I'm usually supposed to write something that someone somewhere thinks is funny, but I don't feel funny today.
I can't stop looking at the photo in our newspaper of grim-faced search and rescue workers carrying a body bag out of a marsh area near Concord's Buchanan Field on Sunday.
Two Walnut Creek boys drown over the weekend after jumping into a raft to take advantage of a rain-swollen creek to take a thrill ride. Maybe it affects me because I'm a parent, and a child's sudden death is a parent's worst nightmare.
But more likely, I can't stop thinking about the photo because, like 16-year-old Matthew Miller and 17-year-old Gavin Powell, I grew up in Walnut Creek, where the city's name is no accident. There's a waterway in nearly every neighborhood, which means when storms roll in and trickling creeks become rapid rivers, boys' brains kick into overdrive, computing the wild possibilities.
I didn't know Matthew or Gavin. But I do know society celebrates the adventurous. We encourage risk. They don't tell grand stories about the people who wait back at headquarters while the troops charge ahead. Boys know this. Trying to one-up each other in the category of dare is practically entwined in their DNA. It motivates them to do things they only tell their mothers about years later, when they can no longer get in trouble. And usually, moms are grateful to hear it, because it means their sons lived to tell.
But this week, a couple of Walnut Creek mothers are hearing the tale from a different perspective -- from police. It's the worst story a parent can ever hear. And other parents, including me, read about it in the newspaper and feel like someone kicked us in the stomach. Then we wonder how we can possibly keep something like that from happening to our kids. Then our stomachs churn again because we know, unless we lock them up until they're 35, we can't.
Like Contra Costa sheriff's Lt. Eric Navarro said Sunday, "All of us have done things in our lives that you look back on and think, 'I got away with one.' "
Nothing more true has ever been said, especially about males who make it to adulthood. A boy's imagination can often be his biggest enemy.
Seeing that picture reminded me of the hundreds of times my boy brain traced much of the same route Matthew and Gavin attempted, only mine started from the overgrown little creek originating in Tice Valley, cutting across Montecillo Drive, through the Newell Avenue area where the concrete spillways converge near Broadway Plaza, then cutting across Ygnacio and Treat boulevards, through Concord and across Highway 4 out to the marshes and Suisun Bay.
Matthew was found near Highway 4. Gavin was discovered near Stanwell Drive and Bisso Lane in Concord.
When their day started Saturday, the idea of getting into a boat when there was enough water to avoid scraping the creek bed was likely too much to resist. It was the same feeling for my friends and me on a rainy weekend years ago, when we had an old, beat-up rowboat that, luckily, couldn't get past the fallen trees and narrow choke points of our particular stretch of creek. So we were relegated to building dams and floating homemade toy boats. There was never a chance of getting anywhere near downtown. But we would have tried if we could have, an adventure that sounds so much more frightening now than back then.
Though the stories aren't nearly as compelling, sometimes adventure isn't all it's cracked up to be. Especially for mothers who would rather have their boys just grow up.