2007-09-27 / Sam Bari

You can't beat a system you can't understand

Three generations of payback
By Sam Bari

"One day you're gonna have kids, and you'll get yours. Just you wait and see." I don't believe I can count the number of times I have heard versions of that old chestnut from various mothers, grandmothers, and other parents I've known over the years, including my own.

As I've said before, my mother should be canonized in her own time for surviving my childhood. Regular readers of this column undoubtedly agree that being my parent would probably give the average person apoplexy. And when I think about the mischief and mayhem caused by my erstwhile friends and me collectively, it's a wonder any of the parents in my neighborhood managed to keep their sanity.

Sometimes, however, I believe our parents overreacted to things we did that were a bit different from the norm. It was probably because there were so many incidents that were, shall we say, questionable, that preceded the last act before they just lost it. Like when Pookie Grossberg's mom called his father at the office and told him they needed to consult a doctor because she thought we were mentally and emotionally disturbed. The incident that sent her over the edge was quite harmless.

Pookie's mom heard voices in their upstairs bathroom behind a closed door. I have no idea why this made her so suspicious. Anyway, she was absolutely convinced we were up to no good, so she burst in to surprise us and catch us in the act, red-handed, at whatever dastardly deed she thought we were doing.

All she found was Pookie, stretched out on the floor using the bathroom scale for a pillow, and Kinky Boswell and I were watching. I cannot imagine why she thought that was odd. She actually accused us of lying when we told her that Pookie was just trying to weigh his head. And that was the truth.

"For this we should be punished?" Pookie asked. "Mom, we were just trying to make a little headway," he pleaded, in a mild attempt to make light of the moment. She was not amused.

Because of Mrs. Grossberg's irrational behavior over such a small act of curiosity, I gave my son, Roman, some slack when I got "the call" at the office when he was not quite 3 years old. If my memory serves me correctly, I be- lieve he managed to push all the furniture in his second-story bedroom to one end of the room - the end with the door. The furniture included his bed, a small chest of drawers, a table, a chair and a toy box. To this day, I have no idea why he did this.

The problem was that the furniture was wedged between the door, which opened into the room, and the opposite wall. The furniture was jammed so tight that the door wouldn't open so much as an inch.

Somehow, he was strong enough to push everything to one end of the room, but he wasn't strong enough to pull anything back so we could open the door. Did I mention that he did this on a day that we had ten inches of snow? No. Apparently, I did not. Well . . . that's when it happened.

The night before, ten inches of the cool white stuff covered everything that wasn't under a roof. I might also mention that blowing snow has a tendency to drift. So - I had to bring an extension ladder up from the basement, carry it through ten- inches of snow and shovel a four- foot drift so I could lean the ladder against a wall and break into a second-story window where his room was located. I was not pleased.

Now, fast forward to last week. I received a frantic phone call from my now-grown son who was watching his children while his wife was out running errands. In the background, I hear giggling and squealing. It seems that Roman walked into his bedroom to find his 4-yearold boy, Kalani, perched atop a sixfoot armoire ready to leap onto the bed. Why? Because he wanted to see if he could fly.

At the same time, Kiana, my adorable little 2-year-old granddaughter was poised at the top of the stairs, ten feet away, on her Big Wheel tricycle. She wanted to see if she could ride down the stairs. Roman was in the middle, unable to reach both children at the same time. So - Kalani jumped, Kiana rode, and Roman freaked. The kids thought it was great fun and emerged unscathed. All my son could say was, "Dad - how did you ever survive parenthood?"

I couldn't help myself. I laughed. I laughed so hard I could not answer him. Finally, after all these years, something made sense in this system that I absolutely cannot understand.

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