My son’s robotic competition …

My son’s robotics competition brought me back to my alma mater, which hosted the event. Changes to campus: more buildings, a squash court converted to a workout room, the student publications office converted to a gaming room with arcade machines. Nothing quite in its right place. Ghosts of former selves can’t haunt corridors that have been expanded into dining halls.

Ran into a former student who graduated high school last year and was finishing his first semester of the university’s pharmacy program. He seemed taller, same quiet pleasantness, now self-possessed, unshaven. I did not pepper him with questions, said it was good to see him, moved on, let him move on.

My son’s team was the most theatrical in the competition and I wanted him to join the dancing and capering and often he did, except that my watching inhibited him. Dull glare: stay out of the way. Their robot did enough to catapult them to the quarter finals and a golden ticket for presentation earned them a spot in the state championships next week.

The brooding strain is strong in my daughters but perhaps not in my son; frivolity is something for them to learn elsewhere. Or not frivolity, that’s not what I mean: something else. That thing a good coach has, so when he calls out a phrase the team finishes it for him, because they hear him.

At my wife’s work party in the evening. Pleasant people but also: tired.

The town is embroiled in a dispute about the power of the people and the power of the elected and the tension between these entities and the appropriate deference accorded to each, except now the dispute seems to be about which side has said more unkind things to the other side. Few call out abuses on their own side.

I am writing this from the idling minivan, staying warm while watching my youngest child sitting in a park bench sketching the lake and trees in front of her. She drinks now and then from the hot chocolate I bought her. On the cusp of adolescence, this one. The brooding strain in her, too. But for now: landscapes in the early Sunday afternoon. Her father trying to stay out of the way.