Playground Justice for All

Though adorable, little people firmly believe the cosmos revolves around me. I’m first, while the rest of humankind stands in a Disney World line, applauding such wisdom.

As shoe sizes grow, though, so does the unwelcome conviction that other people matter.

My parents and teachers mercilessly preached that we should take turns. So, on the playground, we pondered how to settle who was “it” in tag and hide-and-go-seek. Who would go first during world championship four square and hopscotch tournaments? Who won the right to the highest monkey bars (and most likely trip to the ER)?

Teachers suddenly abdicated. “Work it out.”

Crying — which worked during early grades — now roused irritation. Scathing cries of “Baby!” ensured the weeper would never be allowed to lick someone’s red licorice whip.

So, we clobbered each other. Then discovered recesses in the principal’s office weren’t fun.

Eventually, junior diplomats introduced oral traditions whose influence has rivaled the Constitution’s. A future Secretary of State — or mother — gathered playground barbarians in a circle and chanted a rhyme. On the accent of every poetic foot, she pointed to each tennis-shoed foot:

Eeny, meeny, miney, moe,

Catch a tiger by the toe,

If he hollers, let him go,

Eeny, meeny, miney, moe.

Federalists advocated emphatic law enforcement. Those leaders bumped our fists:

One potato, two potato, three potato, four,

Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more.

Jeffersonians advocated individual input:

Bubblegum, bubblegum, in a dish,

How many pieces do you wish?

With each rhyme, the person matched with “moe,” “more,” or “wish” would be “out” or “it,” as determined beforehand.

Rock-Paper-Scissors prevailed in later years. Participants simultaneously shaped their hands into a rock (fist), which beat scissors (two spread fingers), which beat paper (a flat extension of the hand), with paper triumphing over rock.

This tool currently rules playground games and restaurant checks, even aiding our judicial system. According to a 2006 CNN report, a Florida federal judge ordered two lawyers to settle their ongoing dispute through Rock-Paper-Scissors on Tampa’s courthouse steps.

Purists argue that Rock-Paper-Scissors is not truly random. Tournament players study which gestures are favored by opponents. During competition, they may confuse rivals by shouting, “Rock!” while giving a “scissors” gesture.

Playground rhymes didn’t always prove just, either. Smart little number nerds like my husband, often leaders in “Eeny Meeny,” “One Potato” and “Bubblegum,” exerted definite influence on outcomes.

Life wasn’t and isn’t always fair. We still should promote the best justice possible, right?

Perhaps the President and Congress should follow the Florida judge’s example. “One Potato, Two Potato” or “Rock-Paper-Scissors” might help settle governmental stalemates.

A little playground justice might even solve the current toilet paper shortage.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What was your favorite playground-justice tool?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Lots to Celebrate!

Oh, Lord, thank You for the energy and focus to finish book number 24. Couldn’t go out to celebrate, though. What to do? Instead, Steve and I watched the Cubs’ 2016 World Series victory and snarfed take-out sundaes from Ivanhoe’s. OMG, thank You that despite the current crisis, we have a gazillion reasons to celebrate!

Hidden Treasure

Image by guvo59 from Pixabay.

When you hear the word “treasure,” do your ears perk up like a kitty’s at the whirr of a can opener?

My ears wiggle, too — though as a child, jewels, in particular, fascinated me.

When I was a preschooler, a kind lady, aware of our family’s poverty, offered to buy my sister and me Easter clothes. She was rich, so I reveled in fantasies of princess dresses of red velvet, encrusted with precious stones.

Instead, we wore blue-and-white gingham. Not a single sapphire or diamond on them anywhere.

At sandy beaches, I buried quartz pebbles, marking their hiding places with an X. Someday, I would dig them up and sell them for millions. Then I’d wear princess dresses and eat Dilly Bars every single day.

In my heart of hearts, I knew few found for-real treasures in Indiana cornfields. Jesus told a story about a man discovering a “pearl of great price” in a field, but I never found one.

Still, I tried to hide my everyday treasures, with limited success. My younger brothers, who couldn’t find their shoes if their lives depended on it, possessed sophisticated built-in systems that detected all candy bars within 50 miles.

I also loved fruit — another commodity that disappeared quickly at our house. When my mother brought home ruby-red apples or golden oranges, I sneaked several and hid them in my bed’s headboard for secret indulgence while I read Little Women or Black Beauty.

Much later, I learned that I came from a long line of fruit pirates. My Southern grandmother treasured apples as if they were made of gold. When Dad brought her bags of apples from the Midwest, they vanished. An even better treasure detector than his sons, Dad found them under her bed. Once, while visiting my parents, I was vacuuming bedrooms when I discovered his apple stash as well.

Thus, my toddler grandson’s precocious ability to hide treasure shouldn’t have surprised us. He mostly spirited off other people’s valuables. When car keys, remotes, or backup flash drives vanished, his parents immediately identified the chief suspect. After extensive treasure hunts, they might find their billfolds nestled in 50 pounds of cat food.

Or maybe not.

They still considered that little larcenist a treasure — and Grandma certainly agrees.

I’ve never dug my fingers through piles of gleaming doubloons or gems, but the ring of precious faces around my table glow with greater worth. The only diamonds I own are small solitaires that shine on my left hand and on a silver anniversary necklace, courtesy of the shy, loving guy whose once-hidden treasures have taken a lifetime to discover and enjoy.

Makes my ears wiggle just to think about it.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do you consider your treasures?

Dancing with the Wind

Clutching my second grade reader, I watched cars and semis whiz past on the highway, but my school bus didn’t appear. Only my imagination kept me company.

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay.

My imagination and the wind. It swirled, breathing earthy spring smells and twittery bird songs.

What do you do when you’re seven years old with no agenda?

You dance with the wind, of course.

I skipped and leaped more like a spring calf than the ballerina twirling in my head.

The porch light went on. Mom poked her head out. “Honey, are you all right?”

What kind of question was that? “I’m dancing with the wind.”

“Oh. Okay. Just don’t get dirty.” Mom closed the door.

The wind and I resumed our dance until the bus arrived.

Eventually, I learned to keep my performances secret, though spring’s Chinook, as Laura Ingalls Wilder called it in The Long Winter, and I continued joyous rendezvous.

However, watching evil Miss Gulch of The Wizard of Oz during a cyclone gave me second thoughts about Mr. Wind.

My own stormy encounter at age 18 confirmed the wind’s erratic moods. Trees fell around my car, power lines sparked, and a nearby chimney exploded. Had the wind gotten up on the wrong side of the continent? Still, I loved its gentler caresses.

My husband never has understood my wind fetish. One sultry night during our early marriage, even the open window above our pillows didn’t cool me. I moved mine to the foot of the bed. Ah, the ecstasy of wind on my toes!

Hubby, who awoke to feet in his face, wasn’t ecstatic.

Ceiling fans help keep us together.

Lately, I’ve winced as the wind has powered trash cans and downspouts past my window. I don’t relish the prospect of spreading Weed & Feed® mostly on me — and Rhode Island.

If we camp this spring, we and our camper may follow Miss Gulch to Oz.

At home, you might find me and my laptop in the bathtub, a refuge reminiscent of the tub where I once read to three antsy little children until an all-clear siren sounded. Thankfully, our bathtubs were/are of the literary variety.

Despite grown-up reservations, the wind still holds a fascination for me. The force that spins windmills like pinwheels recalls Jesus reminding rich, powerful Nicodemus that the wind — and God’s Spirit — are way beyond our control.

Image by TheOtherKev from Pixabay.

The spring wind still burgeons with life. Some dark, early morning, I’ll answer Chinook’s call. We’ll dance while no one watches, turns on a porch light, or calls the police.

Why do I want to dance with the wind? Possibly because my grandmother passed down her Native American heritage.

Her middle name was Zephyr.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever danced with the wind?

Ahhhh … Ewww! or Aaa-chooo!

Image by Peter H from Pixabay.

Say the word “lilac,” and ghosts of perfumes past waft through me. Bushes pour their lush scent through an open window into my teenaged soul. My toddlers take turns carefully sniffing purple blossoms along a neighbor’s fence. My husband plants a lilac for me on Mother’s Day.

Say the word “lilac” to my allergy-ridden friend, and she thinks “dynamite.” She once considered sneaking into her churchyard at night and blowing up bushes that every spring swelled her nose to clown size.

The beauty of a scent is definitely in the nose of the beholder. For one conscientious church custodian, ammonia spelled righteous spring cleaning that should characterize God’s house. However, my office faced a restroom door. Ammonia’s powerful fumes wiped out this choir director’s brain cells — critical because she owned so few.

Cultural factors play major roles in olfactory opinions, too. Many Frenchmen eat Époisses cheese. Southeast Asians consider the hedgehog-shaped fruit durian delicious. But because of their, er, distinctive smells, laws in both areas forbid taking these foods on public transportation.

And you thought your Uncle Archie’s garlic breath reeked.

Thankfully, many scents imprint positive impressions. Hubby’s marriage-long aftershave. Vanilla tippled into birthday cake batter. Autumn’s smoky, smoldering leaves. Plump baby necks. A new book with crisp, untouched pages. (Kindles will never replace that.) An old book with its mellow air of wisdom. (They will never replace that, either.)

A tiny tinge of flavor in warm spring air proclaims, “ice cream.” My husband says I can sniff out any ice cream within 50 miles. (Ice cream trucks, take note: add extra guards.)

Perhaps your nose, like mine, shifts perspective per experience. The smell of June roses may recall an evil prom date who handed you a corsage one night and, the next, dumped you for Bambi LaBody. Contrariwise, the return of a familiar bison ambiance to your college-age son’s bedroom fills your heart with joy.

Image by Kirsi Kataniemi from Pixabay.

Given the power of smells, shouldn’t we be grateful our Creator did not design us like dogs? Their noses are 10,000 to 100,000 times as sensitive as those of humans. I am doubly glad I am not an elephant — and not only because that nose might mess with family portraits. According to a Baltimore, Maryland, zoo, this pachyderm’s trunk can outsmell any canine nose, anytime!

In heaven, someday, perhaps mine will surpass them. My allergic-to-lilacs friend, Uncle Archie, and I, sans furry nose or undulating trunk, will together inhale the beautiful fragrance of Christ. No more “ewwws!” or “aaa-chooos!” Only “ahhhhs.” Our holy noses’ sensitivity will make those animal buddies’ olfactory talents compare to stuffy-sinus flu.

Even better, every smelly memory will be a perfect one.

Image by RitaE from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What are your favorite smells?

Umbrella Magic

Image by Dr. Georg Wietschorke from Pixabay.

When I was a preschooler, my mother said umbrellas kept high-wire performers from falling. Would carrying an umbrella atop a swing set morph me into a lovely lady wearing a sparkling bathing suit? Then, perhaps, the world would see the magic me.

But the umbrella didn’t turn into a parachute. I fell like a rock.

Nevertheless, umbrellas continued to enthrall me. Why wouldn’t my mother buy them?

I understand now.

First, what five kids can do to a helpless umbrella staggers the imagination. When my mother gave in and bought one, all umbrellas in the store bowed in a moment of silence. During initial roughhousing, someone raised the newcomer inside the station wagon, resulting in broken ribs.

Sometimes, a lucky umbrella survived and took refuge in the front closet, buried among mittens, hats and boots. If not so fortunate, it found itself in a fencing match with a broom, both wielded by little brothers.

Occasionally, a foolhardy umbrella permitted itself to be discovered. It faced more fencing matches at the bus stop and a school bus ride among 40 passengers intent on poking each others’ eyes out. However, after occupying a dusty corner of the lost-and-found, it eventually vanished into the Alternate Universe where half of all children’s possessions abide, never to be seen again.

As a preteen, I decided to purchase my own umbrella. Because awkward Jo March in Little Women found true love under the umbrella, I thought I might, too. But umbrellas cost three whole dollars. When a friend from Indianapolis offered to buy me one for only one dollar, I requested red with polka dots. Instead, she bought one covered with old-lady pink and yellow flowers. Mom made me smile, thank her, and pay her $1.25.

Still, it possessed a magic of its own. On rainy Saturday mornings, I ventured into our slumbering village, rendezvousing with imaginary loves who shared my umbrella and the rain’s gentle, percussive music.

When did the magic disappear? During college in Bloomington, Indiana, which boasts more rainfall than your average Amazon jungle. I often left my umbrellas in classrooms. Skipping lost-and-found, they entered the Alternate Universe, leaving me to empty my tiny bank account to buy another. I also shared elevators with 30,000 other umbrella-wielding students. My love affair with umbrellas might have ended forever — except that a special young man raised his below my dorm window to signal his approach. We have shared umbrellas for 45 years now. …

This chilly March day, as I again walk a college campus, umbrellas bloom like spring flowers, sheltering laughing, shivering students on their way to class.

Do they feel the magic, too?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you like rainy walks under an umbrella?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

O Lord, You remember when I couldn’t wait for my March birthday. January slogged along like, well, molasses in January. But February was short! Except during Leap Year, I had to wait a whole extra day.

Now, OMG, I see Leap Day as Your gift. BTW, couldn’t You add a few extra days … weeks … months before I turn another year older?