My kids have a new hero in my friend, John (Pete) Cokefair; however, the man possesses no superpowers to speak of. He wears not a flowing, red cape or a clever mask to obscure his true identity. Nor is he capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound or even turning the slightest shade of green whilst morphing into a rage-driven, beast-of-a-thing with meaty thighs and arms of steel. And (I am overjoyed to report) he would never dream of donning square-ish pants or living anywhere near a pineapple under the sea.
And yet, in my children’s eyes, he is revered above all else. Revered for having created a symphony of earthen matter, for having masterminded a labyrinth worthy of critical acclaim, for having erected a shrine to one of their most beloved possessions on God’s green earth—rocks. Mountains of rocks. More rocks than I have ever seen amassed in one place by one set of hands in one lifetime. Forget the Man of Steel. Pete’s the Man of Stone. The Keeper of Boulderish Things.
A rock star.
Since the dawn of time my wily rock-picker-uppers have worshiped and glorified all-that-is-igneous-or-sedimentary in nature, hunting and gathering everything from wee grains of sandstone in the Deep South to massive hunks of granite in the Adirondacks. No matter where our travels have taken us, stony mementos have followed—into our pockets, into our cars, into our lives, ad nauseam. Eternally, it seems, we’ve griped about the gravel. We’ve sighed over the shale. We’ve protested the pea-sized pebbles lurking about. Our rock-strewn garage floor is no exception.
Craggy, old fossils and sleek-looking skippers alike adorn the tops of dressers and fill boxes and buckets galore, pervading the nooks and crannies of our insanely cluttered existence. Each of those ageless treasures apparently possessed a certain charm and appeal, even before being plucked so abruptly from its hollow in the dirt. Each begged to be adopted. Each extolled its many virtues, functionality and versatility chief among them (i.e. “I’m quiet and I’d make a great paperweight!”). Like fools, my husband and I fed the obsession, allowing said prized pearls to be hauled home—to be loved and nurtured as part of the family—to forever festoon my windowsills—to live beneath my every footfall. Grok!
Even the newest addition (a sandstone-hued Jeep) was scrutinized unmercifully for its rock-storing capabilities. Ned at Alexander Nissan made doubly sure the vehicle of my dreams passed muster, having personally verified its wealth of perfectly-sized and ruggedly-constructed cubbyholes—ideal for the mounds of stones sure to be squirreled away there for many moons to come. Needless to say, my charges are a tad bit passionate (read: downright fanatical) about their darling little collections.
So when given the opportunity to experience something as magnificent as Pete’s Serenity Garden (to which his stony creation is affectionately referred), my rock-loving crew jumped at the chance—practically drooling over the notion of treading upon what they believed to be hallowed ground. I assured them it would be like witnessing something sacred. Something extraordinary. Something profoundly enigmatic. In a word, it would rock their world. To be sure, they weren’t disappointed.
“Mom! Mr. Cokefair has enough rocks to make a real castle or something!”
“Yeah, and they probably weigh as much as 50 elephants! Or maybe a whole Argentinosaurus dinosaur!”
For the record, their estimates are close if not dead-on. And as expected, after devouring such a wondrous sight and running amuck along the walls and winding paths of stone, they begged for a souvenir to remind them of the grand event. “It’s a memory, Mom. Everywhere we go, we have to take something to help us remember.”
Thankfully, Pete obliged, doling out a couple of freshly washed sandstone orbs for the road. It was better than the alternative—which was tolerating the hideous clump of dog fur one of my dandies had smuggled into the car, ostensibly harvested from Daisy or Teddy, the golden retrievers with whom we had shared the day. “At least the rocks won’t make me sneeze,” I rationalized. Naturally, Pete autographed each precious keepsake, humoring the troops for my sake and salvation.
It was a fitting end to a phenomenal day, I suppose—and what any true hero, friend (or rock star) would do.
Planet Mom: It’s where I live.
Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel