Saturday, May 10, 2008

Our Little Runaway

James: I don't want to go to church.

Dad: Well, I'm sorry to hear that. Now go get your shoes and I'll tie them for you.

James: {Toddling off to fetch his shoes from the bedroom} ... I don't want to go to church. {Returning with shoes in hand, grumbling to himself} I'm gonna run away. Yeah that's what I'll do - I'll run away!

Dad: That'll be fine; you can run away right after church.

Later (as we were driving home from church) I inquired, "James, are you still planning to run away from home?"

James: Oh uh, Yeah! I'm gonna run away. This'll be fun! C'mon Ben, let's run away.

Mom: Now, I don't want to pressure you one way or the other, but how about if you run away after lunch? You know, you wouldn't want to run away from home on an empty stomach.

James: Okay!

Dad: So where are you thinking about running off to?

James: The house with the rotten pumpkin that's drawn on.

Dad: Oh, well that's a good place. It's not too far and you can come visit us whenever you feel like it.

Now at this point in the story, James's destination of the house with the rotten pumpkin that's drawn on requires a bit of explanation. This runaway adventure happened sometime in November. As was our custom, that year for Halloween we'd carved jack-o-lanterns and put them out on the front porch to glower at the candy-gobbling goblins. The following day I'd placed the darkened pumpkins into the trash, but James was heart-broken about the disposal of our beautiful jack-o-lanterns. I explained (as best I could) that if we kept the pumpkins on display they'd just rot and draw bugs. He clearly didn't buy my lame argument, but there's little a four-year-old can do about big stubborn grown-ups.

Later that week James saw the fatal flaw in my rotten excuse for euthanizing the pumpkins. The neighbors across the street three houses down still had a big grinning pumpkin on display. (That house was also prone to darkened Christmas displays in February.) As we drove past the house with that pumpkin, James challenged me, "Look Dad, they still have their pumpkin out."

"Well yes they do, James. But you see, they didn't carve their pumpkin. They just took a grease pencil and drew a face on it. We could've done that, but that wouldn't have been near as much fun as digging all the slimy stuff out of the pumpkin." James readily conceded my point that merely drawing a face on a pumpkin wouldn't be much fun. Henceforth James never failed to point out the house with the rotten pumpkin that's drawn on whenever we drove past it. So, when James announced his intention to move into the house with the rotten pumpkin that's drawn on, I knew exactly where he meant. As for who lived in the house with ..., we weren't sure. They seemed like okay folks, but we'd never taken the trouble to meet them.

So right after lunch James and Ben dashed to their room and started loading their Radio Flyers with all the necessities of the vagabond life: Legos, socks, and ... well, that's pretty much it. As they pulled their precious cargo through the front door, I grabbed the camera and followed them down to the street. James seemed to hesitate as if having second thoughts about the new home he'd chosen, but by this point, events had a will of their own. Ben, age three, (who'd been following James's lead) had no such doubts and quickly moved to the lead before turning around and looking back to make sure James was still with him. James resolutely turned to face his destiny and I snapped a photo. Joyce and I bid the boys good-bye and they trundled off to their new life at the house with the rotten pumpkin that's drawn on.

I reassured Joyce: "I need to put the camera away. I'll be right back. Don't worry, I won't let them wander off." Then I dashed back into the house. When I returned curbside (with the boys fading into the wee distance - roughly 100 feet away), Joyce was getting more than a little fretful and said, "You let them out of your sight and you die."

So I walked briskly down the street and arrived at the front door of the house with the rotten pumpkin that's drawn on just in time to hear the resident telling James, "Well, maybe we ought to check with your parents..."

I quickly interjected, "You know, if James and Ben want to come visit Mom and me, they're always welcome. Maybe they could even spend the night."

The neighbor smiled and pushed open the screen door, "Oh, well in that case, come on in, boys. We're having liver and broccoli for supper."

Without a word James pivoted and dragged his wagon back out to the street. Ben mutely followed. I confided to the neighbor, "It's been nice meeting you, but I think the broccoli was the deal breaker." He laughed and we parted company - both with an improved opinion of our neighbors.

I stood street-side as James inquired at the door of Virgie, the near-deaf octogenarian across the street from our house. I couldn't hear James's side of the conversation, but Virgie very loudly replied, "What?"

James visited one more door and then Mom emerged from the house bearing treats and calling out, "James, Ben! I have Popsicles?" All thoughts of running away were abandoned, and thus our humble home continued to have its full complement of little boys.

But sadly, nothing in this life is permanent, and the day of James's departure is hard upon us. Today James begins packing his wagon (the Radio Flyer having morphed into a Toyota Tacoma) and in just a few days he'll run away to a place where neither broccoli nor Popsicle can compel his return.


Bou said...

Gah! I love this post! I'm crying...

JDP said...

I know how you feel Bob. We have to let them grow up and move on, that is our duty as parents. If only we could keep them little forever. I guess with memories and pictures like that we can in a way.


Mrs. Who said...

What a beautiful post. I'm crying with Bou.

PrimoDonna said...

I really like the photo of your son. It reminds me of when my husband was in the Army. I do so love men in uniform! I pray for his safe return so that he can enjoy another popicle.

Hula Doula said...

I am sitting here with tears in my eyes knowing that you are probably very proud parents. Joyce, I can feel your prayers surrounding James. Not that you wouldn't Bob, but it's Mother's Day and I'm putting myself in her shoes since I have never been nor never will be a man or a father. (thank you God thank you God thank you God)
We will add James to our list of enlisted men we pray for. HG and HB take our soldiers very seriously and even send along (to the ones in our church because we know how to write them) a 5 year old version of a masterpiece letter with pictures included.
Hug him tight and let him know that there is a want to be Doula in Denver that thinks the world of him and what he is doing. Thank him for us. Please. Know that there are others who really do care.

Anonymous said...

Wow I too am crying and I only have a 7 year old to think about growning up (his birthday is today). I will be praying for you as you make this transition to a new stage of life.--From a fareast neice

Roses said...

Damn it, man! Go get more Popsicles!!!


Bob said...

Far East neice--
Oops! Well, it's still May 12 here. So is it too late to call and wish the young man a happy birthday? We are so proud of y'all. You are always in our prayers.

Bou, Mrs Who, Donna & Hula --
It is kind of cheating to tell a cute childhood story and then show a picture of his commissioning, isn't it?

You know, we too have an Aggie (class of '04). He and his lovely bride flew down from Ohio for the commissioning ... with the grandbaby! Kids are great, but grandbaby's are the best.

buffi said...

Oh, he looks so handsome and dignified. You and Joyce did a heck of a job with those young men. I hope that my boys turn out to be as great as your guys.

We will, of course be praying for this handsome young Lieutenant. Let us know if there is anything we can do for him. I'm not sure how much pull an LTC has, but if he can ever help him out somehow, mine will!

Chicka said...

I'm with Roses. More Popsicles and maybe a Buddy Bar or two!

*sniff* Now you went and made my eyes all leaky. Nah, must be my allergies.

joyce said...

James swears it was brussel sprouts, but he would not eat those, either. Aren't they little cabbages? he asked yesterday. I don't know.

We tell folks that we can't take credit for James. He was so easy to "raise". All you had to do was look at him, and he repented in dust and ashes. But, then he is SO much like his Daddy. Same temperment, same body language, same way of looking at things. It has been like stereo around here for the past few years. James truly has been a joy to have around. And while I did not mean to, sometimes I irritated him to no end, but he is longsuffering and patient with his old ma. And he let me kiss him on top of his head at commissioning !!! wow. We have this family ritual, when the boys got taller than me, I kissed them on the top of their head. It looks like they are bowing to me. And he once bowed to grandmother, and she did not know the drill.

Three sons launched. Now what?

Bob said...

Well, you still have me at home. And I can be childish you know. And yes, James is just like me ... only taller, younger, kinder, handsomer, more outgoing, more self-disciplined,... Other than that, we're like twins.

Chicka & Roses--
Good idea, but he wants to go play with all his friends who wear green outfits. I can't spoil his fun.

Thanks for the kind words. We'll gladly take your prayers.

Ky Woman said...

I can remember packing my party dresses in a shopping bag to 'run away'. Momma always told us "break your plate before you leave and don't let the door hit you on the way out"....

Y'all make us all proud of your fine sons. Prayers for them from here too. Thank them and you both.

Nicole said...

Time flies by,
God Bless your all your sons.

great post- it just reminds me to hug my 4 year old son every chance I get :)

dabrah said...

What a wonderful memory, and how patient and cool you were to let them have their little adventure. They grow up, they leave home, and all we can do is hope that we've taught them enough to keep them safe, and then pray!