Thursday, September 11, 2008


Yesterday Joseph, my thirteen year old, came to me grieving the loss of his cheap walkie-talkies from some birthday in the distant past and wishing he had another.

As I commiserated with him I remembered the set sitting on my dresser gathering dust.

About two years ago, we were going through a string of canine escapes--largely due to a faulty fence and boys who were careless with the front door. Molly, the Pointer, and Scrappy the Jack Russel-mix, were consummate escape artists. If they weren't digging under fences or learning to open gates, they were watching for an opening at the door. A combination of obedience training, body blocking, the occasional use of an e-collar, and everyone learning to think preventively has all but stopped this behavior. But during that window in time we spent a lot of hours in the car and on foot in search of them.

This meant many hikes through miles of woods and down deserted country roads. It put someone, often my boys, out of touch for often as long two hours at a time and it worried me no end, especially during hunting season.

So I purchased a good set of walkie-talkies--the kind that advertise miles and miles of coverage. Any time one of the boys left our road for any reason, they took along a walkie-talkie. This served to save my sanity and aided in finding many a wayward dog. Communication was hardly perfect, but it gave me the assurance that if they had a big problem, they could at least yell their location into the mike.

As we've solved the dog problem, they've fallen into disuse. So I told Joseph, "I'll let you use mine, as long as you understand that you must be careful with them and return them to their base every time you're done."

Sometimes I get be the embodiment of Christmas morning. This was one of those moments. Joe and Sam were thrilled. The use of Mom's good walkie-talkies was a really big deal.

This morning, during their free time, he and Sam played outside with them, dashing around the yard and up and down the road, clicking secret codes, sounding alarms, calling out to one another and laughing. They were on a mission to save the world from dark forces and in order to do so they had to be in imperfect contact. When they came in for school, they assured me that they'd accomplished their mission and returned the walkie-talkies to their bases.

Even Jeremiah, my too-cool eighteen year old, snatched up one this afternoon and made sixteen year old Daniel go outside with him to play with them. There was some mad dash through the woods that involved evading the pummeling of the other. I was amazed. They actually spent time together for twenty minutes without insulting one another. The last time that happened, they were younger than Joe and Sam are now.

Just before I went to prepare for dinner, I glanced out the back door to find nine year old Sam standing side-by-side with Daniel on the railing of the deck, each with a walkie-talkie to his ear, in serious conversation. I don't know what the topic was, but it held them there in mid-air for a full five minutes.

The magic of that staticky, stubby-antennaed little orange box seemed to have captured all of them, lending an unusual quality to their relationships, unlike anything I've ever seen. Bonding was taking place and I didn't understand why.

So I decided to put some thought into it and I think I know. FBI agents talking into their lapels, military commandos shouting into radios, Cops talking on CB radios and into walkie talkies. Even hunters carry them. It's the same glorified game being played out over and over. Guys have a primal need to communicate with other guys in the most challenging way possible, preferably while attempting to commit violence upon someone else. It's as though communication is enhanced by distance, difficulty, and potential for damage.

Further more, it dates back to the days of tribal drums and smoke signals. Squinting into the horizon, men of the villages talked to each other, "Is that an S?" "I don't know. Send him back a question mark." "One thump for war. Two for peace. How many was that?" "I think it was one, I'm not sure. Lets get our tomahawks out just in case."

What's more, they never outgrow it. Know how I know?

Someone quite tall and heavy footed just dashed through my office with a walkie talkie in his hand, muttering coordinates into the microphone. Outside in the dark woods, someone else let out a war whoop. I looked up at the open window just in time to see my 47 year old husband's retreating back.

"Dear, where are you going?" I called after him.

He shouted something back about nuns and orphans and burning school buses and commandos and bad guys and how he and his men had to go save the free world.

I rest my case.


Pencil Writer said...

What a great post! How I love to see the interactions of those we love--in real communication (even though it might be over imagined dangers/missions)! Great writing to share your moments with us.

Big Plain V said...

Guys have a primal need to communicate with other guys in the most challenging way possible, preferably while attempting to commit violence upon someone else

Hysterical, Mary. You are hysterical.

I think you might be partially right, though. Have you or your husband ever read the book 'Wild at Heart'?

God created us men-folk with an aching desire to be heroic. Walkie-talkies happen to be very useful towards that end.

Scotty said...

Love it.


Debby said...

I loved the mental pictures that went along with this story. This one was a real smile-maker. Way to go, mother Christmas...

Julie Carter said...

Not so much the committing violence part, but lordy how I know about the wanting to talk to people using the most difficult possible ways. Steve is a ham and he LOOOOVES to talk to people in foreign countries in Morse code. It's like guys were sitting around thinking "This is too easy, let's make it more difficult!"

But whatever keeps them out of trouble is fine by me. :D

Pink Ink said...

We got walkie-talkies for my brother-in-law one Christmas. He looked like a little boy and couldn't wait to try out his new toy :-).

-Jewel, a fellow writer

Mary Paddock said...

PW-Thanks. Imagination is a prized quality in this house. Sometimes we all get a little carried away.

Ray--Thanks. And I don't think we have, though the title rings a bell. I'll have to look it up. I am grateful for that heroic quality in my guys.



Julie--My stepfather was a major ham radio operator in the years before he discovered computers. We used to have post cards all over the wall above his desk.

Welcome Pink Ink! I read your blog today and will at it to my list of blogs to read when I get a minute.