What I Did on My Son’s Summer


Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing. Albert Schweitzer When I was a young boy, I keenly missed doing things with my father. He was always just too busy, too unavailable. As young as I was, I vowed I would never be like my father when I grew up. As a grown-up, I found myself a single father to my son Kelly. As a working freelance writer, the only thing scarcer for me than money was time – time to play with Kelly. But remembering my childhood promise, I made the time. In the summer of 1984, when Kelly was 10, we decided to enter the Auburn Funk Soapbox Derby, held in Auburn, California, just northeast of Sacramento, where we lived. It’s a historic gold-rush town, with steep and scenic streets, and the derby attracted dozens of entries and thousands of spectators. The unique requirement of this race is that your soapbox racer be as “funky” or outlandish as possible. Almost anything goes. That stumped me, but Kelly decided he wanted a go-cart with an enormous Groucho Marx nose and glasses on the front. Operating on a tight budget, we began the search for materials, and in the next few days Kelly and I scavenged for anything that might work, including a piece of plywood that we found along the highway, old newspapers for papier- mâché, chicken wire, garbage bags and much more. With enthusiasm, my son molded the nose from chicken wire. I covered the wire shape with dozens of wet strips of newspaper, creating a papier-mâché skin.
Tom Durkin multimedia writer-editor-photographer
Tom Durkin
multimedia writer-editor-photographer