Big Kids, Little Kids And Kickball

April 4, 2013

kickball          “Can I play?  Please, can I play, just this once?”  My eight-year-old pleas went unnoticed on the sun-baked road sprinkled with kids choosing teams for a game of kickball.

Finally, my big brother, Steve, looked in my whining direction.  “You know the rule.  You have to be ten!  Now get off the road!”

Dejected, I trudged over to the stone wall behind first base, topped with a fringe of dangling feet—all the spectators who knew the sad misfortune of being under ten.

Hunt Avenue was always vibrantly alive with the business of active little minds collectively pursuing their highest aim—to have fun!  One of the activities highest on the list was the great game of kickball.

An entire generation of Hunt Avenue kids knew the playing field well.  Home plate was the manhole in front of the Higgins’ house.

First base was a big, green mail receptacle box up against the ivy-covered stone wall in front of the Walker’s house, where the mailman picked up his mail every afternoon.  We didn’t use the politically correct term “mail carrier” back then, nor did the mailman drive a truck up to everyone’s mailbox out by the street.  He garnished a white canvas bag with a strap over his shoulder and across his chest, with “U.S. Mail” stenciled on it in large, black letters.  He filled his bag from the large mail box, and then proceeded to walk his route.  He carried the mail up to each person’s front porch, dodging dogs all the way, and deposited envelopes in their mailboxes by the front door.

So the U.S. Postal Service provided us with a nice sturdy, immovable first base.

Alas, we had no such neatly provided landmark for second base, so someone painted it in the middle of the road, right where it should be in the diamond formation of our playing field.  I don’t know who painted it, or if anyone ever repainted it to keep it fresh—I just remember it always … just being there.

The Higgins provided third base.  It was a rather large rock in front of their house out by the street, about 1½ foot diameter, and always neatly painted with bright white paint and the large black numbers “116,” indicating their house number.  Located directly across the street from the mailbox, it made a perfect third base.

It just occurred to me that some young readers might not be familiar with the game of kickball.  It’s very much like the rules of baseball, only the ball is about the size of a soccer ball, but softer, and covered with swirls of soft colors.  Instead of throwing the ball to whoever is “up,” the pitcher stands in the middle of the field and rolls the ball toward the kicker at home plate.  Just about all the other rules of baseball apply.

The problem with playing kickball on our street, though, was that there were too many kids!  The big kids wanted to have a good game, without moaning and groaning over the slower and less adroit little kids.  And of course the little kids were always squealing, “Can I play? Can I play?”

So the big kids got together and laid down some rules—well, just one, really:

 In order to play kickball with the big kids,

you have to be at least ten years old.

           Thus, the age of ten became a coveted age for all the little kids.  Not many families could afford large birthday parties, and they were mostly celebrated within each family with simply a birthday cake for dessert after the supper meal, minus all the presents.  But a tenth birthday was really special, for it marked a rite of passage into the realm of “the big kids.”  And surprisingly enough, all the big kids cordially welcomed the new ten-year-old into the great game—without any fussing or complaining, for it was “the rule.”  When you turned ten, you could play kickball!


Disney Fun?

May 1, 2012

“Dang, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a vacation,” I tell my friend.  “I haven’t been to Disney World since the kids were little. Want to go?”

“Sure!” she says.

We hop into the Corvette and head to Orlando.

Now, my friend is young enough to be my daughter, and loves thrill rides … something I usually shy away from.

But what the heck … it’s time to overcome some fears … like heights, being whirled upside down and around and up and down … oh my!

First day, first park … Hollywood Studios. Sinus infection be damned, I was bound and determined to challenge my fears.

And that I did.  The Tower of Terror, I discovered, is aptly named! I screamed and kept grabbing for something to hold onto. At the end of the ride, the guy next to me asked, “Are you all right?”

“Yeah!” I shout, adrenaline pumping. (I think I was grabbing him in the free-falls. It’s all a blur.)

Next up, the Rockin’ Roller Coaster.

Holy shamoley, it was terror multiplied. I kept my eyes closed the entire time … screaming … wondering … is it over yet?

Why do people call this fun?

The next day, we entered Animal Kingdom.  First stop, Expedition Everest. I took one look at the huge mountain and roller coaster and said, “No way.”

My friend went alone, while I happily waited below, very content with my decision.

After she got off, she told me about a guy in line in front of her, with his little son.

“But I don’t want to go!” he screamed.

“Ssshhhh, you’re going anyway!”

Poor little kid. I hope he wasn’t too traumatized.

Some of us love the thrills of high flying.

But some of us can just do without … loving to seek thrills at high speed while hugging the ground.

I’m with the latter.

April 6, 2012

Truthing It

“Who wants to color Easter eggs?”

I ask this every year right before Easter, and seldom get any takers.  But Friday night our daughter’s boyfriend was over when I made my yearly plea.

“I LOVE to color Easter eggs,” he said.

Score…my kind of guy!

So we set everything up and went to task.  I got to once again relive a childhood tradition, passed down from my father’s parents, who arrived at Ellis Island from Poland in the early 1900’s.

My father always meticulously oversaw the annual Easter tradition at our house.  We didn’t just put a few crayon markings on the hard-boiled eggs and dunk them in food coloring.  Mom would save up empty soup and tuna cans for weeks.  A few evenings before Easter my mother, father, nine brothers and I would gather to delicately inscribe our artistic masterpieces on a few dozen boiled-egg canvases.  Mom carefully prepared…

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Grandma’s Revenge

March 25, 2012

Bomb Boy.  That was my middle child’s nickname.  If it had anything to do with fire, electrical sparks, explosions – you name it – he was all over it.  Come to think of it, both of my boys were like that.

I remember well a phone call from my oldest son while I was away at a conference in Phoenix.

“Mom, the good news is that we cleaned it all up.”

“OK, so what’s the bad news?”

“Well, we were trying to make our own snap ‘n pops …”

“Snap ‘n pops?”

“Yeah, the kind you throw down on the ground and they spark and pop.”

“OK …”

“We had to use iodine as one of the ingredients …”

“Oh no …”

“Well, it kind of exploded in your bathroom.”

My bathroom?!  Why couldn’t you do it in your bathroom?  Why did you do it in mine?!”

“I don’t know.  That’s just where we were.”

Long story short, we had to repaint the bathroom.

And then there was my brainstorm to get them a root beer making kit for Christmas.

Again, I was at a conference in Phoenix, when I got the call.

“Mom, we cleaned most of it up.”

“OK, what happened now?”

“Well, the root beer kind of exploded.”


“On the ceiling in the kitchen.”

That was many years ago, and I can still see the spots on the kitchen ceiling.  Ah, the lovely mementos our children leave behind.

Explosions aside, they were also ingenious with pranks and attempts to not get caught.  Like the time they rigged the bedroom doorknob to the light switch with a string.  I’d hear them horsing around past bedtime, but whenever I opened the door, the room was pitch black darkness.

The prank which topped all, though, was masterminded when we asked a friend to stay with the kids while we spent a week in Maine.  We left our four-door Mitsubishi sedan for her to drive the kids around to their various activities.

So one day while she was driving them around, they pulled down the seat back section which opened to the trunk.  One by one, they all climbed into the trunk, and then pulled the seat back section up to normal position.

So here’s our friend driving along … and she glances to the back seat to check on the kids … but no kids!  She freaked.

When we returned home, her entire report for the week was about that little drive.  She would never babysit for us again.  Never.

I thought it was pretty funny … how clever the kids were.  But yes, I also understood how it could have induced a heart attack.

Poor, dear friend.

Funny one, kids!

I can’t wait to see what their kids pull on them!

When You Must Do The Seemingly Impossible

February 19, 2012

My Black Friday Special arrived by UPS, signed delivery.

I can’t deal with this now.

I tucked it away … in a back room.  Rationalizations ran wild.

I just moved, and need to unpack … and Christmas is coming, for crying out loud.

It sat in the corner … silent … unmoving … unrelenting … taunting me …

You know you have to set me up.

I couldn’t deal with it … and I couldn’t find anyone else to deal with it … until my maintenance man said he’d give it a try.

Whew!  I’m off the hook!

We hauled the silent monster from its dark corner and set it in the middle of the living room … surround sound system with compatible Blu-ray player – “Easy Setup!”

Yeah, right.

In my purchasing decision, reviews said I’d need better speaker wire than what came with my system.  (Of course, I didn’t know at the time that wireless speakers even existed!)  At a garage-sale serendipity soon thereafter, I was given over 200 feet of very good 4-wire speaker cable.

My maintenance man climbed to the attic with confidence, superior cable in tow.  I pretended to be busy in the kitchen … while the silent monster taunted me from the living room.  The cable was strung through the walls, and the holes were drilled.

No turning back now.

The time came to turn on the monster, and I held my breath.

Funny how the maintenance man didn’t pay much attention to the instruction manual.

It worked!  … for a minute, then cut off.  No matter what we tried, same scenario – a few seconds of audio bliss, then click … silence.

The monster is still taunting me with his silence.

I called the company I ordered it from, and received return instructions.

The new monster arrived promptly … and I tucked it away in a back hallway.  I searched for someone to take away my pain – by installing it for me – but to no avail.

So today I rose to the challenge.

This silently screaming beast isn’t going to beat me.  I can do this, by golly.  There’s a quick-start chart … and an entire instruction manual, for crying out loud.  If others can do it, then so can I!

I hauled the dreaded monster from the back hallway and unpacked it in the middle of the living room.  I read the manual … and read it again.

Something’s wrong about how this speaker wire was set up.

I called the guy who gave it to me.

“Hey, Ron!  Remember me?  I’ve got a quick question about this speaker wire.  Am I supposed to use all four wires?”

“No way!  Did he run all four wires through your attic?”


“Dang, he should’ve split it in half.  What a waste of good speaker wire!”

“So I should just use two wires?”

“Yeah … just make sure you use the same two colors for everything.”

I hung up with new-found confidence.  An hour or so later, with a lot more reading of the manual, mumbled muttering, untwisting and plugging in wires, the moment of truth arrived.

Time to turn the power on.  Hold on to your butt!

To my complete and utter amazement … it worked!  I conquered the beast!  Pounding rock with throbbing bass pulsated throughout my living room.  I danced wildly.  I put in a Blu-ray disc, and stood motionless while the movie encompassed me.

This is freakin’ awesome!

I feared the beast … but tackled him anyway … and won.

Any other tales of doing the seemingly impossible out there?

Cell-Phone-Induced Stupidity

January 21, 2012

While driving through the neighborhood a couple days ago, my eye caught a pretty young lady walking her dog. She was on her cell phone, oblivious to her surroundings, while her dog sniffed and prepped around a mailbox with a prominent sign which read, “NO DOG WALK.”


Dang, if I only got a photo!

What is it about cell phones that makes us lose our minds?

I remember when Bluetooth ear pieces first came out.  I was minding my own business one day, shopping in a clothing store, when I spied a lady with long hair talking out loud to nobody there.  My mind drifted back to years ago when I saw many who walked the streets of New York City doing the same thing.  But that was before Bluetooth.

Is she nuts? Oh … she’s talking to someone on her cell phone!

I must admit, I am guilty of the brain cell loss caused by cell phones.

“Oh, no!  I just missed my turn!  Gotta go!”

I reel around in a U-turn, with fellow road warriors muttering, “Crazy lady!”

Yes, cell-phone-induced stupidity.

Any other cell phone stupidity admissions out there?

You Are The Potter …

January 16, 2012

At a friend’s insistence, I called the hair stylist she referred me to – Susie.  I went in for a trim.

“What would you like, hun?” asked Susie.

“I’m not really sure … what do you think?”

“I think we should go a little shorter – that would look really cute.”

“OK.  You are the potter … and I am the clay.”

“I love you!”  Susie proceeded to give me more than a trim.  After a while, she commented, “You’d make a great redhead.”

“What?”  I was dumb-founded.

“I agree,” said a fellow client.  “You have the perfect complexion for red hair.”

Why is everyone such an expert on something I never heard before? And hey, if I was meant to be a redhead, wouldn’t I have been born that way?

“I don’t know,” I said.

“If you don’t like it,” chimed in the fellow client, “you can always change it back.”

“OK – why not?” I said.

Susie made me a redhead, and I liked it.

Next visit, she said, “We need to go a little brighter.”


“I went easy on you last time, but you really need to go brighter.”

“You are the potter …”

After she made the change, she asked … as I looked into the mirror in amazement … “Do you want me to do your eyebrows?”

“I think you’re going to have to.”

While home that evening, every time I passed by a mirror, I did a double-take.

Whoa! Did I pass through a nuclear-waste site?  What have I done?

But it’s easy to adjust and change … doesn’t phase me a bit now.  It’s only hair – and it can easily be changed, right?

I like Susie … she’s more daring than me.  I think I’ll keep her.

The Potato Gun Secret

January 3, 2012

“Mom, I want to build a potato gun,” said my mechanical-genius son when he was middle-school age.

“What on earth is a potato gun?” I asked.

“It’s made from pvc, and it has a pressure gauge on it.”

“And what is it for?”

“For shooting potatoes!”

“Well what are you going to shoot potatoes at?”

“Mom, it’s fun!”

“OK.”  I’m such a pushover for fun.

This turned out to be quite a project … and a pricey one at that.  But heck, it was all in the name of science … and scientific endeavors took top priority at our house.

I had no idea what a potato gun looked like, but my son knew exactly how to build one.  I must admit, I was a little scared when he loaded the potato, pointed it at the fence, and pumped up the pressure to the max.

Boom!  Splat!  It was a roaring success, and we all cheered.

After a few potato missiles splatting on the fence, however, my boys got bored.

“What if we load paintballs in it?” said the mechanical genius.

Against my better judgment, I let the boys explore their curiosity.  They loaded a pile of yellow paint balls and aimed for the fence.

Boom!  The paintballs overshot the fence … as well as the empty field next door … and landed with a SPLAT on our neighbor’s shed.

After a bout of everyone laughing hysterically, I went into solution mode.

“Kids, the neighbors aren’t home!  Run over there and wipe the paint off their shed!”

The clandestine operation was carried out immediately, and soon the evidence was eradicated.  The neighbors would never be the wiser for it … or so I thought.

A couple days later, my neighbor was out in her yard, and we engaged in a friendly chat.

“It’s so weird,” she said.  “I found some yellow gooey stuff all over my back yard!”

“Really?” I asked incredulously.  “That is weird!”

That was about ten years ago, and it still bugs me.  I’ve got to ‘fess up to my dear neighbor.  The potato gun secret has to come out of the closet!

Life Is Too Short, Not To Have A Little Fun

December 3, 2011

I pulled up to the red light, first in line in the left lane.  I heard a bizarre, hokey tune to my right, and turned my head, expecting to see an old ice cream truck from my childhood memories.  (Gee, are there any more ice cream trucks anywhere?)  Nope, it was a classic, white convertible with the top down, with a wide-smiled kid at the wheel.  (These days, anyone under thirty is a kid.)

The windows were up in my silver Corvette Coupe, but I could still hear this kid talking and laughing with his friend in the car behind me, zany horn going strong throughout his lively conversation.

“… Yeah, I’m going to race this lady in her Corvette!”

Hmmmm … he wouldn’t have a chance …

The light turned green, and I floored it.

The kid caught on, and caught up to me.

I floored it again … and this was right in the middle of town.

I let him catch up to me.  We exchanged wide smiles.  It was a conservative, small race … in a small town swarming with cops looking for someone to catch doing anything questionable.

I’m pretty sure I proved my ride’s superiority, and he respectfully smiled in acknowledgement.

We went our separate ways into our days – filled with our own priorities – I, with a big smile, and I’m sure he wore one, too.

Life is too short, not to have a little fun.

We do need to place more priority on having a little fun once in a while in this life, don’t you think?

Sparks and Wonderment of Angels

December 3, 2011

Sometimes things go seemingly wrong, but when we catch a glimpse of what could have gone a lot worse – we become very thankful for the “seemingly wrong.”

Such was the case with a recent power outage in a couple rooms.

Dang, why is this happening now?

I called a trusted electrician who had done work for me before.

“Miss Judy,” he called in southern gentleman style, after a thorough investigation.  “Take a look at this.”

He jiggled the suspect outlet, and wild, two-inch blue-white flames shot out.

“Holy crap,” I said.  “That could have burned the whole house down!”

“I can’t believe this house hasn’t burned down already!” he said.

I pray for this house and our tenants every day. 

“There must have been an angel standing here!” I said.

Who knows?

As for me, I’m truly thankful for the “seemingly wrong” power outage, which prompted me to call a trusted electrician to fix the problem.

I can’t help thinking – when things go wrong, how often are they really a blessing in disguise?

How ‘bout you?  Any blessing-in-disguise experiences?

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