I had been working tirelessly cleaning a house that was badly in need of cleaning and every time I turned around, the Un-makers (AKA: 3 year old twins) had undone something I had just put in place. Finally I fed their bellies and decided it was time to go outside. I was thinking that surely they would have fun outside and in the process, I wouldn’t mind the Un-making.
I took them outside expecting them to swing and run and kick the ball. I expected them to play with the fairy houses and jump on the trampoline. I expected that I would be able to continue the unending work that has been the clearing of the enormous and magnificent tree we lost in the fall. I got the garden tools out and started piling sawdust and shavings from the chainsaws into the wheelbarrow. I had already taken at least 12 loads to the woods in the past weeks. When I started to rake and clear until I could see earth again, my tools were stolen. Every time I put one tool down, an Un-maker would come and sneak it away and rake shavings back into the garden. Another Un-maker found the old charcoal from the last campfire and started putting new ideas of Un-making into the other one’s head. All this time, there was screaming and whining. There were complaints about who’s stick was who’s and which tool was too heavy. There were screams every time a bug buzzed in sight or sound (which happens to be about every 10 seconds), followed by panicked running and flailing, including the loss of tools and sticks flying through the air hap-hazard. I was loosing my patience!
I sent them to the trampoline, tired of their constant bickering and screaming. As I wheeled another load of shavings to the woods, I saw an elderly woman parked in my neighbor’s driveway eyeing the scene. I shushed the girls and tried to let them know that they were alarming the entire neighborhood.
As I continued the raking and piling and moving of shavings, the girls would not stop their screams! I walked over to the trampoline, my face stern, “Stop all that yelling. What is the matter?” “A sca-wy bug! It’s going to eat my blood!” “That? That’s just a pretty little lacewing. He won’t do anything to you. He just is resting.” Screaming and crying in bursts continue as I walk away. Finally, unable to bear it any longer, I walk over and say, “Just go back inside,” as I grab them off of the tramp one at a time and scoot them toward the house.
I rake and pile and I can hear banging in the house. I try to ignore it. Knocking on the window grabs my attention and I can see them in the mudroom getting into the bags on the hooks. I try to ignore them. On my next trip back from the woods, I spot the elderly woman and she’s walking toward me. I drop the handles of the wheelbarrow as she says, “Hello!” and walk over to greet her. She introduces herself and tells me that she will be at my neighbor’s to work in the garden. I exchange pleasantries about the garden and she tells me that she has a background in gymnastics, eyeing the trampoline. “Oh,” I say, “would you like to jump?”
As she speaks, I am noticing her petite frame and her gray hair pulled loosely into a simple ponytail. Her eyes full of wisdom and something that I can’t put my finger on. Contempt for the way I’m being overly friendly? Curiosity? Energy? She’s been telling me that my rules I have set for the trampoline are not adequate. She has been informing me that she is willing to help teach the kids tricks and that if they won’t be happy about the new rules that they can come out one at a time and the kids inside can watch the one who is having a turn on the trampoline, among other advice and tidbits about enforcing the policies she has prescribed.
I smile and change the subject and tell her that the twins were screaming on the trampoline because they were scared of the bugs. She says, “What bugs?” To which I laugh and say, “Exactly,” with a little knowing tilt of the head. I tell her about the “sca-wy bad dweams” they have been plagued with, keeping the whole house up all night with screams and crying. I told her how at 2:00 AM I had to turn the light on and show my child each layer of her bed so she would be satisfied that there wasn’t a wasp in her bed waiting to sting her. The woman tells me about an incident in her childhood with mice in her bedroom. I tell her about last week when the cat caught a bat and brought it upstairs to the older girls’ room and it was still alive. “Well, that’s what it is!” She qualifies herself by telling me she used to be a teacher and that the bat incident triggered the night horrors and that what I need to do is go to the library and find a book about bats that is sweet and help the girls overcome their new fear. (I didn’t bother telling her that the twins didn’t ever see the bat.)
After watching her show me several tricks on the trampoline—seat-drop, swivel, seat-drop; back-drop, swivel, back-drop—and listen to her explain what games I can teach them that will help with various forms of development, (though she’s aware that I grew up with a trampoline and can do all kinds of tricks that we had previously gone through one at a time and name by name) I realize that the house has been very quiet. I also realize that this woman is driving me crazy.
“I need to go check on the girls,” I say, excusing myself.
Inside I find the work of the Un-makers. My purse has been emptied, all gum opened and wrappers littered on the floor. My wallet turned out and emptied. My emergency tampon has been opened and is lying in the middle of the floor and the band-aids have been opened and one is stuck on the floor underneath the table. I listen and hear nothing. I call to them and hear quick footfalls upstairs. I go up and find them hiding their faces on a bed with their bums in the air. They had found leftover Easter candy and had been eating as fast as they could. I heave a big sigh as I collect as many Robins’ Eggs as I see on the bed and floor and walk out shaking my head. I come downstairs to put things back together and hear them giggling and jumping on the bed, high on sugar.
The next day I enjoyed, more than usual, the boyish games being played on my trampoline.