My father, Erik, was a construction engineer. He was the kind of Dad that went off to work in the morning with a big leather briefcase filled with papers to some mysterious office somewhere (there was no “take your daughter to work day” back then) and then showed back up at 6 or so for cocktails and dinner. Next day, same ritual until the weekend which generally included yard work, a SF Giants ball game on the radio and a BBQ.
These were the 1960s, back when the 3 television networks signed off each night and a good neighborhood game of kick-the-can could last until 10 p.m. Without sounding like one of those internet pass along ‘remember when’ emails, these were good times that required good old fashioned energy and imagination for fun.
Dad’s mysterious briefcase contained some exotic items to our young minds, including carbon paper, change order forms in triplicate and check requests. The advent of computers has made all of these hands on items obsolete, but they held a magic to my sister and me of how grown ups moved in the world ~ a step up from nursing and bandaging our poor stuffed animals imagined wounds (we traveled to Europe as kids on an airplane and so ministered to Tigger and Hippo with packaged mustard samples – very new age, albeit quite messy).
As Lisa and I elevated our play standards from (oh, so childish) nursemaids to (oh, so grown up) business women, our props necessarily needed to change. Dad thankfully obliged with some items from The Briefcase. With such a juicy selection of forms available to us, no doubt our favorite was the bid sheet pad. Basically, it was a paper version of an excel spread sheet.
We invented a game called Important Papers and it went like this: we would take turns sitting across from one another with the pad in front of us. Whoever had the pad would ask the other one Important Questions (like what? I have no idea) and then duly note the answers in the columns of the sheet. All Very Important.
We played this game endlessly. We loved being the Important One. As we really did grow up, both Lisa and I came to realize that much of life mirrored our game. A trip to the DMV, a job review, an application for a home loan or a social security disability claim often seems like just one big game of Important Papers. There so often is someone in ‘authority’ asking inane questions, making notes on a random form and thereby stipulating your future.
It makes me wonder. Although the medium has changed from paper to electronic bits, our world still seems to consist of endless games of Important Papers and briefcases filled with grown up and magical papers. Makes me want to go out and play kick-the-can with my pals, because in the end, the weekend is still yard work, baseball on the radio, and a BBQ.