COMMENTARY on "Leaning on a Truck"

(really called "Doing Two Things at Once")


You just reminded me that what's really important is relationships. It's what life is all about really. My kids are at home so they can sit for hours watching the ants, having time to think their own thoughts and find out who they are. How much do I miss when I railroad my kids into "learning"? Probably a whole lot!

I remember cooking with my Grandma, side by side in the kitchen. Don't think I came away with a thorough knowledge of fractions but I did grow up absolutely certain that my Grandma loved me and boy that sure got me through a lot!


I like this Sandra, I like the truck.

My husband leans on his truck and talks to our neighbor Harry. Harry's a chaplain at the Montana State Prison and needs a normal guy to talk with sometimes, about normal guy stuff. They talk about why '64 Chevy's are great fishing trucks and why John Deere makes great tractors and how Harry can mow the lawn in fifteen minutes.

Three years ago when we moved into this house I told my friend from Oregon I now had lots of cupboard space and closet space and a place to put everything away. She only comes once a year or so, and she doesn't have kids but she said - you're not clearing all the cool stuff off your table are you? I told her I might even have room enough for two tables.

When I was little my mom kept a tin of buttons on our table. She had lots of kids and so I'm sure she needed the buttons handy, but so many times I remember ladies at our table talking with my mom and sorting around in the buttons.

I just loved your essay. It swirled up a lot of memories for me.

Deb L


The button box on the table sounds just like "it" (whatever "it" is ).

My granny had a button box, in a fruit-cake tin. The kind with Texas pictures on it—a star, a cowboy, the Alamo. I still see those tins sometimes. Even when I was older and went to her house I would ask to play with those. Partly she didn't have much to do. Partly it was fun to see which ones I remembered, and to look at them with more experience. At first, when I was little, I could only tell the big ones from the little ones, and sort by color or number of holes. And there used to be the BIG coat buttons from the 1930s and 40's. As I got older, they got older and more "antique." And as I got older I could tell that some of those buttons were older than my grandmother. Nothing special in there, just the collection of her life, and she hardly ever sewed anything but quilts, and she crocheted. Most of the dresses and aprons she made just tied.

I wish I had thought to put them out and talk about them, in those days, but they were private with me, and she would have told me to get them off the table, probably, anyway.

They talked over quilting, she and the older female relatives. My papaw didn't have a truck. But the men talked walking slowly down to fish, and while fishing, and while walking slowly back.

But I wanted to ask, Deb, whether you'd be willing to let me use what you wrote. I've been thinking of having comments pages for some of my SCA writings, and what you wrote made me think it might be a fun idea for the homeschooling essays too, so that people could choose to read comments on those or not.


Sure you can use it, in whatever way you think would best serve your purpose.

I went hunting for my mom's button box. She still had it, on top of a high dresser, in the same old tin I remember and we pulled it out, and with my old auntie there, Dylan and mom and I sat and looked at buttons.

You can't know how many things came up and how many memories stirred out of my 85 year old auntie and how really wonderful it was to sit with all those buttons.

People do nice things for me all the time, but when you dredged up that particular memory you really gave something back I'd forgotten I had.

Thanks Sandra.

Deb L

These aren't my granny's buttons, they're from my own button tin.

Dear Sandra,

I just read "Leaning on a Truck." I am so grateful for you writing that. So much of life skims on the cusp of association, not direct concept. Playing with interesting objects spawns a whirligig of ideas, but more importantly, it allows for the drawing together of souls, while detracting from the awkwardness that often accompanies closeness and intimacy.

People's souls have been burned in so many ways that the initial phases of conversation are fraught with defenses and social platitudes that serve little to deepen and much to defend the turf of the heart.

The subtleties of play as a comforting distraction to the tenuous desire to be close and reveal our souls—that is something I will carry within me forever, after reading this article. I will get out the double set of parquetry blocks and leave them out. I will set out the odd bits of life that my mother collected, that tempt fingers to reach out and touch the mysterious Pepsi bottle marked "Do Not Imbibe. Water from the Dead Sea."

But above all, I will look at life in a less direct, more inferential way. Each of us can all-to-often be unintentionally intimidating or coercive of certain responses, not only with our kids, but with others—who see us as "adults" and that ties to a whole realm of concepts that that plays into in their lives. By creating opportunities for the mind to lay down its defenses and in childlike innocence engage in play, a myriad of thought-opportunities emerges.

I hide and heal behind art—it frees me to think and to release the hurt I have experienced in life. The elements of art are precisely what you create and engender constantly—free play and opportunity to exchange heart and love, ideas and wonderings, using anything and everything interesting or intriguing in life.

Even my words directly stating these thoughts are a bludgeoning of the subtlty with which you engage in life. I am grateful for what you do, and for how you share, and for how you invisibly yet constantly provide means for many, many others to share. You are the wellspring of a ripple of life and thought across time, providing a realm filled with catalysts for thought, and harmony in families.

much love

(Someone asked in public:)
Just curious what other types of items you've put out.
Magnets, castle blocks, some old Tinkertoys I got at a thrift store. Tangrams and pattern cards.

Tops that have felt-tip-pen tips and they draw the pattern they spin. (Come to think of that, we need some more of those; ours are dried out.)

Bowl of dice.

Any pretty game that hasn't been out for a while. Chinese checkers, though games don't lend themselves to talking as well as construction or pattern-things do, but they'll just play with the marbles and the board, too, making patterns and finding triangles.

Geoboards, though again that might just lead mostly to talking about the geoboards themselves. That's not a bad thing!

We do a fair amount of both kinds of side-by-side, but if your purpose is just to be with your child, and relaxed, and have a chance to talk, go with something that's non-verbal and takes a long, quiet time.


Marji wrote:
The last car we had was a 1992 Toyota Corolla; it was a very funky, messy, extremely reliable, dependable car that came to a violent end last fall (sniff). But, I bought the car right before my son was born, and he and I had many, many long, wonderful drives together in that car. The radio and the tape player long ago had given up the ghost, so whenever we drove somewhere together we either talked to each other or listened to our own individual thoughts (both options were great!). The talks we have had while driving have always been wonderful. Sometimes we would just talk about nothing; sometimes we would sing; sometimes we would play word games; sometimes we would have really deep, important conversations. Because I'd be driving, we couldn't look at each other, obviously, and sometimes that's when the juiciest, deepest stuff would come out. Now that we have a new car with a great radio and a CD player in it, Liam still prefers that we keep the radio/CD player off while we're together. I drive, he plays gameboy or looks out the window, and we talk. Or not.


Sandra note: This is Marji of the group Gaia Wolf.
A few years after this writing, she has begun coaching parents:
"helping overwhelmed and/or discouraged parents heal and transform family relationships"

From an article on pattern blocks:
The best part of playing with pattern blocks is sitting next to another person and conversing about anything and everything while you play. Years ago, Sandra Dodd wrote a beautiful essay called Leaning on a Truck and other parallel play. She described the delights of playing with pattern blocks, along with many other wonderful side-by-side activities, and I’ve been fascinated with them ever since.
—Marcia Miller

Back to "Leaning on a Truck"

Being with a child

being at peace, for unschoolers

"Creating an unschooling nest"