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Tag: little boy logic

worm rescue

the rains pelted hard all morning. ruined any notion of lobbing balls out back, or sliding into home. canoeing, maybe, from home to first, but no knees-first, belly-flopper onto base. not without a periscope and flippers.

when it slowed, at last, came more like the dribble from a cranky faucet that won’t quite shut off, the two of us–one of whom had been pouting at the soggy windowsill–decided it was the perfect interlude for the age-old constitutional: the walk, just after rain.

in fact, i told the little one, as we slid our arms into the yellow rubber sleeves of our water-fighting armor, as the little one insisted he make the duck umbrella burp and stretch out her wiry ribs, this was a made-to-order meteorological moment for a pair of sidewalk crusaders.

it’s nouns like that, i tell you, that perk up a little boy’s ears. he looked right at me with that umbrella already doubling as a sword. crusaders, i could hear his little brain gears crunching in dismay, what does she know about crusades?

“it’s worm rescue weather,” i told him, stepping out the door and over the rivulet running east along the stoop. “this is when the worms come out, thinking they’ll just grab a little gulp of rain. but then, sometimes, the rains dry up and the poor worms are stranded, right there on all the sidewalks.”

i leapt right in, waited not for him to play along. or even sign a waiver of intent.

“here wormy, wormy, wormy,” i called, scanning here and there for a waylaid invertebrate, a worm who’d lost his way, a worm, by golly, who’d had far too much to drink, and could not slither home. or just gave in to wormly je-ne-sais-quoi. ennui, perhaps. of the earthworm ilk. up and called it quits in the middle of a concrete wasteland.

the little one–too young to drop me by the hand and sprint, too old to merely play along–interrupted.

“hey, mom, i don’t think that’s gonna work,” he said. “i think that just works for a cat or a dog. but then you have to say their name, the cat’s name or the dog’s name. doggy, doggy doesn’t work. and wormy wormy doesn’t either.”


he had a point, but i had little option. no worms i knew had names. or not that i’d been told. so i kept my eyes to the task. scanned all the way to the corner. but didn’t see a worm. only a stick, that i thought–from far away–might have wiggled once or twice, but upon close inspection, didn’t.

it was then, faced with sidewalk north or east, that i asked: “which way has the most worm potential?”

to which he answered, proud with logic: “why would i know that? i’m not a worm.”

have you noticed that kids these days have surrendered their imaginations? ah, but then, he came through with plain old common sense, imagination’s reliable–if not inventive–relation.

“anyways, mom, can i tell you something?” he asked, not slowing for an answer. “there’s a robin. so, bingo, there must be worms somewhere.”

crouching down, the boy who claimed no insight into worm brainworks, began talking to a peachy-breasted bird: “robin, find a worm for us.”

on command, the bird bobbed down its head, and came up with squirmy object, as requested. the robin, though, failed to cough it up, instead feasting on its over-sodden insides.

it took three more blocks of worm patrol before, at last, we found a spineless wonder stranded on the walk.

it had inches to go before it made it back to dirt and grass where it stood a chance of escaping errant tricycles, or big flat soles that paid no mind to where they landed.

as i knelt down to teach the tender art of lifting on a stick, and plopping on the grass, my trusty sidekick kicked in, all right.

“oh, worm,” he started in, “just to tell you, you’re disgusting.” and then to robin on a limb: “oh, robin, here’s a worm.”

it is slow teaching, this curriculum of tenderness toward all things living, and even those that aren’t.

as long as they’ve been watching, the boys i call my own have known their mama to be some sort of creepy-crawler ferry. on a mission from God, perhaps, to let no winged thing, or multi-limbed one either, suffer crushing fate, or die in wad of toilet paper.

why, heck, they tell their friends, she carries ants and flies, and even bumblebees, out of doors, to set them free. in the dead of winter, egad, she lets them loose down in the cellar where it’s warm enough for a cold-blooded critter.

and now, in turn, i watch the older one do the same.

the little one, though, is waffling. on the fence about these here creatures from the deep and darkside.

but there’s hope, i sense.

stay with me here, as we leave the world of bugs and travel to a new car showroom.

just the other night, we found a wee sedan, a shiny black one, to replace the only one my little one had ever known.

when the man in shiny pin-striped suit spelled out the deal, said in no uncertain terms we had to turn in the old and not-so-shiny auto, the little one broke into tears that would not stop.

half an hour later, the tears still poured. not even lemonade and kisses squelched the flow. not even big screen tv, with baseball nearly big as life, squawking in the little room where they make you dawdle while they write up all the zeroes.

his face all red and splotchy, the worm-resistor whispered in my ear: “can i go give the car a kiss goodbye?”

and so, by the hand i took the boy i’m teaching to be full of heart. we walked into the greasy place marked, service. where they stripped the trusty car of its old plates, and emptied out its trunk, with nowhere near the honor, by the way, that it deserved.

my little one leaned on the hood, blessed the car with tender kiss, then stretched his arms as far as he could reach around the grill. he laid his cheek onto the hood. and squeezed with all his might.

he might not have mastered the fat and squirmy earthworm, but he showed the other night, there’s quite a heart inside that little chest.

next time it rains, we’ll try again to beat the robins, and rescue stranded nameless creatures who have no legs to get them where they’re headed.

who taught you tenderness? in what form did the lessons come?
oh, by the way, forgive the squirmy photo up above. oops. hope it didn’t make you spit your coffee out. if only i’d had a camera at the car shop. but in my mind, it’s a picture i will never ever forget. the boy who ached to leave his first, best car.

the trouble with valentines

hmm, well, it seems we’re in a pickle, here on the brink of the 24-hour timeout for ooey, gooey, goopy love.

i’ll reel out the dilemma:

the house–thanks to a bodyclock that manages to run on little sleep when a big hour is at hand–is all laid with the trappings of that national feast day of construction paper and glue. oh, and i do mean trappings. nearly slipped down the stairs, i just almost did, when my heel caught and slid on a red paper heart. or was it a pink one? hard to tell in the dark. i’ve got hearts scattered like puddles after a downpour in april.

up to that point in this cupid-pocked tale, there are no protests. not a one from the one particular inhabitant of said house who went to sleep with a fear in his head, and a rumble down in his belly.

nor will there be picketing when it comes to the old maple table, the one now bursting with hearts in pink and in red. the one with hearts that are shimmering. hearts that you’d better not shake for they’re losing their glittery scales like a snake on some sort of diet.

no shouts of protest when breakfast is served in red-plastic heart plates. nor when young hungry folk see that the star of the table is the fat giant cookie their papa brought home from the store, in the cover of darkness, i think, when no one was looking. although i must pause and wonder what the cashier must’ve thought, when she saw a tall man with glasses and puffy old snow coat trying to pay for a chocolate chip cookie the size of a championship frisbee, iced with the words, “kiss me hot stuff.”

hmm. no wonder we’ve got just a bit of a valentine’s problem.

the problem is this:

the little one, the one who loves everything about the day when he wakes up to the paper-heart trail, the one that leads from the edge of his bed, out his room, down the stairs, round the bend, into the kitchen, and straight up to the table where sugar comes in a few extra forms, well, that very little one is adamantly lobbying that he–along with the rest of the first-grade boys–should be excused from school this very fine thursday.

now, why, you ask? why would a boy want to skip out on a day where cupcakes are served, and brown paper bags are hung at the edge of each desk. why would a boy want to miss out on the foil-wrapped chocolates that might get dropped in that bag, along with, say, a valentine?

ahhh, the v-word. that there is the problem.

i’ll let the little one explain, as he did last night at dinner, while popping clementine moons into his mouth, delivering the occasional swift kick under the table to his big brother who could not wipe the giggle off of his lips:
“all the boys don’t want to go to school,” he began, “because they think we’ll get cooties.”

what are cooties, the little one’s mama asked, coolly, without so much as a flinch. (poor child is tied with a long-historied inquisitor for a mama. when it comes to questions, he gets ’em rat-a-tat, till there’s not a thing left to wonder. fear not, the child can take it.)

cooties, he explained, are: “things on your face.”

popping a clementine, he refined his definition: “just like dimples.”

[note to reader: we think he meant pimple, but when you are six, consonants slip-slide all over the place, wind up where they don’t belong all the time. we pay no mind to trespassing consonants. we take them in stride.]

how do you get them, we asked of the dimple/pimple/cooties?

“you know,” came the two-syllable answer, rounded out with a roll of the eyes.

“girls,” came the addendum. delivered with a swift and certain kick to the shin of the big brother, who by then was near bursting with giggles he knew to contain. apparently, he didn’t contain them nearly enough, for the little one, suddenly, out of the blue, teetered on tears.

“only if a girl kisses you,” he explained, unprompted.

and, apparently, the mere thought of a classroom of puckered-up girls pushed him over the edge. there were tears everywhere suddenly.

tears mixed with clementines. tears mixed with what appeared to be punches into the arm of his nearly-choking, trying-so-hard-not-to-laugh big brother’s baggy sweatshirt. and finally, tears buried in the chest of his mother. who, for the record, is not a girl, and was allowed to very much kiss him to try to make the tears go away.

so here we are, right here on the brink of the moment itself. any minute now, that sweet dreamer will awake, will be swept by the hearts at the edge of his bed, down the stairs, and into the insanely overdone table. he will romp with the reckless joy of cookies for breakfast, along with his pink scrambled eggs, and his strawberry floating in orange juice.

but then, the moment will come. he will freeze. mid-bite, probably. he will writhe. he will try, one more time to wriggle his way out of going to school on the day when the cooties could come.

ah, but his mama, being a meanie, she will knowingly, glowingly, send him anyway.

a boy’s got to learn, now doesn’t he, that a little love surely won’t hurt him.

and if he gets a cootie or two, well, he’ll learn about clearasil, too.

big day for six-year-old boys, this day packed with cut-paper hearts and rampant, out-of-control possibility.

to be loved, is the point, is to be at risk for all sorts of troubles. you might be drawn to places you’d not dreamed of.  you might tap into bits of your soul you’d never explored. you might find yourself falling for someone who urges you to become more than you ever knew you could.

not a bad lesson for first-grade.

not a bad lesson, at all.

and my wish for each and every one of you: that you too get into the trouble of being loved. and may this day of hearts and random, lurking cooties bring you unexpected giggles. and even a chocolate or two. or maybe just the biggest fattest juiciest strawberry you ever bit into.
did you ever worry about cooties? do you have a heart’s-day tale to tell? do you, like my friend emb, live to scatter hearts today the way i so often scatter bird seed?