Listening for the Silence


Ready or not, it’s coming to your neighborhood, your street, your front door and will quickly take over your entire house! Upon its arrival, it will dictate every moment of your day and night, and it will have an unquenchable appetite for your time.

It’ll be here sooner than you are ready for it. The Grand Countdown started in earnest the first Monday after Easter, and folks all over this small town are in a mad scramble to get ready, especially those who did not make the all-important preparations way back in February. For those who did not, sadly, when it arrives their days will be long and arduous. For them, it will be two very long months.

Spring has sprung all over our fair town and that can only mean two things – school is almost out for the summer and kids will be home all day. Getting them out of the house will be key to making it through the long days ahead.

With almost two months off from school and tons of free time on their hands, there’s no telling what kids are gonna get into. If you don’t find something to keep them entertained, then they’ll find it themselves. And trust me, kids finding something to do because they are bored isn’t something you want.

Thinking back to those seven years my three brothers, The Sister, and I spent growing up on Flamingo Street, we really only got into trouble when we had too much free time on our hands with nothing to do. That usually happened when we were out of school for the summer.

And after three years of our adventures turning into misadventures, our parents finally decided it would be easier, and a great deal cheaper, just to send us to summer camp for a week or two. The price of camps was a whole lot less than all those doctor bills after we stayed home, got bored, and did something that resulted in our getting hurt.

You didn’t make summer camp reservations back in February?

Don’t worry.

Even though all the camps are probably full, there’s still time to get prepared. Chances are any misadventures your kids are going to get into have already happened to one of us Flamingo Street kids — so we know what to look for before things get out of control. The following are just a few signs to be on the lookout to put an end to a misadventure before it gets started.

• First — building stuff. Ramp building in the morning is a sure sign someone will be trying to jump their bike like a motorcycle in the afternoon. Borrowing tools from the toolbox like hammers, nails, and saws to “Build something” can also foreshadow an afternoon trip to the doctor’s office.

If you can’t find that long piece of rope, no need to worry. It’s probably being used as a rope swing in the backyard or down at the neighborhood creek. That’s wet, and harmless, summertime fun that will last for hours. Your kids will be so tired they won’t have any energy left to get into trouble.

But if you look in the backyard and your clothesline is gone, you need to worry. It’s being used as a zip line and someone is about to zip, crash, and break their arm.

• Second — flying is only for birds. If you have already bought the world’s largest assortment of fireworks for the July 4th celebration and now suddenly find them missing, don’t delay. Phone for help. You’ll need the fire department and possibly an ambulance — or even two.

Take it from me, strapping bottle rockets around your waist and then lighting them all at once will not enable you to fly when you jump out of a tree house. Also, no matter how fast you flap your arms with wing made out of cardboard, feathers, newspaper, or wood, you won’t be able to fly either.

• Third — torn blue jeans. Torn blue jeans before lunch is a precursor of an afternoon misadventure. Why am I so sure of this telltale sign? Growing up back on Flamingo, almost all of our misadventures in the afternoon started with one of us walking in the kitchen, just before lunch, with torn blue jeans.

For example, when Big Brother James jumped off Cliff Condos in the morning and tore his blue jeans upon landing, later that afternoon Older Brother Richard landed, rolled into a pile of rocks, and then had to go to the hospital for stitches. Torn blue jeans from playing tag while riding bikes in the morning resulted in Twin Brother Mark’s trip to the hospital that afternoon. (Not a good idea to play tag while riding a bike barefooted.)

Torn back pockets in the morning are a sure sign of kids sliding down hills using a flattened cardboard box for a sled. Torn pockets, along with bleeding from arms, legs, or head, are the results of an afternoon cardboard sled trip gone bad.

• Fourth — wetness. Fun with water isn’t just for ducks. If your kid comes home wet from head to toe before lunch and responds with “Nothing” when asked what happened, you can be sure it is not “Nothing.”

When kids are in the house with wet clothing and their response is “I don’t know” after you’ve asked why, trust me, they do. And it’s not good.

Hint: it’s usually due to an unauthorized inside water balloon fight or water gun battle. Water on hardwood floors is a slip-and-fall hazard, and someone is gonna slip, fall, and then go to the doctor. Back on Flamingo, five of our trips to our doctor were due to indoor water battles.

• Last, and possibly the most important sign to watch for if you want to know that something bad is about to happen, is silence. When the kids are playing together inside or out and making a bunch of noise only to go suddenly silent all at the same time, then you need to worry … really worry. And run, don’t walk, towards the silence.

Silence happens only three times during summer break. First, during the planning stage of a grand adventure. Second, when asked why something, or someone, got injured. And third, when you ask, “Whose fault was it?”

During those seven years we spent summers growing up on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo, my brothers and I were the architects of many grand misadventures. And each time something went wrong, we went silent. And each time the above questions were asked the answer was always the same … silence.

Lastly, this summer I’ll cherish the time spent with our granddaughters. Sadly, for them, the door for enjoying childhood things is closing all too soon.

Still, I’ll join in riding cardboard sleds down the soft fescue grass hill in our front yard, dodging incoming water balloons in epic battles, and may even try a few flips off the rope swing hanging over the neighborhood creek.

But when I’m taking a rest, and the Girly Girls are playing by themselves, I’ll remember those seven summers back on Flamingo, and be doing something else.

Listening for the silence.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]