When I walked out into my backyard last weekend, I found myself quietly sneaking through a forest of tents. Was this an attack ala Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Worse. It was an army of teenage boys. Seems like just last year they were those cute little boys who’ve been hanging around since birth. How could I know they’d grow into hulking giants half way through their teen years?
Okay, I confess. One of them is living with me but another has been here for three solid weeks. I think his family moved away and left no forwarding address. The others wander in and out. On any given night this summer, I’ve found myself amid anywhere from two to six teen boys. Who knew my humble abode was a teen boys’ heaven?
I have horses. They’re always a draw. I also have acreage for their endless warrior skirmishes. The half-century old trees and shrubbery are prized, both for their climbing possibilities and for the branches they can -- under strict supervision and with an abundance of horticulture lessons -- cut to make staves, swords and related weaponry so necessary for teen boy arsenals.
I’ve found my best knives used for whittling. Made them rather glad they had a stave in their hands. And fleet feet when the staves didn’t work. I found my horses knee-deep in mud when they forgot to turn the hose off. Okay, that was a mistake. I’ll allow for that. They love those horses too much to want to drown them.
They also love the Xbox-360 elite Uncle J provided last Christmas and the million or two games he bought with it. But I noticed he wasn‘t here last weekend. Had to work. Yeah, sure. Coward.
The forest of tents? Out of my own garage, as are the sleeping bags, Coleman lanterns and the rest of the camping materials. I did manage to hide the camp stove, but they found the barbeque so they didn’t really look too hard. More lessons, this time in how not to blow up the propane, how not to singe eyebrows, and how to prevent steaks from erupting in flames. I have to admit. One of them is a fabulous cook. He’s a keeper. I wonder if his parents will miss him.
Last weekend, the Fourth of July weekend, was the largest yet. My extended neighbors have a dedicated, lifelong Fourth of July feud going: who can host the biggest, baddest, wildest illegal fireworks display. Every year, I set all the patio chairs out back, away from the house so we can see in all directions, and wait for the spectators to arrive. This year, they arrived early enough to set up my portable pool and help with the barbeque, both the cooking and the eating. Half the crowd was in the pool, the other half in the chairs -- except the dogs who were hiding in the garage -- when the first burst danced on a starlit backdrop. Right at dusk, as always. We oohed and aawed in perfect harmony for the next three hours.
The best part? It wasn’t just the rockets red glare my daughter and I were oohing and awing over. All them boys got Dads who also think my land is a male dream. They scampered and romped just like their teen sons. They spent considerable time running loving hands over Dad’s 1947 GMC truck with a merry-go-round built on. They discussed all the methods they’d use to restore it, like they do every year. They brought me food and drink. They made sure I was comfortable. They actually thanked me for little things.
Now that’s my idea of paradise. Thank heaven for little boys.
Forth of July, Independence Day Fireworks, New York City 2008 (more explosives than any other display in America) Star Spangled Banner by Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians http://www.archive.org/details/Movieton1942