“He’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. Santa Claus is comin’ to town.”
Just coming off a crazy summer with 4 sons (ages 21, 18, 12, and 5), there’s been plenty of “naughty” afoot, and this tired mother is needing a whole lot of “nice” to recover from all the doin’s. There were those infernal mirrors, you’ll recall, leaving me with scarred retinas. There were the walnuts they’d flung at each other and the vinegar ice cubes they’d tried to spike my drinks with.
There were firecrackers going off at odd times (think ‘chore time’) and prolific draft dodging. There was outright piracy (the pirates, unfortunately, aren’t confined to Somalia) in the pantry, and there’d been the requisite slapping and chasing.
“The ‘Dad’ sign is off,” their father informed me just the other day during an outbreak of ‘naughty.’ “You know, like the taxi signs?”
I spluttered, stunned, barely coming up for air in time to avoid a blackout. 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. He’d taken up the challenge of creating the perfect bowl with great relish after friends had served some up a couple of weeks ago. Handing over a dish of coffee-flavored ice cream with chocolate chips, he’d grinned like the proverbial chessy 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 got his driver’s license this summer. I’d forgotten how truly nice it was when a whirlwind could haul himself to his own whirlwind activities according to his own whirlwind schedule, 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, Biggest 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 I feel like I’ve got five boys. When The Mister’s delivering dutch rubs on their heads that leave them hollering and thrashing, when the whole lot of ’em get 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 just start at the top, working my way down to cover the bases.
I did get a real boost of confidence the other day at the local vegetable stand, though. I’d gone to the register with a question about zucchini. Peering at me, a grin starting to form, the pleasant Old Order Mennonite woman behind the counter said, “Are you the lady that writes for the paper?”
“Yes.” I grinned back, pleased.
Turning, she called over her shoulder, “Henry! Come here.” A leathery-skinned, grizzled gentleman appeared. “Do you recognize her?” This in a Pennsylvania Dutch accent.
He grinned as well, joining us in a veritable epidemic of grinning. “She’s the one that writes.”
We talked, then, about boys (four for me, five for them) and our dog who’d also been a boy. “You’re outnumbered!” she chuckled.
And then he said it, whiskered cheeks plumped up in another grin from beneath his straw hat, “You’re so good, you can handle ’em.”
I’m still grinning over it. Finding readers and a shot of encouragement at the vegetable stand is…well, awfully nice. It makes up for the naughty. Well, almost.