With summer in full swing and the kids underfoot, we’re running more than a shortage on food. We’ve got a quiet deficit and a noise overload. What happened the other day will illustrate my point.
There I was, having stolen out to the lean-to early one morning for some quiet time. In the great outdoors, I’ve found, one can breathe. Can listen. Can think. In the light of the sun with the breeze on one’s face, you can sense more keenly the presence of the Almighty. And, unfortunately, on this day, the presence of the kids.
Somewhere on the back side of the house, a window went up, and from the laundry room, a pajama-clad Someone hollered out, “Can we open the Golden Grahams?” And just like that, he stole the quiet right out of my time.
Silence, as the old cliché goes, is golden. I’m remembering, now that school’s out, how golden it is. “And duct tape,” a cheerful friend added once when the subject arose, “is silver.” Yup. I’m recalling that, too.
You’d be proud. So far, I can report that I’ve not used the roll of tape, silver, that’s stored above the dryer in a cabinet. I’ve also resisted the urge to use a few other tricks that moms have used from time immemorial. Like the one where you shout, “Ice cream truck!” Then, when the little Quiet Thieves go thundering down the steps and out the back to look, you lock the door.
Even Viking mothers used this, passing it down from one generation to the next. Reportedly, Rose Kennedy, matriarch of the Kennedy clan, pulled this trick when she needed some quiet time of her own out on Martha’s Vineyard.
“Ice cream truck!” she’d shout in her fine New England accent. And out they’d tumble, those nine little Kennedys with the lead changing hands from Teddy to Jack and then back to Bobby. By the time the young scions realized they’d been had and straggled back home, poor Rose’s vision had cleared, her blood pressure came down and she was no longer crouched in a corner, repeating, “Must not eat young. Must not eat young.” (Rose. I know what you mean.)
Anyway, unlike the young Kennedys, the Schrock kids weren’t born with silver spoons in their mouths. You’d never know it, though, by looking at the counter.
Whereas I, in the course of a normal workday, may dirty a mug, a saucer and a fork, suddenly there’s been an alarming proliferation of dirty spoons by the sink. Whether a major league baseball team wandered through for a snack or those boys were using two hands apiece to shovel it in is unclear. Regardless, my experience with crime scenes tells me that someone’s been into the strawberry pretzel dessert, the chocolate pudding and something with cheese. Since breakfast. To quote Charlie Brown, “Good grief.” And sakes alive.
While these are all signs of summer’s arrival, I give thanks for a more colorful, welcome announcement of its return. Across the yard, this year’s impatiens march along before the chicken coop. In riotous pinks and purples all mixed up with white, they splash cheer in a lavish display that makes me—well, happy. So does the tent that a local Tom and Huck Finn have set up now under a tree.
The day it went up, they invited a friend, then promptly turned the back yard into a KOA campground. Forgetting the X-box, they spent the entire time outdoors. They played basketball. They got out the lawn chairs. They started a fire, roasting marshmallows for s’mores. They sat around talking ‘til late in the night with the stars and the breeze and the frogs as their witness.
The next morning, they made roughly 1438 trips from the kitchen to the picnic table. I glanced up once to see the fridge moving and ordered a halt. Three young men shrugged, looking sheepish, and went back to pillaging the pantry.
It was on the third attempt over an open fire that they finally cobbled together some eggs that were edible. The picnic table, I noted, was buried beneath a landslide of plates, cups, condiments, egg cartons, some kind of meat and, of course, dirty spoons.
The yard, too, showed signs of their fun. Over here, two frisbees. Over there, a bat and glove. To the left, one basketball, and to the right, a pack of spent firecrackers.
Yes, it’s summer now on The Three. It’s noisy here, and messy, too. The fridge empties out as the washer fills up, and those kids are dirtying spoons right and left, up and down. The silver ones they weren’t exactly born with.
Maybe that’s a blessing, growing up without privilege. To know the simple freedom of a summertime campout. To sleep ‘neath the stars. To throw a ball with a brother. To sit late by a fire, just talking with friends. What if—perhaps—this is how privilege looks? I wish every child could know that joy.