It’s the last day of school, and the treasure hunt is ready.
The first year, there were just a dozen clues. The second, we were up to twenty-five. Last year, thirty-four. And this year, they’ve requested fifty clues. Hard ones, they told me. They want clues that will send them looking in the dictionary or searching for abbreviations on the periodic table, clues that will test their knowledge of the Greek pantheon and Harry Potter lore, clues that contain algebraic equations and puns, scientific names for plants and animals and words in foreign languages.
I will hand them their first clue as they get off the bus, and for the next couple of hours, they will run all over our property—upstairs, downstairs, basement, front yard, backyard, garage, shed—as they solve the riddles I stayed up way too late writing for them. They will consult books. There will be words they may not know—ornithology, velocipede, codex, antiquated, subterranean, textiles, cathode, pate, doppelganger, supine—that will require a dictionary. There will be inside jokes. (And there will be some bathroom humor for the six-year-old.)
And there will be a few small prizes along the way, with a larger prize at the end, but that’s not the point. They don’t even remember what last year’s prize was—but they learned nearly every clue by heart. After the hunt is over, they will carefully redistribute all the clues to have the hunt again—and again. They will soon be chatting about velocipedes and doppelgangers.
They still have last year’s clues, and the ones from the year before. They still hide them for one another to find. And they make their own treasure hunts for one another, hiding scraps of paper all over the house with their own riddles. I find them occasionally, in the backs of drawers, between the pages of books, in coat pockets. They are always writing these little notes to lead one another on to the next good and surprising thing.
Their bus will come in an hour. I have the first clue in my pocket, ready to go. I can’t wait.