Family Fun, Frivolity, and – Felons?

Categorized as 12/03/07 Goshen News column

Personally, our holiday festivities began in a rather inauspicious manner. If you really must know why we were late for the turkey, I guess I’ll tell you. We were at a Wakarusa detective’s house having our oldest son uncuffed. Now before you add him to your church hotline or send money for bail, let me finish. They were toys – yes, toys, which really makes this embarrassing.

You see, this son has always been a curious one, so it should be no surprise that he would spot a pair of toy cuffs lying around and slap them on one wrist “just to see how it felt.” Sadly, his little brother waited until they clicked to tell him that there was no key. Oops! No key and no visible release mechanism, either. Moreover, in his furious search for such a mechanism, he managed to click it on even tighter, thereby eliminating plan B – a bolt cutter.

Thus, his father made an embarrassed phone call to a friend that he runs with, the detective, whose seventh grade son was actually the hero that day. As our eldest slunk up their drive in his letter jacket, dangling handcuffs tucked out of sight up the sleeve, his worried mother sent up a quick plea for divine intervention while visions of gangrenous eruptions followed by a bloody amputation danced in her head. A vivid imagination is not always a blessing.

Again, it was Casey, the seventh grader, who saved the day. Handing over the key to one of his old pairs, he said, “You can have it. I don’t play with them anymore.”

“Neither do I,” blustered the senior while a virtual chorus of ewes may have been heard baaing loudly in the background, so sheepish was he.

The handcuffs (with the key) were an unqualified hit at the family gathering. Word reached us at the dining room table that our second son had been spotted lying face down in the kitchen beneath a small, enthusiastic band of cousins who had apparently deputized themselves and were making a citizen’s arrest. Boy, give ‘em a pair of metal bracelets and they all become crime fighters, fearless defenders of truth, justice, and the American way.

As one might imagine, with 14 grandkids – 10 boys and 4 girls – it is difficult to have a meaningful, uninterrupted conversation. We adults decided to remedy the situation on Friday. It’s just gratifying, somehow, to know that the old standby still works. You know, the one where you point and shout, “What’s that over there?” and when they turn their little heads to look, you flee the premises, hole up at the coffee shop, and quit taking calls. In theory, that’s how it goes. It’s amazing how the long arm of the law (see aforementioned “deputies”) can reach all the way to Nappanee from Honeyville and Wakarusa. There were texts, “U better bring me a bar!” There were phone calls, “When are you coming home,” to which we chorused in unison, “Tomorrow!” to a stunned silence on the other end.

We had a great time that morning, drinking coffee and nibbling scones while catching up on our lives, all of which is easier to do when you’re not helping someone go potty or plucking two or more crumb crunchers off the rafters. Then, because we really do love our kids, we moseyed home to pick them up.

The next stop was Shipshewana. With our nine year old having birthday money for the Thomas store burning such a hole in his pocket that a skin graft was imminent, it was crucial that we go. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that the hot pretzels are a mere two floors below that. Those alone are worth the 45-minute drive. We had another ritual family gathering over the pretzels and cheese before swapping kids for sleepovers and finally calling it a day.

Really, the Schrock clan did nothing exotic this year – no family cruise, for instance. We were just together, laughing, talking, eating, meeting the newest nephew, shooting in the air periodically to calm the rowdy mob – just normal family stuff. But that’s what makes a holiday memorable. It’s the “ineffable holiness of small things,” as someone has said. It’s heart stuff.

May you see the ineffable holiness in your own “small things” this season.

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