On my last day in Oklahoma, we went to the zoo for four exhausting hours. It was perfect weather for it — sunny but breezy — and most of the animals were out and active. The 6-year-old was in balky mode and only wanted to go to the park and play, but the 8-year-old was as calm and settled as I've seen him, and we stood together and watched animals and talked about them, and sometimes made up voices for them. It was a good day.
But the best part was when he demanded we go into an odd little Colonial house on the grounds, which turned out to be a little one-room museum of the zoo's history, with old photographs on the walls and a video continually projected on one of the walls. There were four rows of carpet-covered boxes serving as seating for people to watch the movie, but no one else was in the place, so both kids started running a circuit of the rows. I sat in a corner at the back, and when they finished the full circuit and got to me, I high-fived them. They enjoyed it enough that they did the whole run again, for the high-fives.
And then it instantly, easily became a game. The 8-year-old ran half the circuit and then came straight to me and told me he'd taken a shortcut, so I gave him a high two-and-a-half. They ran the circuit twice without stopping and got a double-handed high 10. And we did this over and over, with me coming up with something new every time — three high ones, "antler high five" with my hands coming out of the side of my head, "unicorn high five" with one hand extended from the middle of my forehead, and on and on. It was easy and simple and they loved it. I'm not sure anything in the world is as gratifying as making someone else immensely happy by doing something creative and extremely simple.
Thoughout this whole trip — and really, throughout most trips to Oklahoma since the kids were born — I've been wondering how they'll remember me when they're grown up, which moments will stick with them. Most won't; I'm not a big part of their lives. But when I think of my own aunts and uncles, I have a patchwork of memories of specific scattered moments that add up into portraits of my relationships with them, and every time I interact with the kids, I think "Will this be one of those memories?" If anything sticks, I hope the high-five game does. It certainly stuck with me. When we got back to the truck at the end of the day, I complimented the 8-year-old on making the whole trip without griping or whining, and to celebrate, we did a 5-4-3-2-1-explosion high five. And when he and his mom saw me off at the airport Tuesday morning, I offered him "an upside-down high five for luck until I see you again," and his face just lit up. I can live with none of this staying with him; no one can control what other people remember about them. But I hope the look on the kids' faces as we were playing that game is still with me in the old folks' home, when I can't remember what I had for breakfast, but can't forget the good ol' days.
I'm-a feelin': pleased