After a summer of “naughty,” some “nice” would sure be nice

Categorized as 10/31/11 Goshen News column

“He’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.  Santa Claus is coming to town.” Ok.  I heard that sniff.  But here we are, 10 months from last Christmas.  That equals out to a cough, a sneeze, two rollovers in your jammies, and bam – it’s almost here.  You know it, too.  But that’s not really why I’m singing that song.  It’s the “naughty and nice” part that’s stuck in my head like popcorn between the teeth.  After the summer we had, I’m needing a whole lot of “nice” to recover from all the “naughty” that went down.  “The ‘Dad’ sign is off,” their father announced recently during an outbreak of naughty.  “You know, like the taxi signs?” I spluttered, stunned.  On my visage, thunderclouds gathered, and he disappeared with a clatter and a whoosh, suddenly “needing something” out back by the property line.

The homemade ice cream he made in his inaugural run was awfully nice, though.  Handing over a dish of coffee-flavored ice cream with chocolate chips, he’d grinned like the proverbial cheshire cat with cream on its whiskers and, I noted, some on his shirt.  Yes, it was very nice. It was nice, too, when the teenager finally got his driver’s license. I’d forgotten how nice it was when a whirlwind could haul himself to his own whirlwind activities, allowing mom to opt out of at least part of that maternal whirlwind of chauffeuring. It wasn’t nice, though, for him to drive off like he did, laughing like a hyena (what else?), leaving his younger brother to walk to the library from Dollar General.  No, it wasn’t nice at all.  It was that other word.  It was naughty, too, for College Kid (aka Big Brother) to unleash his own inner hyenas, slapping his knee and snorting when he heard about it. There are days (I’ll admit it) when it seems I’ve got five boys.  When The Mister’s got them hollering and thrashing, when the whole lot of ’em set to pounding and chasing, and when they high-five each other over an especially good burp (“that’s a 10.0!”), you realize the scales of justice are seriously out of whack.  And that’s when I say, “I don’t even know who to spank first, you or them,” and I start at the top, working my way down to cover the bases. Some days, however, it seems that no matter how strong your resolve or which underwear you pick (you know, the lucky rocket ship pair or the sturdy Christian ones), it doesn’t help.  You’re out of your league, and you may as well wave the white flag and head back to bed.  Like Sunday last, for instance, as we were preparing to worship in the house of God.  All at once, there arose such a clatter, we stood, frozen, mute, wondering what was the matter. “Hey!” someone shouted just outside the door.  “Mom and Dad are pulling out!  Whatcha messin’ around for?” From overhead came the sounds of thundering feet.  A freight train?  A yak?  We were unable to speak.  Then someone screeched up, yanked open the door, laid rubber (I’m sure) in two tracks on the floor.  “No, they’re not,” this in a wheeze all disgusted.  Then Father stepped out.  Grinning perp?  Busted.  See what I mean?  See?  And, yes, this really happened.  I didn’t make it up.  I didn’t include the part where the prankster jumped out from behind the fridge, either, scaring the Frantic One spitless as he reached for the doorknob.  No, I didn’t make that up, either.  Perhaps now you’ll understand the untucked shirttails, untied shoes, and the rumpled hair when we finally limp through the church house doors.  Oh, it’s not the kids.  That’s me.  My nerves are shot, and I can barely remember my name.  Maybe once the Schrocklets have been dispatched into adulthood and the “naughty” factor drops to zero, I can finally make a nice presentation.  What is nice (and here we give thanks) is the built-in crime detection software moms have.  Using our super powers, we can detect a crime in progress, apprehend the suspects, and remand them to custody until the judge arrives home from work for the sentencing.  Alright.  So I heard the wrappers rustling one floor down.  And with Little being the only one home, the pool of suspects had just one floater.  It was naughty to steal, sure, but it was nice to bring Mama the stolen goods when she asked.  Even though he was really mad.  Even though it was very hard.  He never knew it, of course, but Mama had to laugh at the sight of his small, convicted self, creeping across the floor on hands and knees.  Then a tiny, recalcitrant hand appeared over the edge of her desk, dropping the contraband with marked reluctance.  She laughed to herself.  Then she sighed.  As she set about the ongoing work of character reformation, she wondered quietly how that one list was coming along and how Christmas would look for certain folks that she knew.  She was hoping for “nice.”  Yes, really hoping for “nice.”

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