“If You Give a Boy a Dishcloth” found in autobiography section

Categorized as 11/09/09 Goshen News column

October is a big birthday month for the Schrocks. In fact, it’s pretty much bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Our third son led the charge, turning 11 on the 20th. Niece Audrey turned 7 on the 22nd. Gloria, a sister-in-law, is sandwiched in the middle, turning – well, it doesn’t really matter – on the 21st. Throw in Great-aunt Laura’s birthday on the 22nd, and that’s a whole lot of floats in that particular parade.

Thus, a recent Sunday evening found us gathered around the dining room table, celebrating over sandwiches, cake, and ice cream. As it sometimes does, talk turned to days gone by when Mr. Schrock and his siblings were all at home.

Let me pause for just a moment and explain something. If you think our household is a-hoppin’, it’s nothing compared to his family. My husband is the oldest of five children, three boys and two girls. They were all born in six years to the day with his baby sister arriving on his sixth birthday. For exactly one year, they were all five teenagers.

Why their parents haven’t received a Congressional Medal of Honor is beyond me. At the least, a Medal of Freedom when the last one left the nest seems entirely appropriate. But I digress.

With five nephews eagerly listening in, someone brought up the bedtime hassles they used to endure at the hands of the sisters. To the great frustration of their brothers, those two would turn into veritable songbirds when the lights went out.

Night after night, they would stage concerts from their pillows with their brothers writhing in anger, heads beneath their own pillows in an effort to block out the joyful noise. At some point, the racket would bring their father to the foot of the stairs where he would thunder up with a stern, authoritative, “Girls!”


And again, “Girls?” Finally, one of the drama queens would venture a deliberately sleepy, “Whaaat?”

As Mr. Schrock said, “I used to lie there and think, ‘You’re not gonna fall for that, are you?’”

One thing led to another, and we ended up regaling them with the afternoon’s events involving the dishes, a squirrel, and a kite, which resulted in no homework being done. When the hooting and hollering died down, one of the aunts remarked in an aside that it reminded her of the children’s book by Laura Joffe Numeroff entitled, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”

If you’re familiar with that series, you’ll know what she’s talking about. The story begins when a mouse in denim overalls asks a boy to give him a cookie. The beginning sentence reads, “If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll ask for a glass of milk.”

One thing leads to another, and by the end of the book, the house is in an uproar, the boy is exhausted, and the mouse is back in the kitchen asking for milk. This, we know, will lead to another cookie, and the whole thing starts all over again.

Hmm. It almost sounds like the author has spent a day at our house, because that sure seems to be how things work around here. The day starts out with boys asking for food, which leads to a mess I have to clean up and that leads to a load of laundry that has to be done, and by then they’re all back home, looking for food again.

When you stop and think about it, that whole “one thing leads to another crazy thing” plot has all kinds of applications. For instance, I’m seeing a political version entitled, “If You Give a Politician an Office.” As in, he’ll want a printing press to go with it. Then he will print money like there’s no tomorrow and bail out the banks and the car companies and any other big institution that’s about to flop before throwing it in the air like confetti so it rains down on his ecstatic constituents who will vote for him again, this time with both hands.

Another riveting title in that series could be, “If You Give a Man a Match.” In that plot, he will burn every empty box and scrap of paper he can get his hands on just because he likes to watch stuff burn. Then he will light a bottle rocket in the flowerbox outside the kitchen window while his sister is washing dishes. It will go kaboom just as his mother turns the sweeper off, nearly sparking a heart attack. Finally, he will be chased to the far side of Lagrange County by the two angry women, which he jolly well deserves.

Unfortunately, this is not a work of fiction. If and when Mr. Schrock ever has a book signing, you will find him over in nonfiction.

If I ever venture into the world of writing children’s books, I think my first title will be, “If You Give a Boy a Dishcloth.” This, too, is nonfiction. The book signing will be held in autobiography. I’ll be available for pictures and autographs.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *