apple pie, poker & the afterglow of hardballs to the noggin

by bam

these odd chapters somehow always manage to creep up unawares. and so this one.

we were sitting the other eve, forks in mid-lift, i’m certain, when suddenly a skinny pair of sun-browned legs came swishing through the steamy jungle that these days is my secret tangled garden, the one tucked along the side of this old house. not many lopes behind him came another pair of legs, grown-up legs, a mother’s legs. but not his mother’s.

while it took my brain cells a spell or two to shake all this out, it all came tumbling clear once i saw the look of dazed despair on the little one’s face, and the ashen worry on the mama trailing just behind. then i saw the boy holding something to his dust-splattered head, and i needed little explanation to reach the quick conclusion that this was not how the evening had been scripted.

while the little guy stared up at me with those thirsty hazel-brown eyes of his, in that way that kids have of signaling simultaneous distress and “help me, help me, mama! this here’s your job,” the mama trailing behind him began to spill the dots.

there had been a game of stealing bases, and a hardball, one zipping through the air at 35 miles per hour, she figured (and, the mother of three ball-playing boys, she knows these things). that hard-beaned hardball made a beeline straight to my little guy’s forehead, which set him “crumpling” (her word) to the ground, upon which he couldn’t remember my phone number, and kept saying the same thing over and over. oh, and he was dizzy. and he thought he might throw up.

now, mind you, i’d just the week before heard a tale of precisely the same thing, a kid on the side of a ball field taking a bean to the head, how he got rushed to the school nurse, who thought not so much of it, so he went along to his after-school playdate, only to start getting droopy-faced within the hour. that poor kid wound up in emergency brain surgery before the sun set, and now, thank god, is a-okay. though he won’t be playing ball for a long long time. or ever, if his mother has anything to say about it.

so, with that fresh little spectacle shining in my head, i took in the scene with my very own head-bonked boy, and before you can spell “concussion,” i’d speed-dialed our trusty pediatricians, who wasted no time in sending me to the ER we live so conveniently close to. (note to mothers of boys: when house hunting, be sure to clock the door-to-door distance to your nearest friendly emergency room. it comes in handy.)

not-so-long story abbreviated: dear boy didn’t even need a CT scan, though of course they ruled his head bonk a by-the-book concussion.¬†and, worth mention, his big brother did a memorable job playing ambulance driver, clicking on the bright red flashers only to be stuck in traffic behind the north shore’s slowest-ever driver, meandering lazily down the express route to the hospital. and, happy ending taken up a notch, we walked out of that ER into the arms of a thrashing summer’s storm. hallelujah!

but this wouldn’t be a tale worth telling if not for the prescription that came with the bump: no TV, no computers, no reading, no contact sports.

egad.

for how long we must endure this, we do not know. we see the concussion doctor monday. so for now, and through the weekend, we’ve turned back the clock and we’re playing like pioneers, minus the covered wagon.

yesterday we filled the day with this list of exotica: two boys — ages 10 and 11, mind you — baked, from scratch, an apple pie. yessiree, they sliced the apples, dumped the sugar, sprinkled cinnamon with vigor. they rolled out the dough, crimped the edge (in remarkably poetic undulations). then, because both share the initials TK, they drew out a lance from the kitchen junk drawer and lanced away at their letters, a cris-cross of hard-edged consonants nearly doing in the pie top.

while the apple pie did its oven dance, they did what bakers do: they tried their hand at texas hold ‘em, a poker variation, then moved on to black jack and dominoes. ping pong served as minor interlude, along with a promise from our head-bonked one that he would not, absolutely not, come crashing down on the sharp corner of the table.

later in the evening, yet another little fellow wandered by. he took the bumped one out for ice cream, and, quietly strolling the lanes from there to here, they returned home for a long night of not-oft-seen board games. checkers, monopoly, and the fierce pursuit of plastic real estate.

so goes the old-fashioned, turn-back-the-clock life of the forehead compromised.

and, of course you’ve guessed that the point here is that gifts sometimes come wrapped in odd packages. say, ones with purple-green swirls just under a little boy’s forehead curls.

it is rather a refreshing, if taxing, way to spend a summer’s day, exercising the imagination, steering clear of pursuits that might potentially jar that tender brain of his.

deep inside, i long for just such summer days. for the gift of building tree forts (though at the moment, the fort is grounded, not cleared for take-off). for, perhaps, lying upon a summer’s couch, listening to the words of a mama turning the page of some fine adventure tale. and, pray tell, how about a lemonade stand, peddling from-scratch lemony-sugar potion, at the turn-back price of 5 cents a glass?

sometimes it takes a klonk on the head to get us seeing clearly. and if that’s the moral to the hardball story, well, then, i wish we could have gotten there without the goose egg hatching on my little fellow’s forehead.

how do you dream of spending a summer’s day? one spent the old-fashioned way?