Why I Gave My Son a Door for His Graduation—and He Loved It

Five years ago when my son Sammy was 14 we read J.D. Salinger’s book Franny and Zooey on different coasts simultaneously. I was traveling for beer dinners and distributor meetings on the west coast. Sammy was home in coastal Delaware attending 8th grade.

During that time we started a text-message thread to discuss the book, honing in on the goofy-intellectual sense of humor of the characters and the major themes of existentialism and spirituality. (Yeah, not your typical text chat.)

There’s a scene in the book where the younger brother, Franny, makes a short pilgrimage down the hallway in the family house to the bedroom shared by his older brothers in their childhood.

These brothers turned a closet door into a secular version of the Ten Commandments for all siblings to bear witness. The door showcased hand-written inspirational quotes from different provocative thinkers of bygone eras and various cultures.

Sammy and I loved the idea of this door, but agreed it was a little high-brow and borderline pretentiousness. In our text thread we shared quotes from stuff we were reading or music we were listening to that we felt deserved a place on a door of our own.

Sam Calagione

“In art you and desire may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.” ~Patti Smith

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” ~Iron Mike Tyson

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” ~Dorothy Parker

“Are you amplified to rock? Are you hoping for contact?” ~Robert Pollard, Guided by Voices

For Sammy’s high-school graduation present I painted a door with quotes we shared back and forth on that text thread along with a few doozies that were on the door described in Franny and Zooey.

My wife, Mariah, contributed a single quote, which I believe is the most concise and important statement of them all at the bottom of the door.

“Always be there for Grier.” ~XOXO, Mom & Dad

Grier being Sammy’s younger sister.

The door hangs in Sammy bedroom in our home. When I call him at college now I often take a short pilgrimage and I sit on his couch looking up at the painted door as we chat and catch up.

Sam Calagione

Technology is weird and scary and exciting. But this project brought Sammy and I together in a way that will always be precious to me at a time in our lives where we were often far apart from each physically. Many closet doors in many family homes across many countries have notches or pen-marks delineating the physical growth spurts of a well-loved child. This door tells a different story.

—Sam Calagione is the brewmaster of Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales and the author of Off-Centered Leadership.

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