Saturday, February 18, 2006

Road Builder

Like modern dinosaurs, construction machines have the best of everything: they’re big, they’re loud and they can crush stuff. What’s not to love? Of my three kids, my first-born loved them the most. Jack had a real hardhat, not some play version, that he wore like some kids have a softy they can’t part with. He slept with it. This was a good thing as Jack was the original stunt baby. He walked at 10 months and soon took great joy in running and leaping off of things. Jack’s first word was POW!

When Jack was about 15 months old PG&E were replacing something all along Sacramento Street. Backhoes figured prominently. I would pack a large bag of snacks, get the paper, and Jack would wear his hardhat and sit in his stroller completely transfixed for huge stretches of time. Sometimes 5 whole minutes.

We moved to Marin before our second son was born. Jack was not yet two and during the unpacking and minor construction he would watch construction foreman Dave in his “There Goes A Truck” video. One time I walked into the living room and there was Jack in his little chair wearing a diaper and his hardhat and three guys I was paying to finish the baseboards standing behind him all transfixed by a giant dump truck.

When Jack was almost three, he and his new brother and I would head over to Marin City for the afternoon to watch the complete transformation of a whole community into a shopping center and apartments. Many different construction machines were involved and some, like the sheep’s foot, we had only read about in our home library of truck books. Jack stood next to the car, hardhat on, looking down at all the action and named each machine.

While visiting family in Texas, Jack was able to help drive a large tractor that my uncle used to cut weeds. His smile was almost painful. When he was twelve, Jack and his brother and a cousin were playing with a golf cart my uncle uses to get around his self-storage business. They were extremely responsible until it came time to park it and Jack accidentally crashed into a flagpole, knocking it over onto the roof of the golf cart. Sadly he had outgrown wearing a hardhat. Good fortune was smiling on him as the golf cart did have a metal canopy. My uncle told him he’d been thinking of replacing that flagpole anyway. The new one has a low metal barrier around it.

I found that hardhat the other day. Good thing: Jack will be eligible to get a learners permit in a year.

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