When it comes to family birthday presents, I always try to select a gift that will be treasured for decades, an item that will prove to be both amusing and educational, giving the recipient lasting insight into life, death and the cosmos.That’s why I recently presented my son-in-law with a $6.95 “Build Your Own Stonehenge” kit for his birthday.
Imagine my surprise when he failed to leap across the room, grasp me in a bear hug and shout “Oh, boy! A pocket Stonehenge! Just what I always wanted!”
I guess kids these days just aren’t as demonstrative as we used to be when someone thoughtfully gave us a miniature model of a mysterious megalithic monument from England’s Salisbury Plain.
What really worried me, though, was that my son-in-law didn’t seem to grasp the boundless possibilities embodied in the pocket Stonehenge kit.
“I know it doesn’t look like much from the outside,” I patiently explained after waiting 20 minutes for a demonstration of enthusiasm that never came.
“But, once you’ve built your own miniature Stonehenge, you’ll have all the arcane skills and secret knowledge needed to take Stonehenge to the street.”
Judging by the puzzled look on my son-in-law’s face and the exasperated expression on my daughter’s, it was abundantly clear that I was going to have to spell the whole damned thing out for them.
“Son, America is turning into a Dust Bowl of the imagination. There are no heroes anymore. There are no mysteries anymore. And there are damned few abalone,” I began.
“Now’s your chance to take a stand and change all that – at least the part about the heroes and mysteries. Soon you’ll have the skills to construct your own Stonehenges anywhere you want, anytime you want, and leave people asking themselves, ‘Hey, where’d the mysterious megaliths come from?’ ”
Warming to my subject, I described how my son-in-law could become a mythic figure in his community while gleefully recreating Stonehenge in every corner of town.
“By the dark of the moon, you load up your truck with cinder blocks and quick-drying concrete, then set out on your mission, searching for empty lots and forgotten parklands where your latest Stonehenge will rise to greet the next sunrise,” I explained.
“The exploits of the mysterious Stonehenge Guy will be the talk of the town: ‘Who is he? Why is he? When’s he gonna strike again?’ You’ll be like the Stonehenge Pimpernel or maybe Robin Henge.”
I have to admit that my enthusiasm was catching – at least for me. My description of the Stonehenge Guy seemed so attractive, I was ready to go out and pick up a “Build Your Own Stonehenge” kit for myself.
My son-in-law, however, still appeared somewhat reluctant to embark on the path of glory I had so painstakingly outlined for him.
Sad as it may seem, I think my son-in-law’s lack of interest is a common problem with many young people these days. They just seem to be missing the basic human desire to go out and erect towering stoneworks for no apparent reason …
Originally published April 8, 2007