I recently experienced a boyhood rite of passage which before I had only heard rumors about. Oh, and these rumors where the kind that legends were made of. Yes, I am talking about the infamous Pinewood Derby. I have two younger brothers that were actively involved in scouts growing up, but being the older sister I couldn't be bothered which attending such lowly events as a Pinewood Derby. But I heard my fair share of stories of close calls, cars weighted down with pennies, magnets and the like, dads who "helped" a bit too much- (aka-Mr. Reeve), boys who cheated (the Reeve boys) and the ones who won every year- (yep, you guessed it -those Reeve boys). And of course coming from the mouths of 8 to 10 year old boys I assumed the recall of events was to say the least over-dramatic. That was of course until I got to attend one where my own child's car was involved. It all began a few weeks ago when Finn brought home a box with a rectangle block of wood, wheels and little silver pins and a flyer with the date of the next pack meeting where the Pinewood Derby would take place. Let the planning commence. Oh, the planning. There were discussions of colors, pencil sketches of possible car designs, arguments over the proper placement of wheels and analysis of the right kind of weight to add. Do you realize there are very specific qualifications for weight, length and size of a Pinewood Derby car? Again all a bit overdone in my opinion. But the night of the big event finally came. We only had one problem- Finn was sick with a flu bug that could "put down a horse". (This is one of Eric's favorite sayings.) So I was given the official assignment of pinewood derby proxy. I took the car over the church expecting a small track where the kids could race each other, a guy with a stop watch and a few chairs set up for the small amount of spectators. I have never been more wrong in my life. I walked in and was immediately ushered over to the official weigh-in, length check, number assigning, car naming table, then I was sent over to have my picture taken in front of a checkered backdrop with a medal around my neck proudly holding up my car- I was the proxy so I had to do the whole ritual. Then I was told I could go over and have graphite put on the wheels. What?!? Graphite? What for? But I knew if Finn was there he would do it, so I did it. After the graphite was put on I was informed not to touch the wheels or else it would come off. Whatever! I put the car on the table with all the other contestants and went to find a seat. At this point I noticed how huge the three lane track was that rose up about 6 feet at one end and had digital sensors at the other end that told which cars came in 1st, 2nd and 3rd. I also saw a computer up by the front of the track. I found a seat among the 3 rows of seats that lined the track on both sides by a friend whose son was in his second year racing. I asked her what the computer was for and she just patted my leg and said, "You'll see." There was another gentleman who heard me ask the question and said, "The computer is there to keep things official so 'those parents' won't question or get upset." Oh, yeah- "those parents" I said back to him. So the race finally started. But to my surprise the boys don't even touch the cars while racing. The Cub Master sets the cars up against a pin at the top of the track and then pulls the pins so the cars all go down at the same time. So the first couple of heats pass by without much attention on my part. Then Finn's car- I named "Black Thunder" for lack of a better name got a turn. Hey- it got 2nd! Way to go. I should mention that the cars are in several heats that the computer records and then it figures the winners- who are announced at the end. After each heat the boys go get their cars and take them back to the table. After Finn's first heat another boy took his car back for me. Fantastic- I can continue my conversation with my friend. Black Thunder goes to race again, but I only notice because my friend says- "Isn't that Finn's car?" Oh, yeah. 1st place this time. Wow! I bee-lined over to the end of the track so no grubby-hand kid will rub the graphite off the wheels. This puppy really has a chance. A few more heats go by and I zero in on my main competition- that gentleman who talked about "those parents" was the grandpa of my #1 opponent. This fact was not lost on the man either. When the two cars were in the final heat he was elbowing me saying, "This is it. It's between yours and mine." I smile tightly and laugh nervously, "Yeah, they're both good." Translation- I'm sure glad we have the computer to keep this all straight so you can't cheat! Ohhh- Black Thunder comes in 2nd this time, but no matter- the beloved computer will not rob the real winner. After 10 minutes of computing and discussing among the scout leaders the award ceremony begins. They start with the "pretend" awards - you know like "the Spirit of Scouting" award for the poor kid who has participated every year but never won or the "Classy Car" award. Finally the real meat and potatoes awards- drumroll please- Black Thunder came in 2nd overall. Grandpa-whose grandson won 1st- and I shake hands in true sportsmanlike/scouting fashion and I'm proud that we had a very respectable 1st year showing. (Notice I said "we"- although I had very little to do with the constructing of the car I now take ownership in the whole event!) So of course I go home and just like my brothers 20 years ago recount all the gory, dramatic details. But if you'll excuse me first I have to get my foot out of my mouth!
Here is Finn with the spoils from his victory. I haven't received back the picture of me in front of the checkered background, but you can be sure that when I do I will post it!