Daughter Number One arrived for a short weekend today.
With her she brought three quarters of the “Boys Only Club,” the caption she uses for the home that houses her three sons and one husband. Hubby wasn’t with them.
Of the remaining three males, two are Goliaths. The 15-year-old wears boots that would make the sneakers of Shaquille O’Neal look like a pair of bronzed toddlers’ booties. The 13-year-old would give his older brother a workout on the wrestling mat.
Either one of them would make three of the youngest, who is only 11, but I’d bet a dinky to a Caterpillar tractor that neither one of them would challenge him out. This David has the same degree of fear of his larger brothers as the original David had of the original Goliath.
The Springdale cousins consist of a 14-year-old boy who is roughly one-half the weight of the 13-year-old from Clarenville. He likes to think he walks softly and carries a big stick — a defenseman’s hockey stick.
The 16-year-old girl, like her mother and grandmother before her, has no fear of anything that walks, creeps or crawls upon the face of the planet. That includes Shaquille lookalikes. It does not include guts, blood and bodily fluids. Mere mention of this in her biology class causes her to mentally depart the premises, i.e. faint. Her 19-year-old sister is away at university so she alone carries the weight of all the male offspring. She does so rather well.
You mix this lot with their two sister mothers, each of whom regards the concept of a lower decibel range in voices to be a scientific myth, and your weekend peace is assured. Their uncle, like his father, is quiet and shy.
All our grandkids are respectful of their supreme elders. I blame their parents for that, who were in turn brought up “in the way they should go” by their parents. That third-generation is also most solicitous of those same elders and are always there to do things for us. The three boys from Clarenville don’t get to practise as much as they or we would like but they can hold their own in a crowd of cousins.
Each has his/her area of expertise in their care of us. The two I want to mention here are the 13- and 14-year-old boys. The Springdale fellow (14), living so close, is in our house on a daily basis. His Clarenville counterpart (13) has made up for his more infrequent visits by developing a skill of his own related to me. He glories in getting me breakfast, and he’s quite good at it.
The bologna is fried good and crisp, the eggs are hard over and the toast is excellent. Age 14 has his own specialty — the making of tea and coffee exactly the way I like it with just the right amount of milk and the right number of grains of sugar. The two of them announced that they were making breakfast for the whole assembly.
I began to worry at this point, being fearful of slipping through the cracks of a noisy family gathering. I don’t function well without a well-made breakfast. No one else seemed concerned, and they all settled down to a game of something or other in the living room. As the game progressed, I was encouraged by the noises coming out of the kitchen of pots and pans and various utensils being banged around.
Time passed, the game on the floor ended and the racket coming out of the kitchen died away to almost nothing. An air of expectation hung over the group. Waiters in white shirts and black bow ties were expected momentarily. But something was bothering me.
I couldn’t smell anything. Bologna gives off a distinctive odour, which is part of its charm. So do eggs. So does coffee! But nothing whatsoever permeated the air.
And then others picked up on the lack of smellable particles in this part of the house. Looks of concern were passed around like a platter of Newfoundland steak. Of equal concern was the total lack of sound coming from the kitchen.
And then there he was, the chief cook and bottle washer, the 13-year-old, with a bath towel over his arm, heading down the hall. A chorus of voices greeted this apparition, all demanding an answer to the same question, although with different words, different emphases and different dialects (Trinity Bay versus Green Bay versus St. John’s — their grandmother )
“Where in the world do you think you’re going?” To which came the nonchalant reply, “To get a shower.”
It is a rather pertinent fact that 13 never takes a shower lasting less than 45 minutes. It may be a lesser-known fact that 14, while in a league of his own when it comes to tea and coffee, might require some supervision in the entrée. Again the same chorus except louder.
“But what about breakfast?” This was greeted with a rather surprised silence as if to say, “Why would you be asking that?”
It was made clear in loud and hungry tones why this question was being asked. 13 retreated to the kitchen mumbling all the way about 14 carrying on in his absence. And he was right. Coffee and tea were ready, as were the plates of bologna, fried eggs and toast. It was all very good, once the frost covering the food was removed.
Except for mine. I had the gall, the temerity, the bad grace, the ingratitude (more words than these were used by the grandmother and the mothers, but that’s a good sample) to ask to have mine reheated in the microwave. How else are kids to learn if they’re not told the rights of things?
Anyway, I enjoyed mine thoroughly and I daresay was more grateful than anyone else. Next morning they all got up and went to church.
Can’t win ’em all.
Ed Smith is an author who lives
in Springdale. His email address is email@example.com