Pinewood Derby: Don’t Touch Mama Beth!

At times, Antonio has every right to place sticky’s with “Don’t Touch Mom!” around the house. He has long known that I can be an impediment to his goals.

The reason THIS sticky ended up on THIS cardboard box is because Antonio found me laying prone on the floor taking a photo of his pinewood derby car. Pack 384 is having their Pinewood Derby race on February 26 at Woodlake Lutheran Church in Richfield.

Antonio was steaming. “I don’t want the WHEELS to touch the floor!” Picking up his car, he said sternly, “Don’t touch it, Mom Beth!”

“Antonio, really, I just gently set it down. I didn’t bump the wheels at all.”

He was not dissuaded. The next time I looked at the car it had a sticky note.

I wasn’t trying to sneak a picture of his car. Heck, I could have just waited until he wasn’t home if I thought it was going to be an ISSUE. I wasn’t thinking of THOSE WHEELS and anyone worth their pinewood moxie knows that you don’t mess with the wheels.

Antonio made his first pinewood derby car when he was seven years old. Even though I was a den leader the most I could do for him was take him to a PWD racing workshop and have him use their tools to make his car. I am totally inept about making things but I am good at asking for help. So that is why his Uncle Marty and Crystel came along: for support and to make a car for themselves.

Artistically, I’m a wash, too. So, it helps that this is supposed to be the Cub Scout’s project because I will not be painting any car. It is out of the question.

Pinewood derby 014When you are seven years old, Chuck E. Cheese is a pretty big deal. Antonio had just been to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and thought it would be pretty cool to glue extra Chuck E. Cheese tickets onto his car. I was doubtful. I squinted at him. I screwed up my face. But, I didn’t say a word. Then he found a puke green color and painted his car.

I didn’t have any hopes for that car. I tried to tell him that not everyone wins. As winners kept being announced, I told him that it was okay, maybe, next year. He ended up placing fifth which meant that he was able to go to the Metro Lakes District competition with his Chuck E. Cheese car. Uncle Marty, Crystel, and Antonio would have more bonding time.

Pinewood derby trophy 003After the race they came home with Antonio carrying a trophy bigger than I have ever won in my life. He had placed FIRST at the District. “How did that happen?” I asked Marty. “I don’t know,” he said. “It just happened.”

His next race would be the Northern Star Council race held at the Mall of Amercia. It was weeks away and I put the date on the calendar. The Sunday of the meet I looked up where to find the competition at the Mall of America. I couldn’t find it listed. Slowly, scanning websites, I started to comprehend that we had missed the event. The race had been the day before on Saturday.

Antonio has raced a pinewood derby car the last three years and has placed and won a trophy each time.

Cub Scout PineWood derby 025Last year Antonio, Marty, and Crystel all placed with Crystel winning fastest sibling. This has become a family event with Mama Beth continuing to thwart Antonio’s chances at the big win.

In 2012, having placed 2nd at the pack level, Antonio again was competing at Metro Lakes District. Shortly before the match, I told Antonio, that I noticed one of his wheels wasn’t touching the floor and we bent it down until it did.

Four wheels on the ground make a car go faster, right?

Immediately before we were to hand the car in for the race I learned from another den leader that only three wheels were supposed to be touching. Antonio and I hurridly made adjustments. But I was left to wonder, How fast would that car have gone if I hadn’t touched it? It ended up being tenth overall. Oh, Uncle Marty, where were you?

Pinewood derby 015This year I want to tell Antonio that maybe they won’t let him keep Red and King Pig as drivers in his car, and that the drag might slow his car down. But really, what do I know?

I feel fortunate that even though I can’t make things, can’t paint, and don’t understand anything about wheels, and that we missed the biggest race of all at the Mall of America when he was seven, 003I still got top billing on the bottom of his Chuck E. Cheese winning pinewood derby car.


High School Reunion: Go or No? and Something Amazing But Good

When the notice of my 40th high school reunion arrived, my immediate reaction was, “This can’t possibly be right. I’m not THAT old.” But a little quick math (2012 – 1972 = 40 ?!?) told me it was true.

yeah, I’m afraid I really did have octagonal glasses . . .

And quick on the heels of that thought was, “Even if am that old, I have no wish to live in the past.”

But then I had a voicemail from the former class president—a really nice guy—somebody I’d always gotten along with. We weren’t that close, but I sensed we both yearned for something more out of life. I don’t know what he hoped for—but we recognized that in each other.

So that made me curious. As I recall, he was a runner and a good writer. What had he done with his life? That led to wondering about a few other people, and the Go/No Go debate was on.

I can think of a million reasons NOT to go. Here are four—

1. The reunion is in Ohio. I live in Minnesota.

2. I haven’t thought about high school or most of those people in years—why start now?

3. I have no desire to network with the insurance sales people or financial advisors in the group.

4. I don’t want to be squashed back into the shy insecure persona I had years ago just so I fit somebody’s memory of me.

And yet.

1. When I went to my 20th reunion, it was fun.

2. People seemed to remember my essential self—my best qualities—not how dorky I was.

3. They were kind. And genuinely pleased to see me . . . despite the prank I played with my profile in the memory book (The idea of bragging was distasteful to me, so I decided to be as outrageous as possible. I claimed to have won the Nobel Peace prize, to have married a rocket scientist, and to be raising two child prodigies. I assumed that description was so over-the-top that everyone would know I was joking. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, so then I felt bad for mocking the profiles).

4. Certainly, after 40 years, we’ve all gotten over high school. No one cares any more about who was cool and who wasn’t. Now we’re all old (and therefore uncool).

Gawd, I sure hope we no longer have to prove anything to each other. Many of us wanted to be somebody, do something, make a mark. Did we? I don’t know, but I hope my classmates are at peace with whatever success (or lack of) they have.

Maybe I prefer to imagine that members of the class of 1972 at Central Catholic High School are content with their lives. I’m not sure I want to find out if some of them are still insecure and wearing their accomplishments like merit badges . . . .

After forty years, my classmates feel as I do: fond of some genuinely nice people I used to know.

What do you think—Should I go?  Or not?  Let me know!

If your 40th reunion is looming out there in the future, will you go?

Amazing But Good

Today, the Star Tribune reported, “Minnesota’s biggest Boy Scout group said that gays and lesbians remain welcome in its troops.” I applaud the Northern Star Council, which represents 75,000 Boy Scouts in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, for their inclusive stance—a position that bucks the national Boy Scouts of America policy banning openly homosexual people from participating in the Boy Scouts. See my June 21st blog, “A Parental Dilemma” for more on this topic.