SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 86: “Look Dad, Bubbles”

Photo courtesy of Colette Radstone

At day 86, all I can say is, “I’m still in” 365 has been quite the quest, and not only do I pay homage to all who have so graciously contributed in allowing me to photograph them, but to you, my readers.

Many of you have stood by my side from the beginning. From Hawaii to Philadelphia to California, you have been my companions. So as friends talk to friends, I’m speaking to you from my living room.

Tonight’s entry is going to be a little different. Here’s why. It’s 6:25pm at the moment. Pretty early on all accounts, and no reason to be discouraged. But I have to come clean, I am a touch fatigued.

For 85 days I’ve put in at least four hours a day to 365, sometimes a bit more; that on top of my regular work and family schedule is a pretty aggressive commitment. One that I am happy to do, with no regrets, the rewards are enormous.

Planning on a family evening, I started looking for my friend early today, 2:00pm to be exact, thinking I’d get a head start, and be able to write my entry before our traditional Christmas tree decorating festivities.

To my dismay, I search for three hours, by car and by foot, to find 365 friend – day 86, and, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why all are rejecting my invitations: 15 people to be exact. The conversations are pleasant, but still, no takers.

I need to let you know, I’ve got a great family, without whom there would be no way I could complete the project. Even at the moment of this writing, my nine-year-old daughter is documenting me with photos.

So here is the deal, for almost three months, my family has sacrificed not seeing me at the dinner table. It’s the first calm Saturday we have had in some time, and I want to spend a little pre-holiday time at home. But here is what we’ll do: A quick photo safari.

Our destination: Candy Cane Lane, a regular holiday route of highly decorated houses. It draws a substantial crowd of drive by traffic. And when things really heat up, many pedestrians. I’m crossing my fingers to find someone there. And when I do, chances are it’s going to be a shorter than usual interview, sort of my gift to me, and to my family.

We’re going to hold off on dinner and just go with the flow. See you in a few hours.

7:30pm: We hit Candy Cane Lane, roughly six blocks of exquisite power consumption. Have to love the holiday spirit of this neighborhood. It’s still a bit early in the season, so there are not many people in sight.

As we drive up and down the streets, the way we have done for the past ten years, my daughter enthusiastically announces, “Stop, there is a family over there, behind to bubbles.”

Sure enough, not 20 feet to the right of us we spot, high in the trees, Shann, and ground side, his lovely wife Samantha with daughter Charlotte (not pictured).

Funny how things work out. Our plan for the evening, family night. It’s a bit of serendipity that we should run into an incredibly united family. So much so that I feel a bond in parenthood as we briefly chat about family values and our children. How cool is this, It turns out to be a a family night after all, family time buried within our 365 experience. The best of all worlds. And you know what, I’m glad that my kid is getting the chance to reach out and meet people.

She is by my side, working with me in expressing the origins of 365. For a nine-year-old, she has it down and I am proud of her for her ability to communicate with new people. She is my rock star and I encourage all of us to mark her example. In a way, she is encouraging us to get our kids out in allowing them to actively meet the communities they live in. What better way to help them build self-esteem and confidence. Thanks kid!

There is an instant kinship that I feel with my new friends as they invite us onto their property.

Past the bubbles we travel, getting a close up look at the lighting assembly in progress. And even though Shann is up to his head in strings of light, he cordially steps away from his progress to take my questions.

We keep it rather brief, with Shann and Samantha each taking one of my two questions. It is a wonderful thing meeting couples that are so united in their perspectives that they can answer as one.

Shann takes the first question.

“What words do you have for the world?”

He gives us all a personal challenge. “Self evaluate yourself often, asking, am I making a positive impact on the world? Whether it be daily, weekly or monthly, just do it. We all make mistakes, that’s human nature, but as we catch them, do the work to correct them. Learn to embrace your fellow man and do correct by the world.”

Samantha’s turn, “What are you wishes for the future?”

Her response, “To see my kids happier than us?”

A huge answer. You see, at first sight I am certain that Shann and Samantha are an extremely happy couple. The smiles written all over their faces and the comfort and unity in which they exhibit is evidence of this. I am inspired by her motherly compassion and evident is her love of family.

She expands, “I want them to follow their dreams, to listen to what is in their hearts, and to be brave enough to not follow what the world tells them to do.”

As Samantha and I are talking, Shann has taken a leave of absence, returning with a front yard dinner for Charlotte. Looks like a kid’s favorite, Mac and Cheese. Being a dad, I know this menu item first hand. It is one of the culinary favorites that is within a father’s food preparing skill set, especially in this era of microwave bliss.

We finish our conversation and as we do, I take a quick self-inventory of the day (credit to Shann for getting me on path). I recall the feelings I experienced just hours before in my fatigued frustration. I link it to what I am feeling now and apply it to Shann’s earlier message. “Learn to embrace you fellow man and do correct by the world.”

365 is happening for a reason. My meeting with this special family this evening, by chance or not? I am uncertain? But one thing is resolute. There are countless people out there who all share one simple perspective. Do good by your fellow man.

Shann, Samantha, Charlotte. Thank you for allowing me into your life this evening. Your lights are beautiful, and your words are sweet. I’m glad I adhered to my daughter’s navigation and followed your bubbles.

BTW: We arrive home after our visit with you. Guess what my girl requests for dinner.

That’s right… Mac and Cheese.