Parental Guidance: Time machines are sacred
I picked up my son’s old stick the other day – the one I keep safely tucked away in his bedroom closet.
It’s survived all the de-cluttering phases and changes of address our family has experienced. It waits there with its red, spongy slip-on handle and matching red tape still wrapped on the blade looking as if it were ready for game time.
Problem is, it now barely reaches up to my son’s waist relegating it to what he and I refer to as his “Hall of Fame;” his first tiny elbow pads and first pair of hockey skates, as well as his first baseball glove are honored (gather dust) together there.
I pick the stick up more than the other items because by nature the hockey stick is something that beckons to be held (and putting my hand in the glove is impossible, like trying to put a ham into a sock).
Like my son and I have done a thousand times together in the hockey stores, I twirl it in my hands and instinctively give it the “flex test;” pressing the blade to the floor and pushing down on its middle doesn’t seem like it would really give much useful information, but to a hockey player it does. Pressing on the carpet, as I do now, his stick flexes very little although I must admit to being overly cautious with the force I put on such a cherished item.
It’s a red-and-black Easton – way too expensive for his age then, and the amount of time it was actually used.
I remember the day I bought it; it was a surprise and meant to inspire a performance for a reason – and against an opponent that’s long been forgotten. It was – and always would be when I could afford to repeat the surprise – meant to be my way of saying I love you.
He scored a lot with it. He and this stick worked some serious miracles out there, including a two-goal flourish in the final minutes of a game that preserved an undefeated season and left me sobbing with pride.
I wish I could remember them all, but I’ll always remember the smile on his caged-over little face as he and I exchanged thumbs up signs through the glass.
Twirling that stick in his room I ache for it to take me back – to be with him again at 9 years old.
Hell, I’d take just having him here right now. He’s off in another state now. I know he’s good and doing well, but it hits me that he’s just so far away. If this stick could perform one last miracle, I’d ask for it to bring him home to me now.
Since the day I dropped him off three years ago to pursue his dreams, I’ve been wishing for that a lot.
The stick has come to represent so many things to me: how obsessed I was about pushing him; how far I was willing to go to help him; how much hockey brought us together and gave us conversation material even as he grew into a teenager.
I hope he noticed the detail of the tape wrapping the blade when I’d do it for him; every one carefully coiled and placed exactly in line with the one before it. Once he was out on the ice, it was my only way to feel like I was out there with him.
As I run my hands over it, I feel every nick from defenders hacking at it or every time it was thrown in the car quickly or packed in a mass hockey stick bag for its airline flight.
I set it gently back into the “Hall” and close the door. I’m slightly disappointed, but realistic enough to realize it couldn’t magically teleport me back to the past, or him to me.
Or had it?
I suddenly realize that in fact the stick did come through one more time; for a precious few moments in his room, it had brought him to me. I’d been back with him again.
I crack open the closet door for one last look, and briefly consider moving it to a different location.
Time machines, after all, can’t be kept too safe.
Scott Johnson is a Santa Barbara resident and the father of four hockey-playing children.