Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Greek, Greek, and Greek - Any Questions?

An interesting phenomona has been noticed by one of the Grecian Inquirer staff. News reporters are hopelessly out of date.

Why? We have first names. And we use them, too.

"It's time to stop global warming," Gore says. Miller and Smith agree, "We want the whales to know that we appreciate their significance in our lives."

Greek is determined, "It doesn't matter who says what -we are going to take over the world." Greek agrees. "That's right - we will, absolutely, no doubt about it. It's actually pretty cool to think about, ya' know what I mean?" he says with a confidential grin. However, Greek doesn't share Greek's and Greek's enthusiasm. "I'm not so sure," she says, "I'm kind of busy with other stuff."

I wonder why news reporters aren't getting it down? That's the way that people spoke and wrote one hundred years ago.

When reading Pride and Prejudice, we pause and ponder why any parent would name their child 'Wickham.' "Whatever could they have been thinking?" we muse. "No wonder he turned out like he did without a delightful name like Darcy to go by."

So in this the 21st century, filled with brand-spanking-new technology, let us reject the archaic form of refering to one another. We shall insist on the use of first names in news reports!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Notes from a Camper

Yesterday I watched a little boy and a little girl, perhaps nine or so, on scooters. It took me a minute to realize that they weren't related. 

They rode up the hill until each was out of breath - the exact same moment - and then pushed their scooters to the summit.

From the top, the ride was long and steep. The boy deferred and watched eagerly as the girl flew down at such a speed that I jumped up from the picnic table where I was dicing carrots.

She screamed, half in thrill and half terror.

"It's too fast!"

The boy's voice, certain of her capability, was unwavering.

"Just stop!"

The road turned. I couldn't bear to look and waited for the sound of impact. She was hurtling towards a tree.

Silence, then a nervous giggle. Somehow she had diverted her course to the grass and rolled off easily. The boy was proud.

Thirty seconds later, he too had bolted past and they were on the way up as if nothing had happened. He asked her if she liked it here and wanted to stay. She said she didn't like being sweaty, and, laughing, rattled off a whole list of things she missed from home. They were still pushing scooters, but he was watching her with cocked head and contented half-smile. 

Somehow our eyes met, and I read the satisfaction on his face. If he were ten years older I would have gotten the "I got her" wink, but he was too innocent. I have hardly seen two people more at ease with each other in all my life.

This morning I saw him pushing his bicycle up the hill. He was alone, huffing and puffing with shoulders bent and eyes on the pavement, like any ordinary boy. I wondered where the girl was.

 - a camper

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thoughts from the Sideline

fall 2007

It's the first game of the season, the first game my three little brothers have ever played. Never in my life have I watched a football game, but sisterly affection mandates attendance at this one.

Now if only I understood football!

I get baseball. No sweat (unless you happen to be playing). 3 strikes and you’re out. 4 balls and you walk. 3 bases to home. Peanuts and popcorn and Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Cardinal red and Albert Pujols and Busch Stadium. Simple.

But football baffles me. Why do these little boys need faux muscles? Whose idea was that? Why is the ball shaped so funny, and why is it swathed in pigskin? Why do young American males find the process of ramming others so lucrative?

I still remember my first encounter with football. We were living in Europe at the time, and Dad decided to turn on the American football game while Mom finished the preparations for Thanksgiving dinner. I was three years old.

I entered the den and found Dad relaxing in his big blue chair as a huge pile of perspiring men rolled over each other on the grass. I was decidedly disturbed. The man at the bottom of the heap was the recipient of my deepest consolations, and I wondered why his wife let him do that.


Here, the setting looks a lot like “Facing the Giants.” Only the boys are younger and I’m relatively certain that nothing too miraculous will occur tonight.

Yet somehow I can’t manage to keep my eyes on the game for five seconds straight. It’s merely one endless swarm of little boys, running in all directions.

But there are so many interesting things happening around me! On my left, a young father is dumping formula powder into a baby bottle held by his wife (wow, how does their poor child manage to drink the stuff?). The woman on my right has a beautiful wedding ring. The girl beside me is trying way too hard to be cool. Behind me, a mother is whining, “Shannon, who do love more? Daddy or me?” And there are people here with names like BJ and CJ and Buddy…

Suddenly everyone is screaming and yelling. I look up just in time to see my little brother sprint easily across a white line, football in hand. The other players follow at a distance.

Behind me, Dad rejoices. “He scored his first touchdown!

Hmm. I’m guessing that’s a good thing.

I turn my attention back to the crowd. A few feet away, several parents are trying to remember what the team’s name is. The lady with the ring is getting a shoulder massage from her husband. Behind me, a group of school-aged boys are tossing dust in the air. I watch a toddler pour coffee over the front of her blouse; she cocks her head, looks at me, and snickers with joy as it dribbles toward her stomach. I giggle with delight at the antics of a darling four year old boy.

Abigail nudges me.

Isn’t he cute?!

He pulls a worm out of the grass and dangles it in front of his nose. It wiggles itself into curls, and he throws back his head and laughs heartily.

What amazing dimples!

Abigail and I agree that we want to go over and hug him. I bite the end of my pen and wish I could take him home.

Suddenly there is another yell, and I glance up quickly. One of my brothers has fallen. From nowhere, bodies begin to accumulate on top of him. I pull in my breath and gasp.


How dare they?

Oh, good. They’re finally getting off.

The boys line up in two rows and face each other. Wow, that looks intimidating. A man shouts and each side charges like crazed buffalo. Bodies clash.

That must be an odd feeling.

GO SARAH!” the coach hollers. I stiffen. There’s a little girl out there with all those boy monsters? Poor thing.

A woman nearby asks me what my brother’s jersey number is. Ouch. I should probably know that.

Somebody says something about ‘half-time.’ That’s an interesting concept. My valiant little brother runs over to say hello. I watch him lick his lips and swipe the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. Wow, that’s totally endearing.

One of the boys on the team is having trouble getting his helmet off. His head looks a little too large to fit through. Yikes!

A young father hands his son a Gatorade. The child’s mother, confined to a wheelchair, gives her boy a kiss and sends him back to war. Awww. That’s charm, I tell you.

Looks like ‘half-time’ is over. The little warriors face each other and make ominous grunting noises. My brothers’ team slaps their legs in perfect harmony. Intimidation at its finest.

Distracted, I turn my attention back to the crowd. A toothless old man and a toddler are laughing together. Wow. Where’s my camera when I need it?

Finally another shout. The game seems to be over. My brother high-fives his teammates and gallantly makes his way back to us. What a perfect little man. I love that messy hair, and the way he itches the back of his head is simply marvelous.

And oh, the sheepish grin! Heartwarming.

Half an hour later, we all pile into the suburban for the long drive home. I grab a book and settle back to relax.

A sudden curiousity grips me. I straighten up and twist around to better view the three sweaty boys in the back row.

“Skip, who won that game?”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Am a Cowboy Hat

by Stephen

I was made at a company in Fort Worth, Texas. I sat there for 2 weeks. Then finally I was shipped to ________ with 50 other red hats, 50 other white hats, and 49 black hats. I was the 50th black hat. All together there was 150 hats! Then I got put on the shelf at Walmart. I only sat there for 12 hours! Lots of boys tried me on but got different hats. Finally Stephen came and tried me on. He liked me, so he bought me. Now I live happily ever after on Stephen's head.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Waterproofing Water

One day, as we eat our lunch, David pipes up with a thoroughly and uniquely absorbing question.

"Daddy, is water waterproof?"

As the rest of us ponder the depth of the subject, Dad suspiciously glances over at this young philosopher. "What kind of question is that?" he laughs.

Now David, ever seeking answers to his probing questions points out that that isn't any sort of an answer and reiterates his question.

"Well, I guess I'd say 'No'," Dad muses, "because if you pour water on water it will be wet."

Satisfied, David begins somewhere else. "If you pour water into a lake, does that water sit on the top of the lake or sink down to the bottom?"

"You sure ask interesting questions David!" Dad chuckles.

Andrew now decides to enlighten us all with his knowledge.

"Easy - the second law of thermodynamics."

The rest of us smile and nod our heads, perfectly clueless as to what that law states, but content to trust big brother and act knowingly as if we do - all the while guessing at whether Andrew knows anymore than the rest of us.

"That doesn't answer my question!" David complains pointedly.

"It diffuses. But not if it's ice, of course."

"Then what does it do if it's ice?"

"It sinks."

"But why?"

"Because of density."

David ponders this answer for awhile, then turns from big brother's highly scientific answers to something a bit more, shall we say, unique.

"Daddy, if you put water in a dryer, will the water become dry?"

"No, it won't." Dad answers, as we all laugh at the idea. Dry water... now that's something else. We have dry ice - what's to stop someone from inventing dry water?

"Well then the dryer isn't doing it's job - it'd be broken!"

"No David, a dryer is supposed to dry clothes, not water." explains Dad.

"Oh. Can it dry hair?" David tries.


"Can a dryer dry hair?"

"Well, I'm not exactly sure what you mean David, I suppose so." Dad answers after some thought on the matter.

"What if the hair is on a animal - like a cat or dog and you put the cat in the dryer with wet hair - will the dryer dry the cat's hair?"

"David, you are so funny!" we all laugh at his candid-ness.

"But would it?"

"Well, I'll tell you what would happen - you'd end up with a dead cat!" and we all laugh once again as Dad imparts this piece of wisdom to the baby of the family.

David then decides to ask the infamous 'killer question'.

"How do you know Daddy?"

"Well David," Dad states with a smile, "believe it or not, there are some people who think like you do and they've tried that."

Whoa! We look at each other with looks of mixed impressiveness and horror on our faces. No kidding. Dads sure are cool!

"In fact," Dad goes on "some people have even tried putting their animals, like kittens or hampsters, in the microwave." Dad looks around the table at our amazed faces.

"And what happened?" Stephen ventures, after a breathless pause.

"Well they exploded."

We all burst into fits laughter, as Andrew comments on the effectiveness of the idea.
Mom, on the other hand, is horrified. "Andrew! That's animal abuse!"

"No mom, it's just animal population control...." Andrew replies, "...so NUKE THE KITTIES!"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Advice on Finding a Wife

Mother to her five-year-old son: "When you are looking for a wife, get one who is big enough to hold your kids down and spank them when they are bad, little enough for you to carry across the threshold when you marry her, and mean enough to stand up to your mama."

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Overheard at the Capitol, Episode 2

“The less the Senate gets done, the better for the taxpayers.”

“The Senator from Cass has hurt my feelings.”

“Anything to stop Hillary – except assassination. But if somebody else wants to do it…”

# 1: “What are you doing?”
# 2: “I’m preparing to fight evil!”
#1: *laughs* “I can’t think of a better man to do it. You’ve got to know evil to fight it, right?”
# 2: “Right. I like to say that when you stare into the abyss, it stares back. I’ve become corrupt.”

“They are bright, scholarly, intelligent, educated fascists.”

“You seem calmer today.”
“No, I’m just on stronger medications.”

“These are our enemies saying this about us.”
“Then it must be true!”

“I’m a terrible liar.”

“What do they teach in political science? How do they stretch it out over four years? I could teach that in a week!”

“He’s so excited that the train is moving, he doesn’t care if he’s in the caboose.”

“We have the best government money can buy.”

“He knows so much about so many things that he thinks he knows about everything.”

“Why would you want to support me? I don’t deserve your help.”

“I don’t care.”

“If they saw us in the street, I really think they would run us over.”
“So what should we do?”
“Stay away from the street.”

“That spineless wimp of a man! Where’s his backbone?”
“I think it’s in ______’s pocket.”

"Ohh, that was so eloquent! I wish the media was here so you could have said that on the radio.”
“Well, call ‘em up! I can say it again.”

“You know everyone is scared of you.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Did I say something that wasn’t already known?”

“He...has teddy bear eyes - you know, the kind you glue in. When you look at him, it’s like looking into a shark’s eyes. They’re dead underneath.”

“It’s frustrating how we work and work on an issue, and then you come and it all falls apart.”

“I used to be against ______, but then the opposition hired a cute girl to lobby for them.”

“Oh, ok. Then I won’t worry about it anymore. Now, what else do I have to worry about?”

“The Senator from the 14th is shooting daggers at me. Am I walking into a cow pie here?”

“I...believe that he is principled and works incredibly hard on all the issues I disagree with.”

“We have to tell them we have a plan. Even if we don’t.”

“If you write it that way, people will start thinking it and feeling it, and next thing you know it will be true.”

“If we have some way to check the task off, alot of women will do it just so they can check it off.”

“After we attended that meeting in Chicago, I was so glad I was from Missouri.”

“His smile is too big anyway.”

“But Senator ______ is an airhead! You mean he actually told you that?”

“Nobody gets elected unless they have a secret.”

“They keep beating me over the head with a pillow. It’s usually a soft one.”

“I’m lyin’ to you.”

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Crickaphobia

Sometimes life feels like a pink electric eel with a top hat flopping around in an underwater fish tank eating pumpkin pie. It's during times like that when you feel both depressed and exuberant at the same time. Like when you think of me having the personality of a squid that looks like a zebra. Another time when you feel both happy and depressed at the same time is when you have an over-rated fear of geeky-looking elephants. I think it's what a sophisticated, educated, civilized person would call goolarectyphobia.

You see, I am one of those strange people who have over-rated fears. Not necessarily of geeky-looking elephants, but of green penguins who do acrobatics and ballet on a stage in Brunei, also called gioreetopheeptiroaniaphobia.

I also have an over-rated fear of monsters - jumping monsters. Ugly, scratchy, disgusting, jumping, monsters! I hate them passionately. Lots of people have a phobia of monsters. But these scary monsters live in our cellar.

Yes, that's what I said - we have monsters in our cellar.

I know you don't believe me.

It hurts.

I'm a VICTIM!!!!!!

Anyway, yes. We have monsters (otherwise known as crickets) in our cellar. BIG crickets! And I am afraid of them. They JUMP!

Whenever I need rice, or honey, or pasta, or wheat, I ask David to get it for me because as long as those crickets are down there I refuse to go into the cellar.

"Abigail, can you go get me some wheat for me?"

"Sure, Mom."

I grab the Tupperware container and head down the stairs. Suddenly, my crickaphobia comes over me and I dash back upstairs. "Mom, um, I'm really sorry but I can't get the wheat for you."

"Whyever not?”

“Because there are crickets down there; I’m afraid of crickets!”

“Come on, Abigail; it can’t be that bad. Just try it, this once, for me.”

“Oh, whatever, I’ll try it.” Very unsure about the future, I hesitantly travel down the stairs once more, take a deep breath...and open the door.

I glance around, the walls seem clear….oh, there are two in that corner…nope, there’s one on the ceiling …. and one in the pipe….

I sigh. I’ve got to do this! “For mom and for country!” I yell, as I brandish my Tupperware container and boldly step into the room.

But just before my feet hit the cold gravel I jump back.

That was close!

On the floor is a new kind of monster – a creepy snake-like thing.

This is too much. “Sorry, Mom,” I say, once safely up the stairs. “No go. There was a snake down there!”

“Come on! Don’t be such a wimp. That’s my pet lizard – he’s cute!” she gushes fondly.

“Mom? You have a pet snake!?!”

“It’s a lizard, Abigail! Here, watch me!” and with this, Mom goes to face the monsters.

Safe upstairs, I shake my head in incredulity. This is a new side of my mother; a pet lizard!?

Five minutes later, I am stirring the sauce on the stove and experiencing great remorse on behalf of my mother’s distressing situation (which she unknowingly placed herself in, despite my wise suggestions to the contrary).

Suddenly, I hear a blood-chilling scream from the cellar. Then a door slams shut and I hear feet rushing expeditiously up the stairs from the cellar. Mom runs madly into the kitchen. I turn to look at her with wide eyes.


Her hair is disheveled, some grain has spilled on the floor in her mad rush, and her eyes look ghostly in their extreme terror.

“Mom?” I repeat, “what happened down there? You okay?”

Dazedly she sets the grain on the counter, “Abigail, it was horrible down there. But I fought them off!” Her voice is quaky and hoarse; a hint of a tear glistens in her eyes.


“Oh, Abigail!” she begins to shriek crazily, “First there was that…that...SNAKE! And it attacked me!” Mom frantically demonstrates her wrestling match with the snake. “And then they jumped on me! – MONSTERS!!! CRICKETS!!!


I stare at my screaming mother, who is dancing wildly around the kitchen and attempting to karate the air. “HA YA!” She yells once more and attempts a kung-foo move. She violently chops the air with her flattened hands, and desperately uses martial arts as her last defense.

“Abigail, they were all around me! I couldn’t get them off! HELP!!!!”

“Mom?” I stare unbelievably at her – where did she learn martial arts?

“Didn’t you hear me down there?” They, they, they were attacking me! But I fought them off – and here I stand. Safe at last!” I watch as mom ends her dramatic soliloquy in an equally dramatic and sweeping bow.

I guess she expects me to clap?

But no. I raise my eyebrows as she bursts into torrents of hysterical laughter.

"Ha! I got you!


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Beans 'n Rice

Mom: "Beans and rice are poor people's food."
Andrew: "No, nowadays they can afford a little cheese."

Jacob: "If you don't wear shoes, your feet will grow bigger."

Sarah: "Some people overestimate their own significance."

Jacob: "Can I make the red stuff tonight? I'm a professional red-stuff-maker."

Abigail: "Maybe we shouldn't live, because we might die."

Jacob: "Look at what a big dork I am!"

Andrew: "We can't be Greeks. All the Greeks died off and became extinct thousands of years ago.'
Dad: "Haven't you ever heard of Greece?"
Andrew: "That's in Rome."

Bible teacher, discussing the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's vision: "Ten toes! It's simply amazing!"
David: "I have ten toes. Is that amazing?"

Sarah, singing: "…it's not that I'm sentimental..."
Andrew: "Except you are."

Sarah: "I'm afraid of being rude."

Abigail: "They might have…well, cogwheels turning in their minds."
Sarah: "Cogwheels are good."
Abigail: "But I mean bad cogwheels."

Abigail: "Is he married?
Sarah: "Yes, of course. Didn't you see that little girl crawling around?"
Abigail: "He's married to a little girl?!"
Sarah: "No! That was his daughter."

Andrew, listening to the Fiddler soundtrack: "If I lived in Anatevka, I would boycott the matchmaker."

Abigail: "Guys who aren't funny are boring."

Dad to Sarah: "What were you doing out in the snow so late?
Sarah: "It was a celebration of randomness!"
Dad: "What does that mean?"
Abigail: "It means she was acting juvenile."

Stephen to Sarah: "This is my trustful coat. It has never beguiled me."

Sarah: "Why do men always gain weight after they get married?"
Andrew: "Because they don't have to get a girl anymore."

David: "Sarah is so good at manners that she's better than manners and she makes us do things that are higher than manners."

Andrew to Sarah: "Don't wax loquacious."

Sarah: "Dominant women always marry quiet men."

David: "I wish I could always stay this age. When you grow up, the things that are fun get boreder and boreder and you have to do business and things like that."

Sarah: "I don't know what the world is coming to, but I don't like it."

Stephen: "Daddy, do you want to play darts with me tonight?"
Dad: "Not really."
Stephen: "Don't worry. I'll try not to beat you this time."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Of Goggles and Veggies

Sources deep inside the Greek dynasty have recently relayed information regarding a groundbreaking concept pioneered by the young Stephen. Reportedly, the young man in question has discovered that the act of cutting steamed potatoes becomes significantly easier when the cutter is equipped with high-powered swimming goggles.

The idea apparently originated after an encounter with an unruly set of onions left the aforementioned gentleman in tears, despite his valiant attempts at restraint. Necessity being the mother of invention, his penetrating mind soon found a solution. The best, however, was yet to be. Further experiments revealed that the success of swimming goggles extended far beyond the emotional world of onions, and the rest was history. Family members testify that Stephen utilizes swimming goggles during the entire duration of his daily kitchen duty.

The previously unreleased photo below demonstrates the only known food item that is not particularly improved by the use of swimming goggles. Readers are asked to note Stephen's outstretched tongue, the distinguishing characteristic of a Greek in deep concentration.

Paradise Lost

As a new rebelutionary, I had been trying to put the principle Do Hard Things into daily practice. Soon, however, I got a taste of a REALLY HARD thing; no, not merely a taste: rather my whole head was violently and forcibly plunged in. Not quite what I was expecting. Here's the story, drenched with humorous sarcasm and bitterness:

One very late Saturday morning, I was reclining on my bed waiting till somebody got the bright idea of making breakfast, which usually happens on Sabbath mornings. I had picked up Louisa May Alcott's LITTLE WOMEN and was reading quite comfortably. My happiness on finding the word 'ubiquotous' in my readings was violently cut short by the ominous sound of Sarah's footsteps ascending the staircase.

Had I known what was at stake at this moment, and had I known what was best for my ultimate health and happiness, I would immediately have sprung from under the covers and hurled myself upon the hard carpet of my bedroom floor. Then I would have squeezed myself into the six inch black hole between my bed and the aformentioned floor, in which all kinds of mystical creatures and horrible monsters dwell. I should have hidden there till my ominous morning messenger had departed, and then rolled out from my hiding place covered in cobwebs, spiders, mystical creatures, and dust balls, to happily continue my musings. Or, if my whole self repulsed at the thought of going in to that deep dark dungeon of mine, I ought to at least have pulled frantically for the covers, choked, screamed, yelled, and attempted all kinds of frightening utterances - anything to not let Sarah have her way. Or, if nothing else, I should have pulled the covers over my head and pretended to be fast asleep.

At 10:45 in the morning? Yeah right.

But, as I was foolish enough to believe that Sarah was the bringer of glad tidings, I refrained from doing the above mentioned things.

Big mistake.

In barged Sarah, dressed for physical exertion. "Abigail, I'm going on a bike ride, I'm leaving in two minutes, and you're coming with me!"

"Oh. Well, it's so nice of you to include me, Sarah. I appreciate that very much. You really have no idea what that means to me, but I'm afraid I must decline ...."

"No. You're coming with me."


My diplomatic words were cut short by the sound of my door slamming, causing the glass to rattle in the window. I crawled out of bed, stared in utter disaster at my dishevelled apearence in the mirror, and listened in despair to the diabolical sound of Sarah's sneakers squeaking down the stairs.

Now, for those of my readers who are deprived of the blessing of an older sister, I pause to describe a certain simple concept that younger sisters face on a day-by-day basis.

Big Sister:
"Do all my chores for me."
Little Sister: Has no choice but to do it.

Big Sister: "Clean my side of the room too."
Little Sister: Has no choice but to do it.

Big Sister: "Pay my college tuition for me."
Little Sister: Has no choice but to do it.

I'm sure you get the picture. Big sisters don't speak in multiple choice commands.

Anyhow, back to the story. I changed quickly, slipping on a light jacket. Then I rushed downstairs in a futile attempt to persuade Sarah to seek a second opinion (that opinion being my own, naturally) on this rash comand of hers. But, being the hard-hearted, stiff-necked, loveable big sister that she is, Sarah stood her ground and refused to be swayed in any way.

I pulled out my old bike, the one that fitted my 7 year old brother perfectly, (why, oh, why didn't I get a newer one?) and pulled out after Sarah. Just when we were passing out of sight of the warm house, I suddenly came to grips with the desperate situation with which I was faced. It was nearly 11:00 AM and I hadn't had any food or drink since the night before. My bike was too small, my shoes were too small, and here I was, pedaling after Sarah. I was about to go on a long bike ride through dense woods, down steep cliffs, through creeks and sandbars, splashing through mud puddles, up big hills, and past who-knew-whats lurking from the forest. This wasn't any nice little bike ride on flat pavement. Dear readers, this was riding through ten miles of Ozark backroads that no car can go through, or has been through for a couple of years at least.

So, as I was saying, suddenly I came to grips with the horrendous scene I was faced with.
I paniced. Who wouldn't?!

"Sarah! Wait up!"

"Not a chance! Don't be such a slowpoke!"

"Sarah, why are we going on this bike ride? This is bizarre!"

"Well, I had this dream. About five miles down this trail, there is supposed to be a beautiful tropical paradise with big orange flowers, soft grass, monkeys, and waterfalls. I'm going to see if I can find it!"

"WHAT!?!? Sarah! Are you kidding?! That's, that's, that's..... pathetic! INSANE! Come on! Wake up to reality, for crying out loud!"

"Don't worry sis. It'll be there."

I felt like screaming. Actually, I felt like turning around, but I didn't dare.

I pedalled after Sarah, remonstrating with myself for allowing her to bring me along on this foolish goose chase. But I kept on. I couldn't turn back now, could I? I skidded down the hills - cliffs I should say - and tried to keep from flipping over head first down the ridge.

I grumbled, complained, and tried to think of something that would drive Sarah to be sensible. Big sisters sure are frustrating sometimes. Or is that an understatement?

Finally I resolved to be optimistic in spite of my trials. I imagined riding back to the house while crowds cheered wildly, impressed with my courage and determination. I smiled. This was encouraging! I began humming "Hail the Conquring Hero Comes" to the tune of "Deck the Halls".

Hail the conquring hero comes
Falalalala, lalalala
Hail the conquring hero comes
Falalalala, lalalala

Suddenly something popped....in my head, and my imagination bubble was blown to bits. That'll never happen. It's just a long dreary hard 10 mile long bike ride. If circumstances are pessimistic, don't pretend they are delightful, Abigail.

I felt like screaming once again. This couldn't be happening. Two miles later I spoke up once more. "Sarah, um... I'll get wet when I cross the river."

"No, you won't. It's easy! Go like this." She demonstrated.

"But my bike is alot smaller than yours."

She laughed bad-naturedly. "Hurry up!"

I sighed and went - and ended up getting halfway across when my bike stopped. I pushed my bike the rest of the way across the creek, soaking my shoes.

My now wet shoes sunk into the sand on the other side and became coated with sand - as did my bike tires. My bike being hard to steer, I began to believe that it would fall apart any second.

I imagined myself staring at small pieces of rubber, bolts, steel pipes, iron coated wires, copper thingies, and whatever it is that bikes are made out of. I imagined calling out to Sarah that my bike was broken, but she wouldn't hear me because of her earphones. She would just disappear around the corner in that brand-new bike of hers that she guards so jealously. Being miles from home, with the broken bits and pieces of what used to be a bike surrounding me, I would sink down in the sand. Then I would sit down and cry because my horrible sister had dragged me out of my comfort zone and pitylessly left me here, starving and destitute. I ...

"Abigail, hurry up!"

I looked up, glanced at my bike, and realized that I was having a day-mare. Sweet relief!
"Sarah! Don't leave me behind! Please! Help!" I frantically hurried to catch up, begging her to turn around.

She didn't listen. Her eyes were glazed over. She was paying more attention to her cassette tape than me.

Sarah face was all smiles. We were rounding the bend where her tropical paradise was supposed to be. She eagerly peered through the trees, expecting any moment to burst in on that lovely land. I shook my head remorsefully. Too bad it wouldn't come true. A tropical paradise sounded incredibly inviting at that moment. We rounded the bend. It wasn't there.

Shocking, I know. Who would have expected that? Her paradise was lost. But then, it had never existed in the first place.

Sarah stared around bewilderedly, her dreams shattered to shards all around her; but stubbornly she refused to accept it. "Maybe we should go a little bit farther. It's gotta be here somewhere!"

"Sarah, it's not here. I could have told you that before we started on this pathetic goose chase! And as for looking for it more, NO WAY! I am doing no such idiotic thing!"

Disappointed and hungry, we turned around and started the long journey home. Eager to return, I mustered up my last iota of remaining strength and passed Sarah. I started pedaling fast, attempting to dodge through the mud puddles that lay in my path.


I slammed on the brakes, mud splattering all over me. Sarah, riding right behind me, slammed on her brakes. But not fast enough. She skidded into me, sending me and my bike into an uncomfortable tangle right smack in the middle of the biggest mud puddle in the whole road.

"You ok?" she asked non-chalantly.

"I'm 10 miles from home, starving, tired, lying in a mud puddle .... yeah Sarah, I'm doing incredible!" I thought sarcastically, but instead I rubbed my neck and looked around for the culprit. There! I saw a big thorn branch swinging out over the road. I groaned, and kept on rubbing my neck in an attempt to lessen the searing pain. Slowly, I crawled out of the mud.

"Well, it did make a pretty cool cracking noise," I mumbled dryly in an poor attempt to be optimistic.

Sarah chuckled bad-naturedly and rode carefully on the other side of the trail, reminding me of the pharisee. Then she started back down the trail while I disentangled myself from the bike, still rubbing my neck. "Thanks for the help." I muttered.

Poor mud-caked little me.

Riding on, I felt like a fruit that had just been dipped in a big fondue pot full of rich brown chocolate.

Chocolate! YUM!

But as usual, there were a couple problems with my theory.

#1.) Mud is not a good substitute for chocolate.
#2.) Was I going to be eaten?

OH! So hungry!

I alternated between rubbing the stinging pain in my neck where the thorns had ripped, rubbing my sore back, rubbing my red ears which were stinging from the cold, and steering my bike. Exhausted, I kept on pushing my bike down the old trail, tired and weary.

Sarah, apparently trying to prove herself to be a nice big sister, let me borrow her tape recorder and headphones to warm my numb ears. She was listening to the Psalms. I pressed PLAY.

"I said "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men, and fall like any one of the princes.""

"Um, Sarah, you can take it back now."

Not feeling particularly encouraged, I pedaled on.

After a long and tiring ride back across the creek and up several steep cliffs, we finally reached sight of the house. Never had that sight been more welcome to me, but I was too exhausted for romantic exclamations and pasionate cries.

I skidded to a stop in front of the house, dragged myself up the porch stairs and fell onto the couch, weary and forlorn.

There was my wonderful family, with their hands at their hips and their faces anything but pleasant. A chorus of "WHY are you late for breakfast young lady?!?! ..."IT'S NOON!"... We waited for you for TWO HOURS so we could have breakfast!!!" ... "WHERE did you all go?!?!?!" ... "Don't you EVER do anything like this again!" ... (etc, etc, etc.) met my ears.

I was too exhausted to even hear them and mumbled an 'Oh, sorry.' I crawled weakly back into bed completely exhausted and barely conscious, trying not to faint before reaching safety. I barely heard Sarah cheerfully exclaim downstairs "Oh, but we had a wonderful bike ride!"

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Winter Dawn (a narrative)

A few nights ago, I was disturbed about a certain matter and stayed up late, thinking. When my thoughts grew too full to organize mentally, I began to journal. But when I began to nod off not long before 2 AM, I decided to sleep there on the couch, knowing that I would certainly not be able to get up at a decent hour if I slept in my own bed.

Hours before, I had invited Stephen and David to accompany me on my 6 o’clock walk. Now, remembering the promise dimly, I hoped vaguely that they would oversleep.

I was disappointed. It seemed only a few minutes later that I became sensible of a human presence in the kitchen. The moon’s glow still cast shadows among the trees outside: I informed myself curtly that the morning was still a long way off and dug my face deeper into the couch cushion.

Perhaps thirty seconds later, a small hand was placed on the armrest. David’s voice, infinitely softer than I would ever have expected even at this time of day, whispered, “Sarah, is that you?”

I wondered why he hadn’t turned the light on, and how he knew he would find me here.

“Yes, Skip. What’s the matter?”

“It’s 5:55, and Stephen and I are up.”

The aforementioned brother padded down the stairs, switched on the faraway fluorescent light (such consideration!), and joined David. “What is it?”

“It’s Sarah.”

“Oh. Aren’t you getting up, Sarah?”

Disappointing them was unthinkable. Stephen whisked my blanket off, and I surprised myself by getting up pleasantly. After a drink and whispered instructions, I gathered my things and slipped downstairs.

25 minutes later, we were ready. We let ourselves out into the crisp pre-dawn darkness. The moon had slipped behind a cloud, and the world waited silent and unassuming.

Our conversation was muffled as we started down the driveway. The topic was something along the lines of Narnia and Peter’s wolf-killing technique and was demonstrated by the sticks the boys carried. I switched on my Bible tape.

By the time we reached the bottom of the hill, it was considerably easier to see the path. I stopped the boys and informed them of the day-old tradition Jacob and I had established: a race to the creek. Stephen and David concurred enthusiastically.

It was difficult to see the trail while moving at such a fast pace, and the brisk wind I created seemed to numb my cheeks and push them into my face. I managed to win easily, however.

There’s an unspoken hierarchy in the interactions of little boys: the need for a ‘leader’, even a verbally undefined one, is felt acutely. When we reached the power lines, Stephen and David drew back. I led the climb, dodging between stubby undergrowths and among trees and stumps in the semi-darkness.

By the time we were half-way up, the boys were oriented and Stephen had slipped into the leadership position. We crossed over onto the ridge and continued our eastward ascent, this time by a more meadowy route.

I stopped the boys for a moment in the name of another day-old tradition: a glance behind us at a scene that lent itself wholeheartedly to the imagination. The moon, pasty and luminescent, hung quietly in a frozen gray-blue sky. It was just beginning its morning descent: in this case, preparing to sink into an icy gray stack of forgotten timber. Sheathed with still-murky conifers and momentarily stagnant in the womb of dawn, the scene was charged with a healing kind of loneliness. There was no better therapy anywhere in the world.

The boys, failing to appreciate the significance of the scene, trotted off. I switched off my tape and waited for a few more moments to capture what I had casually labeled ‘a Kodak moment’. It seemed more like a rite of passage: the quiet transition from good thing to a better one.

In the east, the lowest sliver of the horizon had been joined by a tenacious streak of cheese-colored dawn. I ran toward it in pursuit of the boys and overtook them chumming good-naturedly on a topic of common interest.

Reaching an old logging path, we headed briskly toward the open pasture. It came upon us more than we came upon it, really: an icy grassland of static beauty, waiting calmly for the future. Not really belonging, we chatted our way into it, icons of a swifter world.

The field narrowed. I mounted a frozen heap of manure and chuckled to myself in the stillness, while the boys meandered to and fro in search of a remembered assortment of skeletal deer remains left over from last year’s hunting season.

I gave them some tips, then positioned myself in the middle of the path to concentrate on my tape. The ground was chilly. I tucked my chin into my jacket and lost myself in the soothing words of a favorite Psalm.

A sudden impulse jerked my attention to the horizon. There, in stunning splendor, stood the most magnificent sunrise I had ever seen. The lower sky was aflame in vivid pink and blonde bands, jagged stripes of lavish intensity. It was magnificent. The day had arrived, a silent testimony to the newness of grace.

I called out to the boys, and they paused in their search to admire the grandness of it all with me. Then their hunt for the stiff frames of mortality resumed in earnest.

It seemed only a second later that the splendor had evaporated in lieu of a flaming arc of sun. Stephen and David joined me on the road and set to work threading a deer skull and rib cage through a length of rope.

Stephen paused for a moment and looked me over as though seeing me for the first time. “Gosh, Sarah, you look good.” He stopped to return my shocked smile with a sheepish grin of his own. “Those colors look really nice on you, and the scenery behind you is really pretty.”

I was charmed. He does surprise me sometimes.

I stood and brushed myself off, though there was nothing but frost below. When the boys had finally arranged the burden to their satisfaction, we continued on toward home.

The cold grassland had given way to the equal serenity of a wooded slope. We continued in a brief upward climb.

Just before the path widened and meandered downhill, the boys stopped to adjust their load and discuss the wisdom of bringing the bones to the house ‘where Mommy can see them’. The original plan had been to adorn their room with the trophies, but somehow that didn’t seem quite safe anymore.

Noticing the time on my cell phone and realizing that breakfast needed to be started immediately, I suggested that we pray together and part ways for the time being. The boys agreed.

I began. Stephen followed by thanking our Father for the ‘wonder of creation’. Where did the child get his vocabulary?

David requested that God ‘please keep our bones safe.’

After a few words of instruction, I left them to discuss the propriety of the various options available for their beloved bones and took off running down the lane. The house waited below me, smoke drifting lazily over a frosty roof. Framed from my field of vision by the melting brown of old leaves, it looked about as welcoming as the hearty pancake breakfast we all sat down to an hour later.