This is what my sons found on their doors on Thursday morning when they woke:
Dear Mr. P-S.,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to The Character-Building Academy of Extreme Adventure. The term begins tomorrow. Please remember that all items on this list are mandatory.
Phineus Lumberlore (Headmaster)
Pack List for TCBAOEA:
Three (3) pairs of clean underwear.
Three (3) T-shirts.
Three (3) pairs of shorts.
Two (2) pairs of clean socks.
One (1) pair of hiking socks.
One (1) pair of sandals.
One (1) towel.
One (1) long-sleeved shirt.
One (1) jacket.
One (1) raincoat.
One (1) pair of long pants.
One (1) pair of hiking boots.
Two (2) pairs of pajamas.
One (1) sleeping bag.
One (1) Thermarest.
One (1) toothbrush
Any and all chargers/cords necessary for your various devices.
Books, games, puzzles, or other forms of amusement for downtime and car rides.
Three (3) sets of plain work robes (black)
One (1) plain pointed hat (black) for day wear
One (1) pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)
One (1) winter cloak (black, with silver fastenings)
The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1) by Miranda Goshawk
A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot
Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling
A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore
Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection by Quentin Trimble
One (1) wand
One (1) cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)
One (1) set glass or crystal phials
One (1) telescope
One (1) set brass scales
Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad OR a dog.
The previous evening I had handed Sissy a scrawled list containing all of the items up to Three (3) sets of plain work robes (black). She took the list and complained about my handwriting. She offered to type it up and lifted the lid on her laptop. She was procrastinating, putting off her own packing. We have a thing or two in common. When she was finished, she printed the lists off on bright pink card stock and taped them to the boys doors.
Little Man was thoroughly amused to find the letter in the morning. Like many kids his age and of all ages, he is enamored of all things Harry Potter, but especially A Very Potter Musical. (If you haven’t seen it, think Harry Potter meets Glee.) In the list Little Man saw an opportunity for a performance. He made a big show of finding the list, “What??!? Dragon hide gloves?!?” (He packed his skateboarding wrist guards. Those may as well be dragon hide.)
He donned his black Harry Potter robe, a neighbor’s hand-me-down, and set to packing all the items on the list that could be rounded up without a trip to Diagon Alley. He even packed the wand we bought in a little Diagon Alley-ish shop at a local Renaissance Festival many months ago. When he finished, he sat on the porch swing, swinging his legs, and waiting for everyone else to get ready for our adventure.
It has been a full week of adventures. We took in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival which was fantastic. We saw my second favorite baseball team beat my first favorite. We played at Pohick Bay. We stayed with some good friends in their river house in the Shenandoah Valley for a couple of days, and visited Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and we played in the swimming pool and in a cool spring-fed mountain swimming hole. We hiked to the top of Old Rag Mountain, from which one could spy the Washington Monument in the distance in the days before smog. Old Rag is an eight mile hike, ascending roughly 2,200 feet to the summit in the first three miles with a strenuous rock scramble.
As is his custom, Little Man started strong, then started to whine, then melted down, then had himself a blast. My middle son is in his element in the backcountry. He took the lead and he shouldered my backpack when I started to feel woozy because it was hotter than I had anticipated and we hadn’t packed enough water. (Thankfully some kind, very prepared, (and rather handsome) single dad with two ‘tween boys offered us a half-gallon of life-saving elixir.) Our friend from Colorado eats little mountains like that one for breakfast, but for us—it was a major hike. I felt it for two days.
The view from the summit was absolutely evidence-of-God breathtaking.
During Little Man’s mini-existential meltdown, my visiting friend had advised, “Most people make up their mind how they are going to feel about things before they even get there. Then they just find reasons to feel the way they think they should.”
I have a hard time imaging that say, a colonoscopy would be any fun even if I made up my mind that it would. I do, however, see a wisdom in what my friend says. So many of life’s mountains, so many of the epic hikes that we undertake, are exactly as we expect them to be: mystically, evidence-of-God beautiful and rewarding, or tiresome and thirsty.
Sissy’s Harry Potter letter helped my sons to make up their minds that the week’s planned adventures were going to be exciting and “awesome,” and they were.
There is a lesson in there somewhere about parenting, and life, and expectations, and all that, but right now I’m still nursing blisters and sore muscles, and flipping through pics and smiling.
Apologies to those of you who were checking in for the regular Tuesday advice piece. Vacation is over—I’ll be back with a good one next week.