The Mummy Hunters, Part 1

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, May 19, 2010

As I approach that difficult time in every man's life after he's extended a liberal arts education into some expensive yet practical professional degree, worked for a few years in said profession to pay off the debt, quit abruptly, and spent almost half a decade taking care of two small children, I'm realizing it won't be long before both kids will be off at school and I'll soon have to figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. It's like that day in college that I finally recognized no one was ever going to pay me for bad translations of ancient Greek histories. If we had an extra bedroom I might be able to convince my wife to fill it and grant me a reprieve from re-entering the real world, but sadly there's no room at the inn and granting a lazy man clemency from labor is apparently not a good enough reason to force a hardworking woman to go through it again.

So, as long as this lasts I swear I'm going to enjoy it. The day camp we've sent the girl to the last two summers isn't operating this year, so I get her every day all summer and the truth is I couldn't be happier about that. She starts kindergarten in the fall and I'm going to miss that kid like you wouldn't believe. Right now I look forward to the two days a week she's not in play school, so we can leave the city and go on the adventures we plan for those days. My son and I can still have adventures, true, but he has so much more fun when his sister is with him. The days loom when we'll lose her to teachers, to her friends and Justin Bieber or brooding pubescent vampires and all the other things we won't understand. What I love about being with my kids at this age is how nonresistant they are to whatever it is the people around them find exciting. Bertrand Russell famously said that "fear is exceedingly infectious; children catch it from their elders" but I've been thrilled to see how equally infectious excitement has been between me and my kids.  

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Of course, the girl has already learned to manipulate that excitement into more toys. Her recent obsession with all things ancient Egypt somehow resulted in me ordering just about every Egyptian-themed toy available on the market, and even making a few that weren't. If she's this clever when she's nineteen, she's going to tell me she met a nice "archaeology major" and she's thinking about switching herself but needs some cash to go to Rome so they can excavate some late emperor's villa in the Sabine countryside and I'll be fumbling for my check book before she even finishes her sentence. For now, we read books about archaeology and ancient Egypt and talk and talk and talk about it. All winter, this was fueled by frequent visits to the small Egyptian collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

We know the collection at our museum so well now that for our weekly non-school-day adventures, we recently decided to hunt down every mummy within 200 miles and visit it. Eventually we'll make the trek to the Field Museum in Chicago to see its 23 mummies and full-size tomb, but I'll admit there's just something special about driving to a smaller city and visiting a local museum where the ragged mummy of some lesser priestess or servant is usually the highlight of the entire collection. There are always plenty of other treasured Egyptian artifacts that the smaller museum has obtained to supplement the mummy display. We like to pour over the details of the entire collection without being overwhelmed by it, and the rust-belt mummies we've hunted down have provided a lot of fun.