Good Dirt

Dodge Raphael Gates (Age 1)

If you are one of my constant readers then you have most likely become familiar with the term, “good dirt.”  Its one of the many reasons my wife Kate and I moved from New York to Kansas and started a family.  Good dirt.  It is in reference to the fact that when kids shove a handful of Kansas dirt in their mouth (as kids will do) I don’t have to worry about it like I would in a city.  I remember when my oldest son (Max) had his first mouthful of dirt.  I saw it coming a mile away, let it happen, and the reaction was exactly as expected.  That was the last time he ate dirt.  My youngest son (Dodge) is a little more than 1 now.  Easter Sunday he took his first shot at Kansas dirt and had a very different outcome.

As we sat on the back porch of my parent’s house, my kids romped through the yard in search of hidden Easter eggs filled with stickers, toys, and of course…candy.  Max (3) was a very good big brother and made sure to not grab all the eggs to Dodge could find a few as well.  Dodge was much more interested in the pebbles along the walkway.  We pointed out the eggs to him, he’d pick one up, shake it excitedly, then drop it and head back to the path to dig his fingers into the sensory smorgasbord that is a pile of small round pebbles.  That’s kids.  Buy them a cool toy and the box is fascinating!  Build a tree house and the crane is the hit!  Hide Easter eggs full of candy and the rocks on the path are amazing!

20140419_192040It is hard to find good dirt in my parent’s back yard…it is an adult playground that is the reward of a lifetime of labor and hard work.  The wooden patio is not wood but some super dense material that looks and feels like wood but requires zero upkeep.  The pool is chlorinated, the surroundings paved, there is an AstroTurf putting green, and of course…the path:  A swath of light beige paver stones and store-bought pebbles cutting through the yard.  To clarify, I’m not knocking this…it is delightful back there.  I’m just pointing out the setting of this story.  The grass is real, the dirt below it is real, the trees are real, the flowers are real, and so on.  However, the pebbles are not bonafide “good dirt.”

eatdirtWith this setting in mind…the stage is set.  Max is on the putting green rolling golf balls, the adults are on the patio having cocktails, and Dodge is…wait…where is Dodge?  Dodge is sitting on the path scooping up giant handfuls of pebbles and letting them fall back onto the path.  He is very happy.  Then, as any 1-year-old may do, he placed the handful in his mouth.  My first reaction was, “ah yes…good dirt.”  Then I realized my son was hoisting a faux-rock choking hazard to his mouth and shouted out at him, leapt to the path, and removed the rocks from his mouth with my fingers.  I pulled the rocks out of his hand and told him that eating the rocks was “no, no, no.”  He’s 1.  Who knows what he heard or understood and about 5 minutes later he got one round grey rock about the size of a pea into his mouth again…this time when I went fishing for it in his mouth…it was gone.

Its Monday.  The rock has not graced us with its presence yet.  Dodge is fine…but we’re on the lookout for a poo-laden, pea-sized, grey pebble from the rock store that has gone missing from my parent’s back yard path.  They don’t want it back but should arrive any day now.  It looked very smooth and round like the rest of the pebbles.  We shall see.  This weekend I was planning on filling the window wells at my house with pebbles and black river rocks.  Now?  Maybe wait a few more months.  The moral of the story?  I think it may be that “good dirt” is a state of mind.  Its easy to pick out the faux items at my folks house because they’ve designed their yard to be low maintenance.  My yard?  Much of the soil is from the nursery and hardware store, the grass is from seeds I bought, and I have my fair share of cement and window wells.  While there is real “good dirt” to be found just 15 minutes of me in the prairie…my “good dirt” is the safety of knowing how I’ll react when my kids ingest the earth…which is, “Meh…good dirt.”  See you soon small pebble!

Happy Easter 2014

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