Kidnapping Plot on the Grand Canyon

I learned a lot about my eleven-year-old son this summer. The youngest member of a 25-person rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, led by four guides.

I had worried he was too small for whitewater. Silly mom.

The first to ride at the front of the boat. To take the big waves. Yelling at the river to bring it on.

On the trails with the nimble teenagers. What cliff? What slippery edge?

Launcher of river battles. The first to fire the water gun at the other boat.

Pulling his weight in the fire-line to unload and set up camp.

The other boat was filled with adults. Surprised when he stormed it to steal their weapons as we pushed off from the narrow beach. A little guy with a war cry.

The record-breaker swimming the rapids. “One more time?” as everyone else followed the guides’ call back to the boats.

The first to jump off waterfalls. To drive the raft.

A calming guide to “put your foot there” for the adults trying the jump he’d already done ten times.

An adventurer. Fun. A leader. A warrior. At home in the raging waters.

The other boat plotted to kidnap him. They envied his spirit. Wanted him for themselves. Named him MVB, most valuable boater.

I am so grateful for his week in the sun. 

“All the World’s a Stage”

Yesterday, when our son came from backstage after the 5thgrade performance of Hello Shakespeare, he beamed. A look of joyful pride I’d never seen in him before. Not ever.

And grinning ear-to-ear, he hugged me as if his emotion was too great not to share.

It’s been a tough school year. Academically. Mostly socially. Many days, he comes home quiet. Goes to his room to draw maps or write in his journal. 

I keep thinking that he just needs to feel good at something. Some positive feedback coming from the universe.

Then yesterday, he was a natural Will Shakespeare. A fun-loving ham. As the curtain closed, and the other kids headed off stage, he remained, tossing his bowler hat in the air, smiling at the audience, soaking it in, drawing the moment out a few more seconds.

The happiest, I think, he has ever been.

At least for a day, he found his world’s the stage.

At Last

They were calling it “snowmageddon” days before it hit. And days after we spent hours trying to avoid “avalanche activity”. So, the snow day was called early. As students headed to after-school practices and rehearsals the day before its arrival, a roar of joy rang through the halls.

I was there. It was loud. But I missed seeing my own kids get the news they spent all winter waiting for.

Yesterday, they had already proclaimed the snow day a great one. Survived skiing the jump they built midway down a short hill that ends in a creek. Played a two-hour game of Risk. Drank hot chocolate.

Then just before dinner, our ninth grader started screaming, jumping around the kitchen, arms flapping. An email from his math teacher regarding “a second snow day” was followed immediately by a text from the District. Power outages. Slick parking lots. State of emergency.

This time, I witnessed their response.

Two teenage boys playing air guitar. Belting out Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” 

Looking Good, Dude

Our 11-year-old son’s 2019 New Year’s Resolution was to run on the treadmill two days a week, and to lift weights three days. As we enter month two of 2019, he has hit the treadmill three or four times, and the weights two or three.

Definitely more than his 2018 totals.

So he stood at the side of our bed, shirtless, potbelly touching the bedspread, and grinned proudly, “my six-pack is starting.”

Sacrifice to the Snow God

When they were younger and praying for a snow day did not seem enough of a guarantee, our boys invented their own ritual. Now 16, 15, and 11, and every local news outlet predicted blizzard conditions for the next morning’s commute, it triggered a buzz of excitement.  Snow Day.They suddenly weren’t tired. Snow Day.A sparkle in their eyes as they planned their sledding adventure, their snowman, their snowball fight down in the park. Snow Day.

And finally, because the ritual requires that you do it right before heading to bed the night before the storm, they each got a handful of ice cubes and marched together into the bathroom. There, they huddled around the toilet, dropped the ice in, and flushed. Snow Day.

The theory is that the ice will travel below the streets and magically encourage an above-ground freezing that cannot melt or get plowed in time for morning rush hour. School will haveto be cancelled even by the most resistant headmaster or school district. 

This time, they were sure, it would work. Snow Day.

Bimpnottin Nackle

In our middle school carpool many years ago, I rode daily with three neighborhood boys who played Dungeons and Dragons. Unable to follow their strange conversations, I looked out the window or chatted with their mom, who was lovely and worked at our school.

I thought the game disappeared with our generation, until my sons went to high school, and I read they had a Dungeons and Dragons club there. 

My kids remind me a little of the boys in that long-ago carpool. “You might like it?”

The shook their heads. Rolled their eyes.

Then our fifth grader announced that his friend was learning to play with hisDad, and out came my husband’s Dungeons and Dragons books. As father and youngest son perused the books, our teenagers hovered, reading too and, at first, cautiously admitting, “this is soooo nerdy, but reallyfun.”

They created their characters: a cleric, a human fighter, an elf with magical powers, and a dragon-born ranger. And they started on their first adventure with Dad, the cleric, as the lead.

And then it happened, as it inevitable does… 

“Mom, you should play,” said the sixteen-year-old.

And just as I joined Fantasy Football in this house of boys, I am now Bimpnottin Nackle, a Forest Gnome from the Druid Class. I can talk to animals. I am wise. In my first move, I bought a spear and a dagger. I can cast goodberry and longstrider spells, although I am not yet sure how I do either. 

I have no idea what the adventure I am joining will bring, or what Bimpnottin Nackle will do in the heat of battle, but after nearly 40 years, I give up. Let the game begin!

It’s Time to Do the Puzzle

.Last night, the family attended a Boxing Day Junkanoo, a colorful, musical street parade in the Bahamas. At 9:00 p.m., just as the floats approached where we stood against a white fence, and the horns and drums and flashing lights with them, my 87-year-old father-in-law suddenly didn’t look good. Didn’t feel good. 

My husband ran to get the golf cart. I ducked through the crowd in the opposite direction, across the street, looking for someone selling water though I had no money. I returned just ahead of the first float.

But what struck me most about the evening took place once we are all back in the quiet of the house. Grandpa was fine and resting in bed. That day, he had walked two-miles on the beach, spent another hour sitting in the sun, shared in the wine at dinner, then joined us in the Junkanoo crowd. He just needed rest. But we remained concerned, a little on edge, adrenaline still high from what had looked like an emergency.

And in that moment of what-do-we-do-now, our sixteen-year-old shined. It might sound silly to notice it as an important moment to anyone who has not watched him grow up. But…

He walked over to the puzzle, its edges completed by the rest of us earlier in the day while he played Clash of the Clans on his phone. He has never enjoyed puzzles. Not sure he has ever worked on one. But he saw that, despite the late hour, Grandma wasn’t ready for bed. 

“Well, Grandma,” he offered, “I think it’s time to do the puzzle.”

He did it so gracefully, so easily that no one but me noticed what he’d done. He is becoming such a sweet, good man.

She sat down opposite him, and they got to work, him chatting to her mostly, and celebrating each connection until she grew tired and said goodnight.