The year was 1976 or 1977, or as my late grandfather would have said “nineteen hundred and seventy six”. I was five or six years old and my parents had recently split up.
Like scores of kids before and since, my sister and I had entered the “every other weekend” pattern. One Saturday after work my father had come to pick us up. I said “Dad, come here I want to show you something.” I proceeded to lead him to the side of the house where I had been collecting various odds and ends. Loose boards, shopping cart wheels, and some cast iron electrical pipe..think Junkyard Wars for kids. You know, extremely valuable boy stuff.
“Hey Dad” I asked, “Can we make a go kart with these things?“
At this point I wasn’t even being picky, I just wanted something that rolled that I could sit on and I would have been thrilled.
“Hmm, no you don’t have enough wood here, and if you weld this pipe a poisonous gas is given off. Afraid we can’t build a go cart with what you’ve got here.“
I was crushed. At this point I wasn’t sure if he was implying he would get some material and we could then build one, or if he meant I should raid some construction sites (not to say that’s where I got the wood I did have).
“Oh, darn” I said, although I was thinking much more along the lines of “Well that sucks.”.
“We’ll make one someday.” he said, and off we went to his place for the weekend never to hear of it again.
Sometime later one of the neighborhood boys showed his dad that the front wheel on his Big Wheel had split down the center. A bummer for sure, but just the result of many a day of doing burnouts. His dad told him “Oh no big deal, let’s just make a go kart out of the rear wheels!” In the course of one afternoon lo and behold he had his go kart. We pushed each other all over the neighborhood. I had a blast with that kart, all the while wishing I could build my own.
My dad was a mechanic for 30 years, certainly he had the tools and where-with-all to make one right? I was by no means a deprived child, but as anyone who was ever a kid can relate, I always wanted a go kart.
Fast forward thirty some years. I had initially headed down the same career path as my father, spending a few years in auto mechanics all the while amassing a collection of my own tools. Dad always told me “Never sell or get rid of your tools, you never know when you’ll need them”. As I changed careers I always kept that in mind. My dad passed away a few years ago, and clearly he had kept his own advice. Now I have a garage full of tools; his plus my own. I also now have three boys of my own.
As I experience the adventure of fatherhood and tackle the challenge of a go kart myself I realize that this isn’t just about my boys having a go kart, nor is it sadly realizing that my father isn’t around to see his grandchildren grow up. I suppose it could be the fact that Dad isn’t here to build the go kart he said someday we would make, but I guess it’s really just fulfilling a childhood dream and of course having some good fun in the process.
A go kart is much more than four wheels and some lumber. It’s whatever you want it to be; a racecar, a rocket, or an airplane. For me it’s all of that and more, but most importantly I guess it’s just about bringing about “someday”.
May you build your go kart sooner than later.