Yesterday, to my complete surprise, I learned that I am a cool dude. In fact, I am gnarly and totally awesome!
When you have just become a nonagenarian, when you can remember dancing the Charleston at your high school graduation, these brand-new characteristics laid on you by a rowdy bunch of fifth-graders is certain to shake your ego into an unaccustomed state of wakefulness.
Right away I checked myself in a full-length mirror, searching for any obvious clue that this bunch of preteens was correct in its assessment. I pulled in my waistline. That didn't help a great deal. My somewhat droopy shoulders responded only slightly to my effort to square them. Brushing some wayward hairs across my bald pate merely emphasized the wingspan of my ears. Yet I have it in writing, with signatures to prove its authenticity: I'm "da man."
It happened this way: About three years ago, I was asked by a harried, overburdened, and underpaid teacher at a nearby school to spend an hour or so with her third-graders. Since I am a bird watcher of some local fame, having identified my first yellow breasted chat at age 11 (me - not the chat), it was presumed, of course, that I would talk about birds.
My hobbies (and credentials) include the carving of realistic birds from accommodating basswood. "Please bring some examples," I was advised.
At the appointed hour, after finding the assigned classroom and arranging my props, the rest was easy. Piece of cake. (When I was their age we used the term "like falling off a log.") After 45 minutes of talking about our mutual feathered friends, the bell rang and I left that school room surrounded by my third-grade buddies, more than 40 of them.
A year later, I did a repeat performance - same school, same teachers, same beautiful and handsome students, but now 12 months older and wiser.
They proudly reported on new backyard bird feeders. They recalled cardinals, titmice, chickadees, and blue jays. They reported the arrival and departure of hummingbirds and the color of goldfinches.
This week's show was even better. I began to remember names - Jacquie, Keely, Kim, Leslie, Brennan, and so on. Their names were like poetry, like bits of sunshine on autumn leaves.
These were my old friends now. Well not really old, but taller than I remembered from three years earlier. There were other changes in style of hair and dress, in their level of confidence, in their awareness of why I had come again to tell of my love of birds.
They shared a great birthday cake with me - a cake that carried the number 91, but settled for only one candle.
And when these "old friends" and I parted company, I left with a stack of birthday cards, every one a handmade masterpiece signed by the artist - Ian, Bryan, Patrick, Kathlynd, John, and the rest. Several stated that I was totally awesome!
Well, so are these cool friends of mine!