite childhood hat was nested safely inside.

"Here dude," I said returning to the dining room table. "This was my hat when I was little. Look at how beat up it is! I used to practically live in this thing." I donned my hat for Rodney. The green color is so faded from the sun, it's hard to imagine what its original color was. The plastic bill, riddled with chips and cuts, is completely exposed by the shredded fabric. The cap is decorated with dabs of white paint and even a few little pieces of caked dry wall. The inside of the hat smells vaguely like sweat, summer camp, and teenage hormones. Having my old green hat out reminded me of one of my favorite camp stories.

I was at a church summer camp in junior high, and as usual, I brought my green hat with me. The boys stayed on a separate side of the camp, but in the evening we all got to mingle and socialize as a mixed group. We'd spend the evening playing four square, shooting hoops, and enjoying candy, root beer, and ice cream. There was one girl at camp who, during this time of socializing, would take my green hat off my head without asking and wear it for the night. Her darting eyes and quick glances gave me the feeling that she was trying to get a rise out of me, but being too self-conscious to chase her or make a scene, I pretended it didn't bother me. I was bothered, though. I was terrified of the possibility that I would lose her in the crowd and fail to get my hat back before returning to the boys' side of the camp for the night. What if she forgot about it and it was lost? What if somebody were to accidentally take it home? I had the hat for so long that feared losing it would be equivalent to losing a part of my personality.

I did get my hat back that night. And later in the evening, my cabin mates and I returned to our side of the camp. There was a small fire set up in the common area between our cabins, so we pulled up some chairs and stumps and started talking. Our youth pastor Mark joined us. His brooding confidence, along with the quiet evening and the crackling fire set the tone for a secretive conversation about the opposite sex. I waited for a turn, then raised a question.

"Mark," I said. "What does it mean when a girl steals your hat?" He chuckled, letting me finish my thought. "Sometimes girls take my hat and run away with it, and I'm not sure what that means. Is she just trying to annoy me?"

"Recker," he said leaning forward towards the fire. "It's a good thing. Hat stealing is always a good sign," he said. "Think about it - it's not about the hat. She knows it's important to you and she's not going to let anything happen to it. She's just trying to get you to chase her."

We quietly marveled at the wisdom he shared. Following that conversation, I made an effort to be a little more free-spirited and trusting with my hat. I even started to let girls write their name or leave a little doodle on the inside of the bill. But much like summer camp crushes, even the darkest of permanent marker bubble letters fade and disappear over time.

After I finished my long winded camp story, Rodney put on his hat too. I doubt he'll hold onto his brightly colored Dino Trux hat long enough to see it become collateral in a flirtatious game of summer camp cat-and-mouse.

"He looks like such a big kid wearing that hat," said Marissa as Rodney ran into the backyard to play. "I don't like it - this is all happening too fast."

"Yeah," I nodded in agreement. "It's scary. That hat makes him look like a kid. Like an actual person."

Hats have a weird way of marking the passing of time, don't they? Thanks for stopping by this morning. I hope you have a wonderful Saturday.