A long-forgotten childhood memory was pulled from the deep recesses of my mind during a recent indoor event. At one end of the bleachers, I sat watching our granddaughters playing an indoor soccer game. At the other end sat two moms watching their children playing and discussing what had happened that morning.
I know it’s rude to listen in on a private conversation of complete strangers, especially from ten feet away, but the more I tried not to, the more I did. (Kinda like if you’re told not to look at something, you can’t help but to look.)
The soccer moms were discussing the extraordinary number of toys their kids have and how they are always on the floor … the kids and the toys. No matter how many times they tell their kids to pick up and put away, they don’t. Finally, one of the moms stated, “I gave them all day to clean up. They didn’t. So, I went to their room with a trash bag – all the toys on the floor I picked up. Going to give them away.”
The other mom replied, “I just wait for them to go to sleep. Then whatever is left on the floor I pick up, place in a trash bag, and give it away the next day. There’s a pink doll house I gave away two years ago. They still haven’t missed it.” It was at this point I entered the conversation with a laugh.
“My mom did the same thing when I was growing up. She’d ask my three brothers, our sister and me to clean up our toys. When we didn’t by the end of the day, she came back with a trash bag and collected anything not put away. One time, I tried to get her to collect and throw away my twin brother, but she didn’t think that was funny.” Apparently the two soccer moms didn’t think that comment was funny either because they didn’t laugh. They slid a little further away.
So they wouldn’t think I was any stranger than I am, I told them about my weekly column in The Citizen newspaper, then thanked both for helping me remember about our mom’s toy clean-up trash bag. “It’s going to make for a funny story this week,” I said and started telling them about life growing up on Flamingo.
The moms’ surprised looks quickly turned into ones of apprehension. Neither wanted their names in the paper, so I assured Cindy and Tammy they had nothing to worry about. I’m good about making up names.
Suddenly, storytelling about life on Flamingo ended as a misguided soccer ball crashed into the safety glass right in front of me. Unfortunately, it had bounced off Sweet Caroline first. The little redhead collapsed to the indoor turf, curled up and started crying. Running onto the field, I scooped her up and cradled her as we hurried back to the bleachers. After a few sips of cold water and a few hugs from her Big Papa, Sweet Caroline the Brave ran back onto the field and almost scored.
All we talked about during the ride back home was how much harder a soccer ball is when you get hit in the head rather than the stomach, almost scoring a goal, and how much fun they both had during the last indoor game of the season. The girls’ jovial mood ended soon after we got home.
Once home I instructed the girls to go to their playroom and play while I stowed the soccer gear away in the garage and got their much-deserved snack ready. It took a few minutes for me to unload the car and get soccer gear put away before I was able to head to the kitchen for snacks. I never got there.
As soon as I opened the door from the garage to the house, the sound of the girls yelling from the playroom grabbed all my attention. It sounded as if one, or both, were hurt again! Running into their playroom, the girls were indeed on the floor, but thankfully not hurt. Gigi was standing holding a broom in one hand and a dustpan in the other.
“I told you girls all weekend what would happen if you didn’t pick up and put away all these toys. I’d get out my broom and dustpan and clean them up, then donate them to Goodwill.” The girls ran over to me pleading for help as she started to use her broom.
I looked at The Wife then down at the Girly Girls, smiled, and replied, “Sure, I’ll help. Be right back.” Upon my return, the girls took one look at me and screamed. I’ve never seen kids clean up a room so quickly. They cleaned faster than even my brothers, The Sister and I did back on Flamingo.
Of course, my parents never walked into our playroom carrying a giant black trash bag in one hand and an industrial push broom in the other.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]