Note: This "Grounds for Insanity" column was published in the 07/16/12 edition of The Goshen News. It will, Lord willing, be the last one posted on this site as we hope to launch anytime now.
It had taken a crowbar to do it. That, and Mr. Schrock’s famous limb, the Left Leg of Leverage, to fit us all into the truck.
The holiday had come. With the ban on burning and shooting off boomers, plans had changed. The ruling by the commissioners had left the men of the family both shaken and stirred, martini like, and they’d convened their own council. Unable to bear a boomless Kaboom, they’d voted to postpone the annual party here on The Three.
I realized two things, driving along in Big Red, The Mister's much-loved truck. The first one was that my prayer for Boy Two's safe return from the mission field had been answered. The second was that my prayer that he’d leave some of his personal kaboom at the equator had not. Judging by the cacophony behind the headrest, it had all returned and then some.
From the back came whacks, grunts, manly chortles and then – cartoons? It sounded like a Saturday morning show, but one with which I was unfamiliar. How many times had they reenacted Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam and Porky Pig, imitating voices to a T? But this, this was something new.
“It's a really big guy, Mom,” someone to the left of my shoulder blade announced. “He has to eat all the time, so he wears a gravy patch.”
I laughed. A gravy patch, huh? Maybe that's what we’d missed. That and a hearty dose of common sense, considering how it had gone at the large home improvement store we’d just visited.
Mr. Schrock, seeing that the holiday had opened up, decided it was his day, his time to head for the store, list in hand, and buy the supplies for a summer project, a new front porch. “This will take awhile,” he’d warned, clutching the list, man-on-a-mission look firmly in place. And using that left leg, he’d installed us in the truck.
What he’d failed to mention was that the path to the lumber section went right past a full display of axes, hatchets and mauls. Which was a mistake, seeing that his progeny were trailing him, duck like. He should’ve routed us through paint and wallpaper, as we soon learned. It was a simple oversight, but one that made a passing employee ask, huge grin cracking, “Are they brothers?” at the sight of Boy One stalking a sibling, ax in hand.
Otherwise, he’d told the truth. Was he building an entire addition? Roofing a cathedral? What? It sure was taking awhile.
A long while, actually, and the colonists were starting to revolt. A quick chase here, a Michael Jackson dance routine there, all of this as their father hunkered in solemn consultation at a computer with Passing Employee.
Wanting to avoid unpleasant headlines (“Family banned for life after causing havoc, raising Cain in local store”), I pulled them together for a pep rally. “Guys,” I said, “here's the deal. This is not a musical (peering at The Dancer whose legs were twitching), and it is not the coliseum. You are not a lion (peering at Boy One), and he is not red meat (pointing at Boy Three).
“Patient, loving family that we are, we’re going to entertain ourselves quietly while Dad’s doing his thing. I don’t care if he's building the coliseum. We’ve got to hold it together. That's why we’re playing hide and seek.
“Here are the rules. There will be no running. No. Running. We can’t be mowing patrons down, cornering on two wheels or laying rubber. We can’t. What we can do is walk sedately, moving through the aisles on Indian feet.
“You can’t go to the far corners of the continent.” Here, a broad sweep of the arm that covered the entire floor. “We’ve got to keep it local.” And here, a smaller sweep of the arm that covered a smaller area.
“If you run, you’re out. If you chase, you’re out. If you so much as flick an eyelash toward the hatchets, you’re out. And if anyone looks at you funny, you’re comparing insecticides. Got it?”
They nodded, shuffling their feet eagerly as Little wriggled excitedly, a big grin splitting his face. And that's what we did.
It was only later when someone mentioned the gravy patch that I knew what we’d missed. If a cup of chamomile tea savored in one's jammies could induce a feeling of peace, squelching homicidal tendencies, then surely a patch would do the same.
Next time, we’ll take four. Then, instead of chases in the aisles and head locks, there’ll be peace, calm and goodwill, offspring affirming each other with words of love and affirmation.
Okay. I’d settle for peace, calm and goodwill. I’m nothing if not realistic. I’d also settle for a giant espresso patch for my right arm, the one I use to raise my mug, because energy is what I need.
And Mr. Schrock? He’ll take a large chocolate patch for that left leg. He’ll need it for that coliseum – um, front porch he’s building.