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The Hat Lesson
Teachings of a Child

by Hal Evan Caplan
November 9, 2013

My son is my teacher and even though he is getting older, the lessons still just pour in. Long ago I tried to figure out when the lessons would come my way, but these days, I let them just happen when they happen. He is really good about nonchalantly starting the lessons. Many times I don't even see that I am in the middle of them until it's the end and caught off guard. That is why he is my teacher.

For vacation this year we visited the beach community of Pensacola, Florida. The beaches were beautiful and we had a blast. My mom fly into the Pensacola airport and we drove from Birmingham, which is about a four hour trek from our house. A pleasant surprised occurred when we arrived. I was able to see old friends of the family, who happen to live in Pensacola and we were able to spend some good quality time with them over a several day period.

One of the outings was a day at the beach. The waves happen to be a good size due to the fact that there was a storm somewhere way out in the Gulf of Mexico. My teacher saw some beach goers catching waves and frolicking in the white wash of the crumbling waves. Because of this, he was all about learning how to body board, especially since I had expressed that I actually knew how to surf and body board from my college days of living in Southern California. That being said, I was confident that I could teach him how to ride the waves into shore.

If you are not familiar with body boarding, it's similar to surfing. When one surfs, the goal is to stand on the board and ride the waves; however, the body board is a stiff foam based board that is about the size of your torso and one actually lays down on the board will catching waves to ride.

My teacher was nervous with the fact that the waves appeared to be bigger than normal. Even though they appeared to be bigger, the waves white wash was close to shore and that is what he was going to be riding, so I was okay with it. The white wash portion of the wave is when the wave has peaked in height and starts to "crumble" forward.

My teacher and I went out the sand bar together and I explained the art of catching waves to him. Once a wave, white wash actually, appeared and got into range he began to kick like he had a motor attached to his feet. Just as the white wash got close enough, I would push him in hopes that he would actually get going and ride the wave.

And boy did he ever catch waves. I would her him screaming with excitement each time he rode one in all the way to the beach. He and I were out in the ocean for hours at a time, literally. I mean in the water from the sand bar to the edge of the beach and back out to the sand bar each time we caught a wave for hours at a time. During his go at it, I was always right there where he was, so he had the comfort of me being there for him if he needed it.

One of the times when my teacher caught a wave, I stood and watched him ride it into shore and, just like that, a big wave hit me from behind and knocked off my hat and sun glasses. My most favorite sun glasses, mind you. I have had those sunglasses since my snowboard instructor days some 13 years earlier. The baseball cap I could care less about since I have so many, but its purpose blocked my head from the sun. I frantically began to look, as best I could, for my lost items.

I immediately found my hat but unfortunately my sunglasses were quickly gone with the current. I searched as best as I as could given the situation at hand. No luck. My teacher noticed what had happened and even took a brief look but he had no luck either. I chalked it up as Mother Ocean now had some sweet sun glasses.

Since there was nothing that I could do except to continue to watch my teacher ride the waves, that is what I did. After a while, both of us felt that we needed a break and went on to the beach were our family and friends had been hanging out under a large canopy. They were all relaxing and enjoying the outdoor beach experience while in the shade.

What seemed like 30 seconds, my teacher expressed that he was ready to go back into the ocean and ride some more waves. I was really enjoying sitting and relaxing, but I also knew that being in the ocean is something we don't often get the opportunity to do, so getting back in was not that difficult. Let's just say that no one had to twist my arm. Besides, time wise, it was actually over 30 minutes.

We went back into the ocean and headed out towards the waves so my teacher could continue to ride the waves. I was wearing my hat but as I mentioned, my sun glasses were long gone. Like "deja vu" and out of nowhere, another wave hit me from behind and took my hat... again. My wife saw this happen from the beach and instantly started to look for it. I again told my teacher as well since he was near the beach and he too began to look for my hat.

Since he was on shore by this time, I began to walk, as best I could around the shallow areas looking for my hat. I knew that I was searching for my missing hat, but I did not know that my teacher already had a lesson plan in the making. He came up to me and started the lesson.

"DAD!" He started.

"I know, I know." I replied.

"Since that happened to you once already just a little while ago, you should have known that it could happen again." He pointed out.

No comment because he was absolutely right. He continued with the lesson.

"Dad you really need to keep up with your stuff." He expressed.

Feeling a little defeated and frustrated, my reply reflected just how I felt at that moment.

"NOOOO-YA-THINK-?" I responded.

I think he knew not to press the situation. I'm sure he could read me like a book at that point, but he did hit the nail on the head as he drove the lesson home.

"Dad, for future reference, you really need to secure your stuff so they don?t get lost... just sayin'." He chuckled.

For the record, my wife did find my hat. She has eyes like a hawk and she was not going to give up until she found my hat, or at least she wanted to ensure that she gave her best.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I was reminded of that day was: Learn from your past mistakes.

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