Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The games must go on

original run date May 8th
Chariton Valley News Press

Do guys ever really grow up?  I ask myself that almost daily now that Joni has moved into her own home and left me alone with her father and brother.
Larry and the kids have always enjoyed competitive activities of any kind. It seems games with any kind of ball involved has always attracted them like mosquitoes to a bug zapper. I have tons of pictures from when the kids were little of impromptu basketball games, softball in the front yard, and games without a name involving the extra large balls from the dollar store and a plastic bat. I even have pictures of badminton in the pasture using the horses as a net.
We always kept a bat and ball of some kind in the horse trailer for campouts. It usually started out pretty simple and before you knew it, all the adults had been suckered into a game of baseball. When the adults hit the ball too hard and broke the bat and deflated the ball, the kids would quickly scramble to make a ball out of the tin foil from the grill. It was easy to find a bat with all the manure forks hanging out in trailers. Paper plates always made the perfect base.
As the kids have grown, the games aren’t near as abundant in our house. My décor is thankful for that. Larry and the kids used to play “football” in my living room. Larry would sit in the recliner on one side of the living room and one of the girls would become the marker on the other side about five feet away. Jake started at the fireplace with helmet secured to his head and football tucked under his arm. If he could make it to the couch on the wall behind the chairs, it was a touchdown.
This was all fine and dandy until the pass play came into effect. Larry would launch the ball at Jake in hopes that he would catch it. Since the ball was bigger than Jake for the first few years, the pass usually went right through his hands. Jake eventually grew big enough to catch it but in the mean time, the décor in my living room suffered. I have a two-foot tall defenseless cowboy these days because his arm holding his rifle is broken at the elbow. Another cowboy riding his horse has been decapitated and his horse has two broken ears and a docked tail.
The Indian figurines Larry collected over the years paid a price as well. The hunting warrior’s bow was left hanging by the bow string, the majestic deer became a unicorn, the proud and powerful chief is missing more than one feather from his headdress, and the canoeing squaw has a hole in her boat and a headless dog in tow.
Although it was usually the guys in the house who got the blame for the broken décor, the girls had to take the blame for the most expensive living room loss. The first summer the kids were allowed to stay home on their own, we lost a tv. Larry and I didn’t realize the extent of the damage until late into the evening. As a matter of fact, the tv looked fine until we turned it on. That is when the hissing and popping followed by sparks and smoke caught our attention.
Apparently, the girls were quite intrigued by one of the carnival games at the Steak Festival earlier that summer. We never allowed them to play many of those games so they decided to recreate the “shoot the parading duck” game on their own one day.
The couch served as a large armrest and their super soaker water guns had enough power to reach all the way across the living room and meet the target. The target was, of course, their gullible little brother running back and forth across the room – in front of the tv. I probably never would have known about their wonderful game had they not gotten water into the vents on the front of the tv and fried all the circuitry. The beauty of that incident was I didn’t have to think of an appropriate punishment. They were home all morning for a good part of the summer with no tv since we just decided not to replace it for about a month.
The games eventually were banned from the living room and moved to the front yard where they belonged. Our dog Gus loved the move since he could join in. He loved to catch Jake not paying attention as he pursued whichever girl had the football under her arm. Gus became a master at tripping Jake then laying on top of him while the girls ran for safety. Yes, I have pictures!
My outdoor décor did not fair any better than the indoor. I now have a concrete St. Francis statue holding a beheaded child and several one-winged angels. My hanging baskets seldom lasted an entire summer. I wonder if any company has ever truly made a child/husband proof accessory for the home or garden?
Jake had a rare evening at home the other night and the thump of the oversized tennis ball he won at the after-prom party almost lulled me to sleep. He and his dad were casually bouncing it back and forth across the living room. I could have sworn I had two six year olds in the house as they laughed at each other each time the ball hit the bulls eye they were aiming for on the other’s body.
I didn’t even bother to yell at them when it took a couple leaves off the plant or bounced through the window and hit the computer monitor. I gave up on them growing up years ago. Besides, we had just gotten home from a college visit in Iowa and a reality check for Mom. Nothing like driving three and half hours and seeing the gleam in my son’s eyes as he checked out the college campus and everything it had to offer to make me realize he really is going to leave home next year.
Larry has long quit playing football against Jake – he says Jake’s tackles hurt too much these days. They still cannot resist a game of horse every now and then even though it always leads to good-hearted arguments. I have no doubt I’ll hear that silly tennis ball bounce across the living room several more times over the course of the next year.
As I face Jake blazing forward into preparations for his senior year of high school, I’m a little thankful for all the broken décor. The one-armed cowboy still stands proudly in my living room, situated strategically behind a plant stand. The earless horse still carries his cowboy with the glue mark around his neck. Although the home décor will never be the same, the memories attached to those broken pieces of art will remain priceless.
Every cleaning day I’m reminded of the laughter that rolled through my house as those games unfolded through the years. I’ll miss those sounds as the quietness of the empty nest settles in but I have no doubt - no doubt whatsoever there will be more games over the course of the next year and more broken décor. It’s a small price to pay for the memories I’ll hold on to and treasure for a lifetime.

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