Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Friday, January 24, 2014

One Step Closer

The Cub Scout Pinewood Derby is a great place to ponder society. It’s an unusual cross-section of our community. Sometimes the only thing we have in common is a little boy running around the room with high hopes for victory, but on that night it’s all we need to feel a sense of warm camaraderie and friendly competition. There is something so basic and traditional and squeaky-clean-fun about a Pinewood Derby. After all, it’s been going on year in and year out since 1953 and not much about it has changed.

Loads of appreciation should be showered on the leaders, parents and other volunteers who spent the better part of last Saturday wrestling the track together, setting up tables and chairs, manning the weigh-in station, and setting up the scoring system and award ceremony. It’s a rare Saturday that doesn’t find all of us stretched thin and I’m sure there were plenty of other places we could have been. But the Pinewood Derby is just that important to a whole gaggle of little boys and the folks who love them.

This is serious business.

           Another load of appreciation goes to the families who supplied a truly fantastic potluck dinner. Though the table was piled abundantly, there was scarcely a spoonful left over. I watched as kids came back for seconds or thirds and listened as recipes were swapped and new friends bonded over the most amazing poppy seed sandwiches. Honestly we could have been starring in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show.

So many emotions.
The highlight of the evening, of course, is the big race. After a brief delay due to technical difficulties, cool heads found the solution and the squirmy onlookers were rewarded for their patience. Heat after heat knocked out some competitors and moved others on up the leader board. Few things rival the intensity of an 8-year-old’s excitement. The cheers were loud, the high fives prolific, and the anticipation built nicely over an hour or so. When the time came for medals and trophies, there were huge smiles all around.

Okay, I’m not going to lie. There were some tears too. We learned at our very first Pinewood Derby more than a decade ago that the tears are going to flow. We have yet to build a winning car and so we’ve been the ones wiping some of those tears every single year. Including this one.

With three sons spread over 14 years,
we'll be Pinewood Derbying for a long, long time.
However, our little Cub made a solemn observation the next day. “At least I did one place better than last year,” he said. That he did. A friend told me her Scout fist pumped when he came in sixth (of eight) and said the same thing. “I made it one step closer.” Would that we always see even a tiny step forward as a thing to celebrate. And that we maintain all year the bond we feel over little boys, little cars, crock pots, and shiny trophies.

Long live the Derby and all for which it stands.

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