My husband, Chris, and I were sitting at the dining room table as night was falling. We were having dinner with most of our ten children. The relative calm was interrupted when our middle three boys came bursting into the house with the delicacy of a herd of elephants. They had been at the park and were returning home late. The chilly November air usually reminded them to return home much sooner than this.
After much banging, clanging, and slamming of doors, the three of them stood before us. Chai, age 13, was tall and muscular. Cooper, 11, and Calvin, 9, were often mistaken for twins because they were so close in height and both wore glasses. The resemblance ended there, however. Cooper had dark hair and was very passionate. Calvin, with his light hair and generous sprinkling of freckles, had a milder personality.
“Did you guys have fun?” Chris asked.
“Not really,” Calvin answered.
“Then why did you stay so long?” I asked.
Cooper, the natural comedian and storyteller began, “Well, we got the kickball stuck up in a tree.”
Cooper went on to recount the story of a very tricky, sticky kickball game. Chai and Calvin chimed in with extra details now and then.
The boys had walked to the charming neighborhood elementary school just a block from our home. There they met many of the neighborhood children and had decided to play kickball. All was fine until Isaiah made one powerful kick that landed the kickball in a tree.
No problem. Isaiah would simply launch his basketball and dislodge the kickball so they could get back to playing. Except it turned out to be one sticky kickball that had perfectly wedged itself in between three branches. After several failed attempts, the basketball got stuck in the tree too!
No big deal. Cameron had his basketball. While Cameron threw his ball again and again, trying to hit one of the wedged balls, Jacob decided to climb the fence to see if he could reach the tree. He was unable to get close enough, but he did get hit in the back by a wayward basketball. Unfortunately, Cameron fared no better than Isaiah, and his ball found a permanent perch in the tree as well.
No worries. Someone offered their football. This would surely work. But alas! It had the same fate as all the other balls.
Now things were starting to look grim. Desperate times called for desperate measures. Cooper took off both of his shoes. Maxwell took one of the sacrificial shoes and with strength and accuracy aimed at the kickball. The shoe missed its intended target and landed right on a branch. Cameron tried with the other shoe with the same result. At this point Cooper was reprimanding them with rather high-pitched screams.
Chai and Maxwell decided that they needed backup. They walked back to our garage in search of more balls to throw. All they could find were four deflated basketballs, but that was better than nothing. While they were gone, Cooper’s feet were getting very cold. He managed to fit one of his gloves onto one of his feet.
Just then Cooper noticed the School Principal, Mr. Stewart, walking to his car after a long day of work. Cooper ran up to him and asked, “Is Mr. Dan [the janitor] still here? Can he help us get our balls out of the tree?”
Mr. Stewart glanced down and noticed Cooper’s feet.
“What happened?” he asked with a funny look on his face.
“I got my shoes stuck in the tree.” Cooper replied.
I am not sure what thoughts were going through the mind of the kind and wise Principal, but he simply replied, “We will have to get them down tomorrow,” and continued walking to his car.
To Cooper, this was not an acceptable answer. So what brilliant solution did Cooper devise with the help of his younger brother? To throw this brother’s brand new shoes up into the tree, of course! When both of those got absorbed into The Tree, Calvin resorted to running across the street in his stocking feet to enlist the help of a neighbor friend. This friend was not home, so it was back to square one.
Janice, our energetic and joyful neighbor, had walked to the park with her young grand-daughter. She had been watching this entire drama unfold and found it quite amusing. She took out her phone and was documenting the event with photos. Her grand-daughter took on the role of cheerleader and kept saying in her cute, little girl voice, “You almost got it! You almost got it down!”
Chai and Maxwell returned with fresh ammunition and the tree received further battering by the four flat balls. The tree proved to be a worthy adversary and claimed all but one of those balls. Thankfully, one of Calvin’s shoes was dislodged, so he returned it to one of his very cold feet.
The score was:
Elementary Playground Tree: 10 (1 kickball, 2 basketballs, 1 football, 3 flat balls, 3 shoes)
Seven Determined Boys: 2 (1 flat ball, 1 shoe)
The boys were not to be defeated, however. They continued with their strategy until eventually…slowly…one by one… each ball and each shoe had been knocked from its nesting place.
When Cooper finished his narrative, we were all consumed with laughter! Finally the hilarity died down and Chris asked a question.
“Why didn’t you boys just get the ladder out of our garage?”
Cooper responded as though the answer should be obvious, “A bunch of boys walking to the park with a ladder? That would just look silly!”