Out of the Mouth of Babes

1) We’re transitioning to summer camp now, while the grass in my tiny yard accelerates. Last week we held our last club of the school year. Between games and celebratory milkshakes, we talked about Luke 24 and the resurrection. A seventh grader posed this brain-exploder:

“So after evil is defeated and Jesus comes back, God says he’s going to recreate the world, right? But won’t we still be tempted to sin? What if it starts all over again, like a cycle.”

To which one of the easily distracted kids said, “WHOA – WHAT IF THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE?”

Brain exploded.

2) On Wednesdays, I tell a story to our after school program, a collection of surly third graders from an elementary in Springdale. Currently, we’re on a series about Robofox and his best friend, Charles the Mouse. Charles has a tiny bow and tiny arrows. Robofox has two metal legs that can transform into many things. Through the course of the narrative, Robofox’s legs have been wheels, magnets, grappling hooks, flamethrowers, lightsabers, and a time machine.

After I finish, the program director asks the kids to recite the story. Then he’ll ask, “What would your arms turn into?” Aside from a few direct answers, we get these:

“Snakes!”

“Money!”

“Horses!”

“Medusa!”

The idea of a horse attached to each arm is disturbing and unlikely to be helpful. I’d like to know who taught Jose the word, Medusa.

3) Holly and I ate dinner with my parents on Thursday, celebrating an early Mother’s Day. I called my brother to warn him that there would be presents, and he claimed he may not bring one. He lied, and brought a 20-pound stoneware bowl. He said, “I got you so good!”

My nieces and nephew were there, climbing on the kitchen drawers and using the cast iron fireplace tools to clean the family room. I tried to stop them, afraid that they would rip the nobs off the gift wrap and ribbon drawer. My mom stopped me.

“I learned this lesson long ago,” she said. “If I own it, grandkids should play with it. You know, John Owen (my twelve-year-old cousin) said it best to my momma: Why would a grandma have a bed with poles you can’t swing on?”

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Top Three Things to Start the Week

Camp is preparing to hibernate. We’re hording acorns and building huge nests of grass and mud, as well as pumping anti-freeze through the pool pumps and removing all liquids from the bathhouses. I was in charge of acorns.

I was told to round up every water hose in camp, bleed it dry and stack it in the lumber barn. I’ve never realized how many hoses we have in camp; we use most of them for irrigation. Either that or green spray paint. It took all of Tuesday to unroll each hose down the hill behind the maintenance facility and cinch it back up with zip ties. Most of the skilled workers at camp – our heating and cooling guy, Joe the Polish carpenter – leave an hour earlier than me. Joe turned off the lights in the barn as he left. I organized a good portion of the hoses in darkness. Tomorrow I’m sure as I arrive my boss Rob will run up and say, “Come quickly! The face of Jesus has appeared to us in the form of hoses!”

Yesterday during our last pre-marital counseling session, Holly and I were told by our marrying pastor that even with consistent birth control, sometimes people still get pregnant. Okay, but that’s one in six billion, right? “No,” he said, “We got pregnant eight months in.”

WHAT? Why has no one ever told me this? We can diligently use expensive birth control and there still may be a baby? There should be a law – or an action movie. He was the CIA’s greatest asset. Now he’s their target. But the one thing they didn’t count on – was ineffective birth control. 

However, the rest of the session went quite swimmingly.

Joe the Polish carpenter is 76; he’s got quite a few rough-and-tumble stories, though I’ve never heard any. Most of the stories I hear are about geo-thermal heating. But he can’t hide his gritty and badly-done tattoos. During one of our breaks at work today, Joe was snacking on some sausage when I spoke to him for the first time in seven weeks.

“Joe, I like the tattoo on your forearm. What is it – the Polish flag?”

“Bridget Bardot,” he said. What? “Film actress. Back in 70’s – no, 60’s – I get her face on my arm.”

It has not stood the test of time.

Top Three “Only in Van” Things This Week

1) During a faculty conversation class about children and parenting, I opened with the question, “How many brothers and sisters did you have?” Answers were a little above the American average but overall normal – three brothers and four sisters, seven sisters, two brothers and the child we kept in the basement. Then we got to Ahmed, the mid-sixties engineer who has over a thousand living relatives. He held up three fingers and said, “My father had three wives!”

2) On Tuesday in my medical faculty, we were discussing the amount of tea each doctor drank daily. This is a common topic when I don’t know what else to talk about. Salim was excited counting off how many cups he had had that morning when his phone rang. He spoke in Turkish for half a minute before ending the call and standing up. “My wife and children are in the city center, and there is a riot. I must go pick them up.” While I began to hyperventilate in fear the doctors around me were calm. “We’ll see you tomorrow,” they said. As Salim walked out the door one doctor called after him, “Make sure to take the bus!”

3) For the past few weeks I’ve been attending a Koran commentary study with a few of my older students. They buy me dinner and in exchange I listen to them read this commentary in an English translation. The book has words like “effulgence,” “ineffable,” and “ephemeral.” When they asked me what the last one meant I told them it was the scientific name for skin. But they rarely ask; last night I realized that not only do they not understand what they’re reading (they read aloud to improve their English speaking and pronunciation), but that the meeting has now turned into a class that I teach. Without me realizing it, the men have slowly transferred authority over what we read and how long we read to me. I correct their pronunciation on words like “transience” and nod at the next reader when it’s his turn. As it happens, I just picked up another hour and a half of teaching.

Top Three Things I’d Like to Put on Twitter

1) Last night I had a dream where my dog committed suicide. I left him on the balcony of my sixth floor apartment where he was playing Scrabble. I think he used the deckchair as a lever to unhinge the cast iron railing. He then pushed everything, including the plants and the game board, over the edge with him. After I examined the body I went to Crystal to get a bag of Slammers.

2) Last week I was in the basement of Old Main, and I saw a room with a plastic plaque that read, “Beard Center.” Inside there were four or five vending machines and several groundskeepers. They all had beards. I think I used to hang out there when I was a kid, and look for change underneath the machines so I could play the arcade games that used to be in the Union. You can visit the Beard Center. I don’t think you even have to shave.

(If I had a Twitter, I’d write things like that. I think I’d be good at it. That isn’t a blog post by itself, but I think I could compress that into Twitter. The problem is, I’ve been using the same phone for three years. It has a color screen, and the background is three balloons – red, yellow, and blue. Ben Rector used to have the same phone, and we’d switch accidentally, but I always found out eventually because his background was three stones stacked one on top of the other. I always read his text messages before I returned it.)

3) I was eligible for a trade in maybe a month ago, but my mom used it to get herself a new phone. She threw up on her old phone. She had a fever over Christmas and for some reason put her phone at the bottom of the trash can she used for vomiting. Unwise. I cannot fault her. When I lived in Rome, a girl I had a crush on back in the States stayed with me for a weekend. I slept on the couch. The day she was supposed to leave, I thought about kissing her, then I threw up in front of her. She had to find her own way to the airport. I got to skip my Italian art history final.