Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

Kids find construction fascinating

Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days. Heck, the street repairs being done in my neighborhood alone are enough to make a person want to give up her car keys forever. I've learned the hard way, more than once, that when a sign says "Closed to Thru Traffic" what it really means is "Turn Back If You Want To Emerge With Your Undercarriage Intact."

But a video making the rounds last week reminded me that seasonal roadwork does have its ardent fans.

The 38-second clip of her two-year-old son going gaga over the mess on Highway 151 bought back a flood of memories from when my eldest was the same age. It was the summer of '99 and he in a stroller, and me on some very sore feet, would canvass the neighborhood in search of a sewer line being torn up or a major excavation project going on. Once we found one, I'd lay down a blanket on the sidewalk and break out the goldfish crackers and sippy cup; we were in for the duration.

Pretty much every construction worker in the neighborhood that summer knew us, not necessarily by name, but more as the slightly strange woman and her truck-crazy kid who stalked their every work site. We would follow their projects from location to location, oohing, ahhing and oogling every time they got the rigs up and running. In essence, we were heavy machinery groupies; there's nothing we wouldn't have done for a chance to just brush up against the side of anything sporting the name Caterpillar.

My son's love of construction vehicles ran so deep, it may have even bordered on fetish. Because after we got home from an afternoon of truck stalking, he'd whip out his impressive collection of vehicle books and videos. Picture books like Richard Scarry's Car and Trucks and Things that Go and Peter Sis' Trucks, Trucks, Trucks were always popular picks at night before bed. But truth be told, he probably liked the non-fiction even better. I think it was one of those Dorling Kindersley (DK) reference books with glossy photographic depictions of diggers and cherry pickers that he slept with under his pillow.

I guess I always assumed my kid would grow up to be an engineer or to go into one of the skilled trades. He was just so captivated by each and every truck and its specialty purpose. Cranes he knew were for lifting heavy objects up high and a bulldozer's responsibility was to push dirt around. Loaders were there to scoop. An excavator's job was to dig. Backhoes could do both.

It was an early lesson in the concept of division of labor. Come to think of it, maybe he'll end up an economist.

So next time I find myself getting frustrated by the construction chaos around the Capitol, I'll take a deep breath, channel my inner two year old and just re-imagine the detour as a different take on "Live on King Street."

This downtown summer outdoor concert series, though, isn't featuring rock bands. Instead it stars folks in fluorescent yellow vests making beautiful music (at least to some very small people) with the mammoth construction vehicles they maneuver and the jackhammers they wield.

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