Prior to St. Patrick’s Day last year, my nine-year-old daughter, Jessie, came home from school and asked to have a picnic. Jessie loves picnics.
We tossed two blankets in the yard and placed two lawn chairs on top of them. I relaxed in one of the chairs while Jessie prepared our picnic. She likes to be in charge of the menu and entertainment. About ten minutes later, Jessie called for assistance. She carried the basket of snacks and a few sheets of paper. I grabbed the crayons and markers. Of course, Sadie, our dog, joined us; it wouldn’t be a picnic without Sadie. A few seconds later, Jessie’s feet were free of socks. We munched on pretzels and raisins and shared a can of Orange Crush soda a friend gave her for Valentine’s Day.
My future third-grade teacher (her current career aspiration) then distributed my first assignment, a St. Patrick’s Day maze. She had downloaded the maze from a teaching website and printed copies for each of us. We raced to see whose leprechaun would reach the pot of gold first. Jessie won.
My second assignment involved a coloring sheet that pictured a pot of gold. I like to color; however, my aspiring teacher gave me the following writing prompt, “If I saw a leprechaun, I would … .” Instead of coloring the pot of gold, Jessie asked me to write my answer inside the pot. My writer friends know I’m not a big fan of writing on demand. I was ready to object, but noticed Jessie had already started to write on her copy, so I hastily began my assignment.
Jessie finished well ahead of me. She wrote, “If I saw a leprechaun I would ask him nicely to give 1,000 million dollars to help find a cure for cancer.”
Jessie’s answer clearly beat mine, but for writing on demand, I did okay. “If I saw a leprechaun, I would say, ‘Hi, my name is Patrick. No, St. Patrick’s Day was not named after me, though I’m a kind and loving man. I already found my pot of gold. I have a beautiful wife, daughter, and dog. I’m a blessed man.’”
Jessie then handed me my third assignment, a coloring sheet with the words “HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY” surrounded by green clovers. Finally, my chance to color. I searched for a green crayon.
Teacher Jessie had a different lesson plan. She gave me the writing prompt, “If I found a pot of gold, I would spend it on,” with my answer to be written on the back of the paper. I wanted to raise my hand and ask for a bathroom pass, but I knew my request would be denied. Like before, Jessie finished well before me. She chewed on a pretzel stick and waited patiently.
Jessie’s been campaigning for another dog, so her answer didn’t surprise me. “If I found a pot of gold I would spend it on one more dog. It would be a Havanese. I would spend the rest on books.”
I’ve been campaigning for a man cave, a quiet area to focus on my writing. I wrote, “If I found a pot of gold, I would spend it on building a man cave. It would be a luxurious man cave with all the amenities a famous writer would have. I’d have state-of-the-art office equipment. I would install a bell on my desk. I would ring it to have my assistant bring me a snack or whatever else I need. For now, I’m happy with my man chair.”
As I reflect on our St. Patrick’s themed-picnic, these thoughts stand out. Jessie will make an outstanding teacher. Her best chance for a Havanese is to find a pot of gold; they’re expensive little puppies. I’m getting better at writing on demand, though I still don’t enjoy it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Jessie found a leprechaun who could fund research to cure cancer?
Finally, I need to accept that my luxury man cave, with assistant, is not likely to happen. But hey, with the extra writing practice, maybe I’ll become a famous author and can upgrade to a man sofa.
Until next month, remember to cherish the moments.
Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting, and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad, and writer. Follow Patrick at www.facebook.com/patricklhempfing and on Twitter @PatrickHempfing.