Hubs and I always joke that our little Thing 2 is a boy who would have thrived in the 1950s. He’s our own little Huck Finn, who wants to have an adventure every day, and who would love nothing more than to build his own raft and float the river. He would have been the perfect candidate to ride his bike six miles into town, unchaperoned on a dirt road, to plunk three pennies down on the mercantile’s counter, for candy and baseball cards. He would have eaten the candy immediately and traded the baseball cards to friends later… for MORE candy. He would have been the one to beat up the neighborhood bully and the one to beg Santa Claus for a “Red Ryder carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.” He would have flourished, playing outside all day, from sunrise to sunset, with little supervision, as he waded in the creek, hit baseballs with friends in a field and pulled pigtails on neighbor girls.
Unlike the boy, who enjoys all the air conditioning like his mama does, Thing 2 is our outdoor enthusiast, who cares little for iPads and technology. He wants to dig in the dirt with a shovel, push Tonka trucks along rocky paths, steal apples from trees that don’t belong to him and feed them to mules that also don’t belong to him, and jump in every single mud puddle he sees… thirty-eight different times.
Because of this, Hubs and I try to take this little punk on as many outdoor adventures as we can, which is why we seem to be ending up at the lake a lot this summer. The lake is exactly the right spot to catch minnows, get wet, throw sticks, chuck rocks, spit, build mud castles, capture bugs, and eat PB & J sandwiches, after we’ve ripped their gluten-free crusts off and thrown them to the birds.
One day a couple of weeks ago, we stole a little friend to go with us, while her mama was still working. The temperature that day was a balmy, sultry, sweaty, sticky, utterly ridiculous six hundred and nine. I missed our central air conditioning like a CRAZY WOMAN that day. We slathered on the sunscreen, and the kids were released into the wild for an entire afternoon of fun, but my tendency to parent like a 2018 helicopter mom came out, loud and clear, as I set boundaries for where these two little rapscallions could go, and how far out into the water they were allowed to swim.
At one point during the day, an entire flock of geese flew in overhead, making more noise than 40,000 preschoolers at a Wiggles’ concert. They landed in the water, and became fair game to catch. Thing 2 was on the hunt! He was determined that he would capture one and bring it home in our car, for a pet. I’m sure he had every intention of naming him George, and hugging him, petting him and squeezing him, too.
Thankfully, because the Lord knows that I had no desire to become a goose-owner (Because… HELLO! Geese are MEAN!), Thing 2 didn’t manage to catch one, but he gave it everything he had. He swam out as far as his boundary-enforcing mother would let him, hollering at them, until those geese looked sideways at him, gave him the stink eye, and flew away.
And by cliff diving, I mean they pretended to cliff dive, as they stood on a rock that was every bit as tall as they were, and they jumped into water that was waist-deep on them.
In other words, it was very SAFE cliff diving, and completely mother-approved. (Of course, had this been 1950, Thing 2 would have been at the lake without me, and he would have jumped off the real cliffs, twenty-three feet above the water’s surface. I’m sure 1950 moms had no idea what their boys were busy doing, once they left home for the day on their bikes. It was probably better that way.)
The kids had an absolute ball. We played at the lake for over four hours that afternoon, in the wicked-awful heat, and then I fed them both a nutritious Happy Meal from McDonald’s, with no buns on their burgers, because gluten makes our guts cramp up and disables us for hours, as we lay on the sofa and cry for our moms in pain. We spent the evening playing at a park, after our French fries were gone, and THEN we took our little friend home to her mama, with the promise that IF SHE DOESN’T SLEEP WELL TONIGHT, YOU CANNOT BLAME US, BECAUSE WE DID OUR LEVEL BEST TO WEAR THEM OUT, and also IT’S ALL ON YOU NOW, IF SHE DOESN’T SLEEP!
Thing 2 was asleep approximately eight seconds after we made it home that evening, so Hubs and I called it a wonderful win.
Then, this past Friday, a friend of mine and I packed up our vehicles with shovels and life jackets, and pots and pans and floaties, exactly like the Beverly Hillbillies would have done, and we went back to the lake with a picnic lunch. The sky threatened rain, but this is Small Town, USA, where IT NEVER RAINS IN JULY. We were hopefully optimistic that we’d spend the entire afternoon at the lake, having a sweaty good time.
And… it started that way.
But then the wind came in… and it dropped the temperature in a quick-big-hurry. We were thankful for THIS NICE BREEZE and also for THIS TEMPERATURE THAT ISN’T SIX HUNDRED DEGREES ANY MORE!! Our picnic threatened to blow away, but we were DETERMINED TO STICK IT OUT. The children were in the water, because they are from Small Town, USA, and a little wind and a little temperature drop is not something that will run them out of the lake.
Except… then the wind picked up more, and the black clouds rolled in, and… well... THERE IT WAS. A nice little downpour in July. So, we didn’t last long at the lake on Friday. We gave thanks for in-car DVD players, because what else do you do with sopping wet kids in your vehicle, when they’re spilling sand out of their shoes onto your seats and bored and begging for snacks, as they wait a storm out?!
My friend Jessica was the all-time genius, who had an old, bent and stained COOKING POT in the back of her SUV, which she’d picked up at a garage sale earlier this summer. She knows kids and she knows little boys, and she intuitively knew that this pot would be well loved around dirt and water.
Thing 2 has already asked for his own cooking pot for this next Christmas, because who needs a “Red Ryder carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time,” when he can have a pot to haul around a lake? It can be filled with water and minnows, mud and grasshoppers, leaves, rocks, sticks and sand. Thing 2 basically claimed that pan as his own, and he lugged it back and forth, from one end of the beach to the other.
And… while he stole the pot away from his friends… someone else stole Thing 2’s real metal shovel! (We’ve tried plastic shovels in the past, but we are such an enthusiastic digger, we have broken them all. A real metal shovel is the only shovel that can survive a summer with our boy.) Our little buddy was determined to dig clear to China on Friday, too. He dug and he dug… and then he dug a little more. I have never understood a little boy’s inherent need to JUST DIG, but sweet mercy! Digging makes them so happy!
In the end… we got rained out. We attempted to wait the storm out in the car, while Sponge Bob entertained us, but the day was determined to become a completely rainy one at the lake. So… I didn’t get a lot of snapshots that day. Instead of spending our afternoon at the lake, we loaded up and drove to Smaller Town, which was just on the other side of the storm clouds, and we played at the park. We pushed each other in the swings, crawled up slides the wrong way, and caught a butterfly.
And then we called it a day.
We came home that evening, worn out enough to sleep wonderfully well again, as we dreamed of one day having our own bent and stained cooking pot to take to the lake.
Which… I think is something a little man from 1950 would’ve enjoyed.
Y’all have a merry little Monday night.