Devil’s Backbone, just west of Loveland, CO, reminded me of a mini (very mini) Moab, UT. We had a nice hike.
The reason the boys were ready for me when I pulled up in the big van was what they held in their hands.
“We found these!” Saber unfolded his palm to show me a rubber ball on an elastic band.
I’ve seen plenty of rubber balls. I began a jaded smile and then he threw the ball down. It bounced high over the building roof with the elastic band unfurling to let it kiss the clouds before rebounding and bouncing again. This little contraption had more energy than a litter of hungry puppies when mama pokes her head into their view.
The boys had finished a week at church camp and I was bringing home a gaggle of eleven-year-olds. Well, if a gaggle was seven, I was bringing a gaggle.
Each of the boys launched a ball above timberline blended with giggles. Boys really can giggle.
I’m a mother. I could see the potential here.
“OK, guys. No bouncing the balls in the van.”
They all nodded and their arms went into hyper drive to get bounces done before they loaded.
Finally we pulled away from camp and made our way down the mountain. All was well until I pulled up at a stop light in town.
Traffic was heavy and I had been watching cars surround us. Then I noticed giggling from behind.
Saber waggled his arm out of the side window. His ball ricocheted off car roofs and zig-zagged between lanes. The elastic band kept the ball in sight but not mannerly.
It took him a minute to retrieve the ball after his driver threatened to dunk him in the lake if he didn’t get the contraption back inside. The strap was pretty easy-going and not easy to gather. Maybe a little like Saber.
Then he rolled up the gadget and stuffed it in his backpack, giving me a smile fit more for angels than gaggles of boys. “I didn’t bounce it in the van,” he said.
No, but he had run the risk of kissing the clouds.
My first bike quickly resembled a pancake but not in my eyes.
In my eyes, it had red steamers flowing from the handlebars, sparkles along the bright paint on the frame, and a big white horn on the front. I was only six and, knowing my parents’ financial state at the time, none of those things were true.
I had the bad habit of dropping it on the ground when I was finished riding, usually in the driveway. My father warned me several times that it’d get run over if I kept doing that and I tried. But my six-year-old mind seemed to resist the idea.
One day I came out to find that my bike had been flattened when Dad backed over it with one of his big farm trucks.
I stood there while my brain connected the dots. Leaving the bike on the ground did indeed mean it would get run over.
I learned. I never did that again.
But my years with bikes was not over. In those days, Dad would visit farm auctions in the winter, trolling for bargains. And he often came home with a bargain bike.
Since I was the oldest child, I would get the new bike (“new” only in the sense of never living on our farm before) while my old bike went down the sibling chain.
These auction bikes usually lacked fenders and color. Certainly no streamers flowed from handlebars. One was so big that I had to ride on my tiptoes until I grew some more.
But we rode our bikes daily. Up the lane, over the bumps, into the wind.
I still like bikes. I’ve never had one with streamers or a white horn. But I’ve never ever again left one lying on the ground. I’m ok with plain bikes but still not so crazy about pancake bikes.
There were no ordinary days with our youngest at age five.
I was fixing dinner one evening when he wandered into the kitchen.
“What’s that?” he asked, studying the pan on the stove.
He tilted his head. “Can I call it sook?”
“Those are still hamburger patties.”
But for dinner that night we had sook on a bun.
Another day we went shopping. He carried five pennies into the store and laid them on a shelf. As we were leaving, he discovered his loss and we had to backtrack in search of his loot. We searched long and hard but could only find four pennies.
“We need to go.” I finally laid the law down.
He went, with a long face. “I’m going to miss that penny.”
Not long after that, he came to me with eyes drooping and mouth downturned. “I’m sorry, Mom.”
“I’m sorry, Mom, but I can’t fly.”
How did he figure that out?
We were eating breakfast when he announced over scrambled eggs, “Do you know what a Gurgler is?”
I had to admit my ignorance.
“They’re a machine that sucks down people and things.”
“Yuck,” I said.
“I hate to tell you this but if you meet one, you’ll die.”
“But it’s OK because they live on the other side of the world.”
“Mom,” he said. “They’re on the movies.” He rolled his eyes while I wondered what movies he’d been watching.
He liked to help me bake so one day we stirred up a batch of muffins using a whisk to mix. Soon the batter stiffened and he lifted the whisk with the muffin ingredients clumped onto it. “Look! I have a lunk!”
He ate the lunk, too, after it baked.
Then came the day when he rushed into the kitchen, his arms flailing and his face red and hot. “Mom! Betsy says I’ll get wigworms if I drink my potty!”
I still can’t get that scenario figured out.
But I’ll bet it wasn’t an ordinary day, either.
Our pool table resided in the basement, piled high with boxes of outgrown clothes and books to be donated.
I listed the pool table for sale. That way the boxes could go away.
I had asked $35 for the pool table even though I paid $25 at a yard sale. It was a slate top pool table and connoisseurs liked that idea.
So this young man examined the slate and did a verbal fist pump. “Slate! I can sell this table anywhere for $200.”
I smiled. I just wanted it out of my basement and wouldn’t mind getting my $25 back.
“Would you take $30 for it?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Well, I need to come back with a pickup. Could you hold it for me?”
“If you pay today.”
He studied the table and his buddy. Perhaps the $200 loomed before him. “I wonder if we can get it home now.”
So they jumped into the project. I found all the pool balls, including two hiding under the workbench, which I carried to their dented and rusty old station wagon.
I wondered what the plan was but they didn’t have time for a plan. They bustled around like a hen with newly hatched chicks.
Then they grabbed an end of the table and began pushing. The air was blue and the guys sweating before they and the table emerged from the house.
Grunting and groaning like a mama pig in labor, they hoisted the pool table onto the top of car.
“We’re good now,” the new buyer assured me.
They tied the table onto the top of the car, running the ropes through the open windows, and then stood for a long moment with their hands on the handle. I’d like to think they were reformulating a new plan. If shimmying through the open windows counted as a new plan, they had one.
They had a plan for big bucks but, after watching their first steps, I think my $30 sale was safer than their $200 dream.