Three little devils all dressed in red, trying to get to heaven on the end of a thread . . ..
Burgeoning silence catches my attention, in that way that it does when I errantly slip into relaxation. It marches into the room and brazenly announces that the kids are getting away with something they will exuberantly rehash again and again, at my expense, in their adulthood.
As I circulate through the house searching for the comfort of chaos, no vociferous arguments thunder. I find not a soul absorbed in the television, unable to form a coherent thought. Absent is the infuriating drone of water running down the drain while a child watches. The sofa near the X-Box, void of youths veiled in stupor, waits expectantly.
At last, the back door opens and closes, and I call out a role of names.
"Huh?" one of my three sons grunts from the doorway.
"Where have you been?" I question. "What are you up to?"
By his personal account, construction of a fort unlike any other in the history of boys and men transpires, at this moment, in our backyard.
What that means to me is that my offspring have scattered and piled a bunch of junk in the yard. They have emptied the garage onto the lawn and configured every tent pole, empty bucket, and paint can into a structure that resembles the garbage dump.
I convey my concern to my son, who vehemently denies that any such thing has happened. He respectfully reiterates that he and his siblings have built a fortification, not a trash heap.
When I shake my head and insist they clean it up, he pleads for leniency. Boys have to build forts, he tells me. He and his brothers neeeeeed to build this fort. The corners of his mouth turn up. "Mama," he says, emphasizing his dismay at my lack of understanding, intoning that I have had my head in a hole for the last 40 years. "Boys who don't build forts can't get to heaven."
Who am I to impede a boy's pathway to the pearly gates? "Y'all can finish," I finally surrender, "but please don't take anything else out of the garage."
No promises made, he exits to re-immerse himself in holy work.
Some time afterward, I receive a report of the great deeds he and his brothers have accomplished. "We made the fort two stories high!"
Where he sees a citadel, I see four coolers, a bent soccer goal, a disintegrating Styrofoam archery target, two lawn chairs, a metal table, planks of plywood, orange traffic cones, scraps of timber, a football, a golf bag, two benches, a tennis racket, and a Halloween costume all surrounding a rather deep pit in the ground. In essence, where he sees a masterpiece of engineering, I see a veritable landfill.
My three boys demonstrate entry points and exits and spy holes and camouflage techniques. At last I ask, "What will the neighbors think when they see this mess?"
Every face surprisedly turns toward me at the detection of distress. Undaunted, my son, doing his best to maintain his place of grace in the eyes of God, says, "Mama, they'll just say, 'Look at those boys working hard to get to heaven.'"
Well the thread broke and down they all fell. Instead of going to heaven they all went to . . .
My heart tells me that those youngsters shouldn't store all their hopes in one fortress. I suggest they take extra precautions and love the neighbors and remove this stuff from our backyard. Most likely, however, this fort thing will bear rehashing with St. Peter, later, at my expense.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. E-mail Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.)