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Let's do the time warp again - Diane Wagner

I had plans this past weekend for some heavy spring cleaning.

I know I'm a little late, and now I'm a little later because I ran into a 15-year-old trunk of papers that put me in a time warp.

A decade or so doesn't seem that long ago from my current vantage point, but these bits of treasure came from my niece and nephew who are now 20 years old and 18 years old respectively. They're grown-ups now, so to speak, but on Sunday I got a chance to visit with them as they were half a lifetime ago.

I remembered Jennifer's first week of school. She's Jenn now, with pink-spiked hair and numerous piercings but, back then, she was Jenny of the Long Ringlets who liked to wear her pink on her floaty little dresses.

On the third day of first grade, Jennifer came home with a quarter she didn't have when she left home that morning. Trying to get to the bottom of this unexpected wealth, my sister Sue questioned her closely.

Sue was relieved to hear Jenny had found the quarter in the hallway but, a firm believer in good citizenship, she probed deeper. "Did you check in the office to find who might have lost it?" Sue asked.

Jenny smiled and turned to go outside. "I don't have to," she said. "I saw it fall out of the kid's pocket."

Oh, the lessons they start out not knowing?and how quickly they learn them.

This spring Jenn and her friends went to the Music Midtown festival, wearing black leather jackets and silver rings on every visible appendage. It was pouring down rain and a lot chillier than they had expected, but Jenn was struck by the plight of a family of four that was obviously way too far from their car and shelter.

The 5-year-old boy was soaked to the skin, shivering and turning blue around the lips, she said, so she gave him her jacket and walked away. I guess that makes up for the quarter.

I also found an old letter my darling 9-year-old Jacob wrote to me on his first computer, using icons instead of letters as a "secret code."

I had been bugging him to send me a list of what he wanted for his birthday and his desire for good loot was warring with his desire not to seem greedy. So the letter was a compromise: The clues were there, but I had to work for them.

He always had an analytical mind. I remember fooling around with the concept of zero, one rainy indoor day when he was 3 years old. What's 1,475 times 0, I asked the kids?and they looked at me as if I were insane. But a few demonstrations with some Hot Wheels that were lying all over the floor, and baby Jacob was laughing and doing six-digit multiplication problems with zero like an old pro.

The grown-up Jake still thinks math and science are funny, and frequently shares that concept at quiet family gatherings in the form of magic tricks with firecrackers. He wants to be an engineer and, since a fortune teller once said he was destined to save the world, I'm trying to encourage him to go into urban planning.

Now that I've rediscovered my treasure box, I'll probably be delving into it from time to time, remembering how things used to be. But, come to think of it, I can't wait to see what happens next.

Diane Wagner covers county government for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or dwagner@henryherald.com