Dear Natan and Ilan,
The two of you have inherited your father’s affinity for the out of doors, a fact that’s apparent even though you’ve spent your lives, thus far, living in the urban confines of Brooklyn and, now, in an apartment in a Philadelphia suburb. On the weekends, when there’s time to do what you want, you want to play soccer in the field behind our building, go fishing, and per our most recent discovery, ask to drive to a nearby park where you can walk barefoot through a gently flowing creek.
Likewise, I spent my childhood exploring miles of creeks in my neighborhood, riding my bike for hours on end with my BMX buddies to pass the summers. And during the Midwest winters that turned cold and snowy in the 1970s and 80s, I rode the same bike on magically hushed, snow covered sidewalks, and sledded down a ridiculously steep hill that ended in a five foot drop. Sometimes I’d stop in time, sometimes not.
A mindless daredevil I was? Maybe. But the memories are fond, and they’d never have happened in the absence of snow. Had the snow not come or stuck around, winters would have been grey, likely not so cold, and surely not so fun. I imagine months of brown grass and mud.
And what if summers had been too hot, as they are increasingly becoming? (Here in Philadelphia the prediction is for dozens of 90 degree plus days each summer by the time you guys are having your own kids.) As a thrill seeking kid I’d still have wanted to spend my weekend days on a wide open BMX track under a bright sun. But, maybe not, if it really got too hot. Less kids would have showed up had the sun been too scorching. The racing would have been less competitive, not so compelling. Maybe those memories of wins, losses, and heavy crashes would never have been made. Sometimes my knees ache from all the abuse I put them through as a kid.
Still, I’m glad those aches and memories are there. Happy I lived in a world that let them develop. And, I hope that as you get older, you’ll have the same opportunities to do your own crazy stuff that depends on snow and summers, score lots of goals in Sunday afternoon soccer games, or maybe just enjoy walks through forests that are healthy and never ending.
I think you might be able to squeak by, enjoy a world similar to the one I experienced. But I’m less certain that your kids, or your kids’ kids will get to enjoy the same. I fear those too hot summers, too warm winters, and the spread of dying forests like those that we see when driving westward along I-76 from Philadelphia.
At home, over dinner and while watching Wild Kratz, you mention the importance of protecting the Earth. You think about this much more than I ever did as a kid, and that’s a positive sign. It occurs to you to turn off a light to save energy, and you tell me you’d rather save a trip to the store if we can, to prevent one more drive in the car. I never thought like this. But, I’m happy that you do. It seems funny to me, as a father who remembers the last of the NASA moon landings, that your eyes are firmly fixed on Earth rather than the heavens. I want you to dream of the stars, but I am in awe of your early respect for the absolute truth that Earth is our home, there is no other, as you so wisely say, and it needs our attention now.