Legos were the first way I bonded with my son. I would help him sort through his almost thousand-piece Star Wars sets, organizing them by color, shape, and size, and page-by-page, we’d work through the multiple booklets and put together some flying fighter contraption which lived on his bookshelf until we moved.
As a voracious reader, my son preferred fantasy/science fiction while my brain insisted it didn’t stretch in that direction. Hundreds of people suggested Harry Potter as a mother/son compromise. I dipped my toe in the magical world with the audiobook and the British accents were as magnetic as the story captivating. More than anything, it united my son and me, giving us adventures to discuss together. I read all 7 books but when he moved onto superhero movies even though I watched them all, he could tell it was a struggle. At once we used to play video games together, only his tastes sped up beyond mine; I’d be happy to keep playing Super Mario Bros, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and Guitar Hero and he wants to play Overwatch.
Now we have something new. Looking for geocaches all over the world. Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.
We’ve searched for caches all over New York City, on our road trips through the country and on vacation in Hawaii. It got us moving way before Pokemon Go.
My son and I bond over this secret club, specifically for those in the know (nerds), no secret handshake or door knock required. It’s a fraternity of convenience whenever you want to engage in it and there are no dues other than respect for your fellow man – and don’t be a douchebag and destroy the cache. Most important in the search is being discreet. The uninitiated are ironically called “muggles” (Harry Potter for unmagical, “normal” people.)
The hidden gems come in several sizes from “micro,” about the size of a pencil eraser to small, which is the size of a bar of soap. Sometimes the containers are magnetized and hidden on the back of street signs disguised as a bolt and occasionally it’s a plastic camouflaged film-sized container at the base of a tree stump or under a loose brick behind a black rubber molding near a door jam.
Once you have the app loaded on your phone, wherever you are, you can choose to play the seek to someone else’s hide. You get the exact GPS coordinates, follow them, and then tap into your inner forensics knowledge (or years of watching every version of Law and Order) and become Sherlock Holmes virtual magnifying glass in phone. Sometimes there are helpful clues and occasionally there is a photo of what the cache container looks like. Even with a visual, caches can remain elusive. In Hawaii, we visited one site three times and never found it.
Of course with this, as with everything else I take on, I want to do better/fix it/perfect it. (I’m not familiar with moderation, but hear it’s a wise and healthy approach to life.) I imagine the personalized business cards I can print (Vistaprint 100 cards for $1.99!) to leave as my little John Hancock inside of the containers as proof instead of using my a pen to write in 2-point font to fit on a paper log the size of a straw wrapper (the one from juice boxes, not regular size).
Today I told my sister about our adventures trekking through the streets of New York City on one of the hottest summer days searching for mysterious hidden containers filled with minuscule slips of paper. On our adventure, I had imagined my sister joining us, with her keen insight and an extra set of scrutinous eyes. “Sounds great,” she reacted. “It sounds like a treasure hunt!”
“Yeah, only when you find it, there’s no gold other than in the joy of victory; it’s more about the thrill of the hunt.”
I wondered if she would be frustrated at how sleuth-like people can be, hiding something so freaking tiny in such a big world and we’re supposed to find it based on some numbers our phones translate into a vague location leaving our eyes and brains do the rest.
“It’s all about the journey,” she understood.
For me, it’s all about the one-on-one time I get to spend with my 14-year-old, who is growing faster than my hobbies can evolve to share his, but at least I can join him as we engage in a search together, following the breadcrumbs to lasting memories.