Who doesn’t love a good whodunit?
You know, those compelling mysteries — on film or in print — that don’t reveal the culprit until the end, allowing the reader or viewer to hypothesize or guess throughout the tale to solve the mystery at hand. A good one takes you on a bit of an intellectual and emotional rollercoaster, causing you to flip your opinions throughout as more information becomes available.
I used to love Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot stories, as well as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales. They would take you into a journey of deduction and observational challenges, forcing you to actually comprehend what you are reading, and to think — to truly think.
Now I see those stories as simply preparing me for challenges that would lie ahead as I grew older.
No, I don’t mean in regards to my job as a journalist. It’s long been my opinion that a journalist tracks, documents and shares information with the reader or listener, so the recipient of that information may make up his or her mind on an issue. A solid journalist does not reach a conclusion as much as he or she finds the people who are qualified to make those conclusions and “introduces” that person to his or her audience.
I know. That makes me a dinosaur in the field in this day of partisan, I-know-more-than-you reporting. I’m good with that.
Regardless, my early training on “whodunits” prepared me for something entirely different than my eventual vocation. It prepared me to be a father. Specifically, it prepared me to be the father of a 6-year-old girl who is tougher to crack than a Colombian cartel leader in the 1980s.
You know those precious moments in the Hallmark movies when a child gets off the bus and shares with the father or mother everything that happened that day in school? Yeah, I don’t. I’m usually greeted with a bunch of inaudible grunts, some deflections and a “Can I have a snack?” This is usually followed by what I like to call the “Trail of Riley” — a hodgepodge in our front hallway of a backpack, sweatshirt, shoes and socks, leading from the front door to the kitchen.
“Um, you want to come back and pick this up?”
“What do you possibly mean, ‘What?’ It looks like a crime scene, and you’ve only been in the house 13 seconds.”
On a side note, it’s almost impressive how much noise a 6-year-old can make by stomping her feet. It used to infuriate me, but I’ve taken a new approach now. I just soak it in and try to incorporate the beat into a song in my head. Sometimes, it’s something kind of upbeat, like “La Bamba.” Other times, I hear Metallica or perhaps a particularly riveting rendition of the late Neil Peart’s “YYZ.”
Either way, it gets her mad when she walks back in the room and I’m jamming out to her stomps, so... win for the old guy!
To her credit, a snack usually gets her back in form, and she starts to get a little chatty. But her conversation focuses on something funny her friend said on the bus, or how much she enjoys her snack, or how much she wants another snack, or if there will be a snack after dinner, or if I ever had a snack that I liked so much I just wanted to snack until my next snack so that...
But I digress.
She likes snacks, but she clams up pretty quickly when it comes to how she has spent her day. She’s tough, but I’m persistent. And, well, perhaps a little annoying.
“How did school go?”
“What did you do?”
“I don’t really remember. Do you like snacks?”
“Yes, you don’t get a body like this without appreciating a good snack. What did you learn today?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Did anything make you laugh today?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.”
Time for a new tactic.
“Do you want to explain why I got a message from your teacher today?”
“Does that surprise you?”
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I did a good job with my reading. What did she say?”
“She didn’t send me a message. I just wanted to see what you’d say.”
“Anything else happen?
“No. Oh, I did draw a picture in art class. Do you want to see it?”
“Dad, it was so funny. This one boy in my class...”
Score one for the dinosaur. And for “cracking the suspect.”