Memoir Project: Little Daniel

Austin, TX 2002-2004

What was Daniel Like as a Child?

Daniel had a sparkly, verbose, and outgoing personality as a young child. He made friends everywhere we went. Newly-met playground friends were mourned by him in the car as we drove away. We would probably never see this-or-this friend again. He spoke to be heard and to share his thoughts and designs, and inward scenarios. He found order in talking. He could enchant adults by his precocial and erudite vocabulary and clear, precise pronunciation. He could talk for a long time about things that interested him.

When he was three, he loved to dress up as a firefighter and the vacuum hose was his favorite accessory. Sounds of toy firetrucks and sirens were common at our house. There were two large firetrucks, and a line of smaller firetrucks, like a family, which he would line up in descending order of size. Common book choices were about fires and firetrucks.

His Spiderman costume was his favorite costume the next year, and he would wear it to climb up door jams. He would walk his way up a door jam, with one foot on either side. At the top, he took away both hands from the sides of the door while his feet supported him. Next, he held the sides with his arms while he clapped his feet. In a dramatic finish, he dropped to the soft carpet below, triumphant, the stuffed muscles of his costume bulging at the arms and chest.

Seeing Paige learn to play the piano first, Daniel matched her songs by composing one of his own. His first composition was meant to be scary. He played the same notes in a minor key beginning at the bottom of the keyboard, moving up the octaves all the way to the top. When Paige performed her songs for others, he made sure to play his song, too. Here was our first glimpse of him as a showy piano performer.

We gave him some PVC pipe, cut in short sections, complete with T and L-shaped connectors so he could build “machines” with them when he was three-years-old. Sometimes he would choose our largest room and set up an intricate machine spanning the length of the room. He incorporated not only pipes, but vacuum hoses in his designs. Everything was connected and had a purpose. I remember sitting down with him at his desk and teaching him about basic machines when he was about four-years-old and he memorized everything, with his blue eyes wide open. Levers, wheels and axles, pulleys, inclined planes, and screws were incorporated in his creations from then on. He was a natural engineer. Coming into his room was like walking into a cluttered laboratory, full of his inventions. We bought an 8-foot long banquet table for school work, which we ended up giving to him for his projects. At any time, this table would have dozens of Lego buildings, piles of collections, trains, and puzzles mixed together. He liked to listen to music as he worked on his projects, and his tastes ranged from kid CD’s to Mariachi band music.

Daniel was Daniel from the start: temperament, interests, intellect, and abilities all showed themselves when he was very young. We marveled that he could do so much.

My current tool kit

My current tool kit for life includes:

Tissues: I sense over time that there is a correlation between trust and the number of tears I witness as a Relief Society president. When I hand a sister a tissue, I know her tears are precious, and I am honored to share the moment with her.

Chartreuse, Olive, Purple, Tan, and Silver Thread: These are the colors needed to sew on Scout patches. Recently, I transferred Mark’s patches to Daniel’s old shirt and moved Daniel’s old patches to a larger shirt. Timothy needed me to sew on about 15 merit badges. I do this sewing so they are prepared for big evenings like we had this week. Daniel completed his board of review for Eagle Scout rank, and I was asked to give a few words about his scouting experience. I shared a little of what it is like to send my 11 or 12-year-old to Scout camp for the first time, and to hear later from a leader that he did well. I shared what it feels like to let go, and see a son grow in leadership and ability because I allowed him some danger and adventure.  I didn’t earn Daniel’s Eagle for him. What I did was watch, wait, and encourage. This was the longer and more difficult path, but better. Later, I noticed this was the shirt I was wearing beneath my sweater for the Eagle board of review. Perfect.

One, Three-ring Binder for Each Child: When a child comes home with a certificate, report card, recital program, or blue card for a Scout merit badge, it goes in a sheet protector in this binder. When college and scholarship applications are due, this is a great reference for what they have done during high school. To keep merit badge blue cards organized, I use plastic sheets made for baseball trading cards. I can’t emphasize enough how important it was for me to keep track of these, through a move and changes in leaders.

Small notebooks: I carry these around with me so I can keep track of ideas, which swirl around me and are fickle about staying in my head very long.

Sugar free Ice Breakers Wintergreen Mints: because I talk to many people.

Small fabric bags with zippers in my purse: I have one for keys, and one for pens. They keep me organized.

A great phone plan for texting: for teens and church work

Laser printer: I am learning that writing a book means endless drafts.

Paper scriptures: Lately, I gravitate toward paper over electronic, because I have 20 years worth of notes in the margins of these scriptures. They have been steady friends during times of change.

Yearly tasks written on a calendar: In January, when I put up a new calendar, I took some time to write in the margins some hints about what needed to happen each month. For November, I wrote that during the first week I needed to go to a certain store for the best selection of Christmas cards. Another week we needed to do the Christmas picture. This has been so helpful! (And I realize probably everyone does this already.)

Less: Our family doesn’t need as much as it used to. Toys, art supplies, curriculum, and smaller clothing need to make steady exits from our house… as I have the courage to part with them.

If I think of you, I will make some effort to contact you: This isn’t a tangible thing in my tool kit, just an idea that I have recommitted to this month. Basically, I trust there are reasons I think of random people in a day, and make efforts to find out why.

Odds and Ends

October is coming to an end, and I found a few photos on my camera from this month that I want to remember. First, we have Daniel at the school district meeting being honored as a National Merit Semifinalist.

Our tree in the corner of the backyard gains its color quickly and loses its leaves even more quickly. I captured it one day as the sun hit it just right.

Mark’s school project to make a Teddy Roosevelt doll was a success. I only had one burn from the glue gun.

We both liked the little guy a lot.

 

I went to the Israelite Tabernacle exhibit at BYU with a friend and her daughters. Paige met me on campus after church to walk through it with me. There were no tour guides on Sunday, but we lucked out because there was a professor of ancient scripture there with his family, leading them through the exhibit. I snickered when this reverent grandfather had to ask the guard for something to fish out one of his grandson’s shoes from the brazen altar.

And no way was I touching this replica of the Ark of the Covenant, but the fingerprints don’t lie. Somebody did.

Senior Year

Oh, yes, I remember. This is how my heart feels during a child’s senior year of high school: squeezed, stretched, and anxious. I avoided it for a few weeks, but I have arrived at the tissue phase.

I have been working on compiling pictures of Daniel’s Scouting years so I can really wallow in the sweet agony.

Today’s journey through memory brings forth his collections, erudite vocabulary, his good leaders, a tiny blue cast for his leg, the homeschool years, desert views, piano playing, and speckled blue eyes.

A child’s influence is very powerful. Raising Daniel has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

Daniel’s Eagle Project

For Daniel’s Eagle project, we freed these teens who were locked in the nursery closet for several years. They had grown a few feet taller, and had survived on goldfish crackers and kept clean with hand sanitizer. They didn’t seem to be bored with the toys. They played happily with the cash register, farm toys, tools, puzzles and kitchen sets as we cleaned the area. The reunions with their parents were too precious to photograph.

The shelf installation went smoothly. Not pictured are many people who donated the materials for the project, and Daniel’s grandpa who helped him with a design and ideas. I feel very grateful for the support people showed Daniel.