Herding Goofballs: Spot On
Everyone should have one.
Not two. Not three. Certainly, not zero.
It’s a place - hallowed ground that has a mysterious aura to it. It’s a spot, but not just any spot, our spot. The spot for my kids and I to understand that there is no other place like it on Earth - and while it belongs to nature, is sort of leased to us for special moments.
Allow me to explain.
When my oldest son was finally coordinated enough to walk and jog along without me having to bubble wrap his entire body - or cushion the entire floor - we took a stroll not too far from our home. We happened upon this particular walkway that was draped in trees and close enough to watch some cars fly past on the highway.
The path was cement, but in the three seasons not named “winter” the greenery overgrows much of the vantage points from the road itself - leaving a small window of sight to see passing cars and perhaps a train chugging by in the distance on occasion. It is shrouded in quiet, yet so close to the frenzy of a big city. And in the winter, the skinny branches open up a much larger picture.
In the snow, you can pretty much see the drivers white-knuckling through a Nor’easter.
The first couple minutes we were there were peaceful and exciting (whether you are 3 years old or 85, watching a shiny, red muscle car open it up and go fast draws the same exact reaction). The third minute brought a big rig that decided to let loose an air horn blast that probably shattered windshields on the same highway.
Cooper jumped about five feet into the air and into my arms. As his head was behind mine, momentarily, I thought he had started crying. I started cursing whatever commercial truck that was that I would never buy their products again.
Never again, furniture company! Take your obnoxious ottomans and find another road to terrorize!
As I slowly retracted my son from my shoulder, I realized he was not actually crying - he was laughing. Sure, the horn scared him (which is why he turned into Michael Jordan at that moment), but he was thrilled at the excitement.
I take it back, furniture company! In fact, I’ll take two of your finest sofas as repentance for my earlier dad rage.
Cooper decided to run back and forth on this narrow walkway to celebrate. Shortly thereafter, we declared this small speck of land our official spot.
Years later, we still return to our the spot often. We talk. We goof. We play. We…OK, it’s about an 80-20 goof-to-anything-else ratio.
But it’s our the spot. And we choose goofiness.
Maybe you are interested in forging memories in your own the spot? To ensure you find your “the spot”, however, I have crafted the following guidelines to differentiate between “our spot” and “wow, this is a highly likeable plot of land.”
Rule 1: It cannot be visible from your house.
Sure, I can see the allure of a well-placed stream that runs through the backyard, but if you can see it from the front window, what you have is a nice homestead oasis.
Enjoy, but you are forbidden by law to call it the spot (I am still filing the bill. You know how long these things take to become legal, amiright??).
Rule 2: It must be perceived as untouched by humans… sort of.
Sure, the elderly lady finishing her morning walk may happen by and the graffiti-laden steps suggest this purple spray paint probably doesn’t occur naturally, but for 98% of each visit, if you are by yourself, you have a perfectly good the spot.
This also goes for social media. You may post one photo that does not divulge its exact location, but reaffirms the rumors to your friends who may have heard a few too many the spot stories from you and are starting to doubt its existence.
Rule 3: There must be mutual affection for said spot.
Maybe you have grown fond of a particular rock that overlooks a butterfly field and feel like you have hit “the spot Yahtzee.” Hold your dice shaker, Player One. If after a couple of trips to this spot your child has grown bored of this piece of majestic land and starts to get anxious you may have buried treasure at this location - and that’s why you keep coming back - it’s a no-go.
The same applies to you, kids. If mom or dad are checking their watch every couple minutes, you are close, but no cigar.
Rule 4: No buried treasure.
Maybe after reading Rule 3 you got a great idea for an alternative site to do your banking. Absolutely no burying of treasure or creating another reason for visiting other than each other’s company.
No exceptions, even for pirates.
Rule 5: Only invite those who are worthy.
A select few know of our the spot. My son Milo is now a card-carrying the spot member. A handful of other close family members and friends have been able to gaze on its beauty.
Keep it to your close circle of mutual friends. Do not sully the spot with, you know, other people.
There was a temptation for me with this column to submit some sort of photo of this spot to illustrate where we go. But that’s for you to imagine. That’s for you to discern on your own terms. (In other words, get your own spot!)
There is something special to be said about shared adventure with your kids and having a place that you can come to when life gets overbearing. For me, it’s also a great way to mark time and remember to appreciate how fast life is sprinting - well beyond that day my son jumped into my shoulder for comfort and amazement.
I hope you find your the spot, my readers. I hope you get to forge those memories in a place that seem just yours for a few fleeting moments.
I’ll be visiting mine again soon. And if I ever spot that truck again, just maybe I’ll order a futon or two to start furnishing it.
Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.