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 Texas : Features : Columns : "The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"

Home Again, Home Again

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal

We are home from vacation. We had the best time ever! I have already bored nearly everyone I know with the (many, many, many) pictures we took, so I won't give you all the details, but, with the exception of one unplanned night in Dallas, everything was great!

We got home smack dab in the middle of a school day. We opened the door and paused. We could hear the clock on the mantle ticking along and the fridge humming, but nothing else. We set our suitcases down and looked around. The living room looked fine. There was a thin layer of dust, but it had been a week. There was a basket of unfolded laundry, but it was clean unfolded laundry. We sighed a little sigh of relief. We had both professed confidence in the kids' survival skills, but I think that both my husband and I had separately harbored some secret doubts.

We walked into the dining room. The table was clear, the floor was clean, the mail was stacked neatly on the buffet. My husband began to sort through the mail while I went into the kitchen. One of the cats streaked out of the room past me, with nary a howdy-doo. The counter tops sparkled. You could tell what color the floor was. The toaster was out, but the bread and butter were put away. The dishes in the dishwasher were clean. I felt a chill run up my spine and the hair on my arms stood up. Fear began to nibble at my subconscious and the remains of my Dallas bagel rolled uneasily in my belly.

And then I noticed it, and sighed a mother's sigh of relief. There on the exhaust hood of the stove was a little plastic boot of the type worn by little plastic Barbie boyfriends. Whew! My eyes continued up. I noticed some tiny glistening brown splashes on the cabinet door above the stove hood and some others on the ceiling. I began to smile. Everything was okay. My boys had not been held captive in their own home all week by some neat freak. The neighbors had not banded together and had them forcibly lobotomised in our absence. Everything was okay.

Now that the first rush of panic was over I was able to make a calm survey for other clues. There in the trash basket was the cardboard from a roll of duct tape. In the dumpster outside, under a week's worth of taco wrappers and chow mein cans, I found several soda bottle lids and lots and lots of Mentos candy wrappers. I knew with relative certainty what had happened. I could make an educated guess. The cats had my sympathy.

We may never know the exact time line or the precise sequence of events. But my husband and I are not fools. We have been parents for a while and before that we were children. The boys were good, very good, for some period of time. Perhaps it was for hours or maybe even days. But at some point the pressure began to build. They got tired of eating when they wanted and staying up later than they should. They realized that it wasn't that much fun trying to finish your homework during breakfast. Being home alone began to get a little dull. One of them, and we will never know which, thought of a way to have some fun.

And when you cut away all the clutter, what is more fun to a boy than explosives? Nothing. There is nothing more fun. One of them made a suggestion involving soda pop and Mentos and another one of them embellished it. Strap on an old G.I. Joe. YeeHaw! Let the games begin.

I'm sure they each blamed the other when their improvised rocket blew in the kitchen before they could get it outside. I am sure that there were some strong words spoken. I imagine that the fact that the kitchen was now dripping soda pop foam from every surface dampened their enthusiasm for a minute or two. Before they decided to go into the backyard and try again.

We can guess that their second rocket was so successful that they tried a third and a fourth and we can suppose that they learned that soda is easier to clean up before it dries on every surface of a kitchen than after. And we can guess that there is a bootless and probably traumatized G.I. Joe in somebody's backyard wondering what the heck could possibly happen to him next.

Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" - May 17, 2006 Column

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