In a discussion on teenagers, driving, and the preferred pace on roads with lettered names, Elder happened to assert, “I don’t speed.”

“Everyone speeds,” I responded with a shrug.

“Nah,” Elder argued. “I usually stay between 55 and 60.”

“Sixty is speeding. The posted speed limit is 55. Anything over it is speeding.”

Elder rolled his eyes. “Well, sure, if you’re going to take it literally.”

Well, my mistake

The law is obviously no place for a literal translation.

Just ask a member of Congress.


Angry Voice

I was sitting at the kitchen island, eating my sandwich, minding my own business, not bothering no one, when Elder sauntered through the doorway.

“Mo-om,” he demanded. “Tell Dad that he can’t watch that particular show downstairs on the living room television any more.”

As the show was one to which I had raised previous objections for its idiocy and crassness, I merely shrugged. “I’ve tried.”

“Give him a stern talking to,” he encouraged.

“Doesn’t work.”

“Use your angry voice,” Elder suggested. “I’m the only one that can withstand your angry voice.”

Jaw firming, I tilted my head. “Wait a minute,” I ordered, halting him as he circled back towards the doorway. “Are you saying you think I have an angry voice?”

“I don’t think it,” Elder replied. “I know it.”

And then he wandered carelessly from the room, completely unfazed by the darkening of my expression — the angry face that accompanies the angry voice.

I acquired the matched set soon after I taught that child to talk.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Elder’s baseball season ended last Saturday. As I’ve watched him the last several months, an almost grown man running down fly balls in the centerfield, I couldn’t help but remember the story I wrote thirteen years ago about a certain scrawny towheaded boy…

Last night, Elder played his first real ballgame — as long as we consider “real” a relative term. Some individuals might consider the affair just a rendezvous with other short people in different colored shirts. But for Elder and his adoring public, it was a baseball game.

Elder’s team, the Redbirds, were the visitors, which as we are all from the same town, merely means they batted first. Elder’s first swing connected solidly, sending the ball bouncing along the third base line. Unfortunately, it bounced to the outside before reaching third base — foul ball. As Elder said later, “I hit it, but it was a fail ball, so I couldn’t run.” So, Elder returned to the batter’s box, only to swing and miss on the next two pitches.

One more batter and the Redbirds reached the end of their roster. Younger, somehow aware that the dugout had been emptied, toddled into the little building, snatching helmets before returning to Mommy and Daddy. Somewhat frustrated, having already replaced Elder’s helmet several times, I tossed the helmet towards the others scattered in the dugout then dragged a struggling Younger back to the benches, where he decided he could fly from the third row. So, otherwise occupied, I missed a lot of the game.

However, I did look up once to see Elder, who was playing second, intent on pushing the runner from his base, his hands wrapped firmly around the kid’s tennis shoe as he tugged and pulled. Then, later, he had to leave the field for the call of nature.

At some point, towards the end, he wandered into centerfield to have a conversation with his cousin. When he heard us holler, he meandered towards his base, pausing every so often to spin in circles, both arms outstretched. However, when another runner made it to second base, he concentrated his efforts on the new kid, circling him several times then stopping in front of him to shove his face into the shadow of the kid’s cap.

When one of the coaches, who hovered just behind the shortstop for most of the game, caught Elder’s intimidation tactics, he started towards him. Noticing the man bearing down on him, Elder quickly placed the baserunner between him and the coach. The coach feinted and reached, Elder ducked and scrambled. Eventually, the batter hit the ball, redirecting both Elder and the Coach’s attention.

His next game is Thursday at 7:30. We have discussed the intimidation tactics, the sojourning to the outfield, the three-sixties, and the dodging the coach. I expect a perfectly well behaved child on second base Thursday night.

I have no idea where they’ll play Elder.

Nothing So Strong, Nothing So Gentle

American pastor Ralph W. Sockman once said, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength.”

Now, that’s the very definition of a mom.

After all, who else, after hours of physical agony and emotional upheaval, not only accepts the weight of her tormentor upon her chest but actually reaches eagerly for the miniature sadist?

That’s a mom.

Who teaches her child to tie his shoes and brush his teeth, understanding that the skills and independence she now imparts will eventually bring not only pride but certain heartbreak when he ventures into the world beyond her narrow influence?

That’s a mom.

Who allows the uncertain teenager to push against and pull towards their love with the same absolute trust and safety as the toddler wrapping tiny arms securely around her neck?

That’s a mom.

Nothing so strong as gentleness and nothing so gentle as true strength.

Well, of course, that’s a mom.

And I wish every mom a very happy Mother’s Day.

Just a Pawn

On the way to the state math competition last Saturday, Younger sprawled in the back seat of the car with a friend, the two young men engaging in chess matches on Younger’s phone. First, a dark head bent over the digital arrangement of pawns, rooks, bishops, knights, and royalty, then, the phone exchanging hands, a fairer head lowered over the tiny board.

After suffering a couple losses, however, Younger decided to test an as yet untried tactic.

“Not Bob,” I heard him murmur in feigned disbelief and shock, as his friend’s finger hovered above the screen, clearly on the verge of ending the career–as well as the life–of one favored pawn. “You can’t kill Bob? He has a wife and five kids.”

Oh, the poor widows and orphans of these pawns moved so recklessly across a checkered board.

When will man cease to use these small, faceless creatures for their own morbid amusement?

And the real tragedy is Bob died at least three more times that day.

Oh, the inhumanity.