The Parking Garage Picnic

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"The parking garage picnic" by Jake Frost (CatholicMom.com)

By Tomwsulcer [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

My boys, aged 6 and 4, are fascinated with “building.” On walks around the neighborhood, they will stop and stare in rapt wonder at any construction projects we happen upon. Just this morning there was a crew putting in new front porch steps, and they had a cement truck!

The boys were agog at their good fortune and spent fifteen wide-eyed minutes observing proceedings from their seats in our red wagon, soaking in every fascinating detail. As I finally pried them away and rolled on down the block to continue on our way, I told them how Grandpa used to carry hod and was the John Henry of Hod Carriers, legendary for his strength, speed, and endurance. Now Grandpa ranks even above Superman in their estimation (well, he already did anyway, this was but further confirmation).

There is an old pile of bricks behind our garage and the boys spend hours moving those bricks around and “constructing” with them. Their mortar is an old family recipe, composed of equal parts sand, dirt, and water, which they mix in buckets with great gusto and liberally ladle on their bricks with garden spades as they pile them in various configurations representative of house, skyscraper, or parking garage — and they love parking garages.

In our normal errands there are two parking garages we frequently pass, and the boys are entranced with these palatial pavilions, marvels of rebar and concrete. They ask me all kinds of questions about them, and when I told them that I used to park in a parking garage every morning going to work in my law office, I was almost as cool as Grandpa.

So one day, when we passed a parking garage and for the umpteenth time the boys peppered me with questions about all the ways and means of these mammoth marvels of the modern automotive transportation system, I came up with an idea: why not drive right into the heart of the mystery ourselves? I proposed: let’s have a Parking Garage Picnic.

The excitement level went through the roof.

So we picked up lunch and took it into a parking garage. In awe we entered the shadowy confines of the garage, noting the eight foot two inch clearance, and slowly ascended the sloping ramp, one level after another, until we finally emerged again into the sunlight on the uppermost level. There we disembarked and set up camp for our Parking Garage Picnic.

It was awesome.

I mean, this parking garage had it all: cement, a slanting ramp floor, echoey stairwells, elevators, even numbers painted on the walls. Plus we had chicken nuggets! We ate and explored our way around, leaving no nook or cranny unexamined.

And a surprise awaited us that was better than we could have hoped for: looking out from the top level, we had a bird’s-eye view of an actual construction site across the street! With diggers and giant dump trucks!

I’ll tell you, of all our carefully curated and painstakingly planned outings, few have been as successful as that Parking Garage Picnic. Twenty years from now, when these guys are telling stories about “when I was a kid,” I have a feeling that the Parking Garage Picnic will have an exulted place in the pantheon of nostalgia.

Another has already been requested, which we will have. But it was in the 90’s here this week — over 100 one day — so we’ll have to wait until the temperature on the tarmac recedes a bit.

The success of the Parking Garage Picnic also tuned me in to something that will hopefully help to make our summer a good one: the value of listening to our kids. Such an outing was never on my radar, but by picking up the signals from my young builders, I came at last to an awareness of the possibilities inherent in large empty spaces enclosed in concrete. And chicken nuggets. It turned out to be a winning combination!


Copyright 2018 Jake Frost

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About Author

Jake Frost is the author of The Happy Jar (a children’s picture book) and Catholic Dad, (Mostly) Funny Stories of Faith, Family and Fatherhood to Encourage and Inspire. He is a lawyer in hiatus, having temporarily traded depositions for diapers and court rooms for kitchens to care for his pre-school aged children. He comes from a large family in a small town of the Midwest, and lives near the Mississippi River with his wife and kids.

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