2006.05.10 Eyeful of Silly Putty

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

MY SON, Ben, wasn’t too thrilled with his first day in school back in 1988. He came home from kindergarten and said it was boring. He complained that recess lasted only two minutes. He said the milk tasted like it came from a dead cow.

Things soon improved. He learned there was more to school than recess and it was only a couple of years later that he was gluing plastic ants inside his lunch box and generally enjoying himself. By then, the school routine was ingrained as a part of everyday life. He no longer wanted to bribe the recess aides with a dollar in order to stay out longer on the playground.

A few years have gone by since then—so many years that Saturday night marked the end of his formal education. It was finally time to watch him receive his fake diploma at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University.

When Ben’s landscape architecture class gathered for commencement, they were part of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources—a diverse group covering scholars in environmental economics, construction management, packaging, fisheries and wildlife, dietetics, animal science and more.

Even though there were about 550 diplomas to hand out, each student had a moment of glory when their image appeared on the big overhead screen—usually reserved for basketball players—as they shook hands with the dean and walked on across the Breslin floor.

BEN’S INFORMAL education, like everyone’s, began at home when he was a baby. I blundered through like any first-time dad. I taught him to bark long before I taught him to talk. He used to sit in his highchair in the apartment above the Observer and bark when he heard bluejays.

Within a couple of years, he had a sister to help him in his education. Much of his learning was self-taught. Here’s an exchange from 1986:

Ben: “You wanna see Rosanna? I’m putting it on her eyes, Dad.”

Me: “What are you putting on her eyes?”

Ben: “Silly Putty. She loves it.”

At six weeks of age, she probably didn’t have much say in that decision, but if she wasn’t crying, I guess she loved it. And he loved her: “I like to touch her lips. They’re soft like worms.”

Much of his education was a matter of his parents providing fractured answers to the dozens of questions such as these: Do bees have lungs? Where do deer go when they get sick? How do tongues get wet?

There was an entire class of unanswerable questions to which my response finally boiled down to a blanket reply: “It’s because of the molecular structure of the thing.”

Much of his education came through experimentation, such as when he poured water inside the vacuum cleaner (“I thought there might be fishes inside”) or when he experimented in the arts (“I drew an apple on the mirror. With spit.”)

He stumbled for a while in learning to deal with people. There was a day when he put on all of his winter layers to go outside and play in the snow, but when he learned that neither of his parents would join him, he decided to stay inside. Why? “Somebody might say ‘Hi’ to me.”

In other ways he was quick to learn interpersonal relationships, like when he poured us both a glass of “sugar juice” and then accidentally kicked mine over. His response was, “It’s a good thing that was yours.”

He learned the ways of the sports world first by playing volleyballoon in the confines of the apartment, but he switched to baseball when he had his own yard. He was smacking what he called “home-grounders” and worried that if he hit the ball too hard, it would get stuck in the air.

He later received a Mickey Mouse-endorsed golf club and went to work on a new sport. He would count his strokes, “eight, nine, twenty-ten.” Par was somewhere around forty-teen.

I CAN’T go on with this anymore. I’m running out of space, but I’m also running out of emotional stability. It doesn’t seem right that it should hurt so much to think back on good times. It’s been a wonderful 23 years, Ben, and now you’re about to leave us, heading off for your first job 1,375 miles away.

“Isn’t that an i-good-dea?” he used to ask.

I suppose it is. That’s the way life works. But aren’t you worried that someone might come up and say “Hi”?

  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.grieders
    ONE-TWO PUNCH—Morenci’s Griffin Grieder saved his best for last, running his fastest time ever in the 110-meter high hurdles at the state finals Saturday in Grand Rapids to finish first in the state in Div. IV. His brother Luke, a junior (right), claimed the state runner-up spot. Bulldog junior Bailee Dominique placed seventh in the 100-meter dash.
  • Front.sidewalk
    MORENCI senior class president Mikayla Price leads the way Sunday afternoon from the Church of the Nazarene to the United Methodist Church for the baccalaureate ceremony. Later in the day, 39 members of the senior class received diplomas in the high school gymnasium.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017