Last week a snowstorm moved through our area, and school was cancelled three days in a row. I took care of my youngest two grandsons for two of the days, which included a sleepover.
After the first day of the storm, there was a lull in the evening before part two of the storm hit. So, on a beautiful, warm winter evening dressed in fresh snow, my grandsons bundled up in their outerwear, and my husband gave them headlamps to strap around their hats. I leashed the dogs, and we went for a walk.
My happy grandsons ran down the sidewalk, mesmerized by the bouncing lights shining from their headlamps. They laughed and played games as they ran. My dogs and I trailed behind. The dogs ignored their antics, but I remembered my sisters and I as young children and our fascination with flashlights. We’d heist a flashlight from the kitchen junk drawer and hide it in our bedroom. After dark, we used it to create animals with our fingers on the walls of our bedroom. We had such fun–until my father, days or weeks later, opened the junk drawer to find his flashlight missing when he needed it.
My father’s voice would boom: “Where’s my damn flashlight?” My sisters and I would exchange glances, then fetch it from the bedroom and place it in his hand.
“I can’t have a damn thing around this house!” he’d spout. My father, a master of hyperbole, turned every problem that impacted him into an all-or-nothing event.
In reality, there were only two things my father couldn’t have around the house–flashlights and tape measures. Considering he was a mechanic with an amazing array of tools in his garage and a junk drawer full of household tools, he could’ve fared worse. My father’s booming voice didn’t deter us. Eventually, we’d hijack the flashlight again, always with a plan to return it before he noticed it was missing, a plan that usually failed.
At some point we discovered tape measures were fun, not because we measured stuff, but because the metal tape could be pulled out and locked in place, then with a flick of a finger, unlocked. And ZING, twenty feet of metal tape would dash into its case with satisfying speed and a snappy sounding CHING. Of course, we often forgot to return the tape measure.
One day, one of us, I think it was me, pulled the metal tape out too far. Nothing we tried would fix it. Next time my father boomed, “Where’s my damn tape measure?” we wouldn’t be able to retrieve it and put it in his hand, unless we handed it to him with its innards spilling onto the floor.
We did the only sensible thing we could think of–we placed the broken tape measure in a paper bag and carried it into the field of tall grass behind our backyard. We left it there, hoping no one would find it.
I don’t remember if my father or mother ever found the bag. And I don’t remember what happened the next time my father boomed, “Where the hell is my tape measure?” I asked my sisters and they didn’t remember the event, although they were part of the caper and cover up.
Sometimes I think I have a vague memory of it being discovered, but that my father made no bigger deal out of it than to repeat his usual “I can’t have a damn thing around here” lament, a tirade that probably lasted only a minute or two because being a busy guy, he had other things to do. He also had tape measures in his garage.
My father could at best be described as a curmudgeon, but for all his bluster, he was sentimental. Once we all grew up and moved out, I wonder if he ever went to his junk drawer and felt a bit sad to find both his flashlight and tape measure undisturbed.
Watching my joyful grandsons with mini flashlights strapped to their heads made me smile, and I offered up some words to my father who passed away six years ago. Dad, I know our love of your flashlights and tape measures drove you crazy, but thanks for being a good sport about it–in your own way. And I told him that my grandsons are crazy about flashlights and tape measures, and if they lived with him, he’d find those things going missing once again.