Okay, that is one part of the setting. Now there’s another part.
My oldest, his wife and three kids, Lex, Drew and Bella often come to Ann Arbor to visit us. Our house can best be described as eclectic.
The unexpected does happen here: Somebody locks their keys in the car. The milk from the grocery store is going to spoil! Somebody else puts too much popcorn in the corn popper and popcorn explodes all over the kitchen. In the end, the keys are retrieved with help from a locksmith and the popcorn is swept up.
But, we surely do not have a Better Homes and Garden kind of place. Although, we do have deer who stop by to eat all our tulips in the spring. It’s a different kind of place from John’s, not better or worse, but different.
One other thing before we get to the pond story.
Jean, my son’s wife, is meticulous. Their kids are her joy and she raises them with care. They are wonderful kids, very easy to have around.
John loves to have them come visit him. He creates forts out of boxes, draws faces on oranges, and buys Malley’s chocolates for them.
So, two years ago my oldest and his family went to visit John.
The kids were told they could run out into the woods to play. This was a huge treat because they are city children, unused to running free. It was a warm summer day. And, although I was not there, I can almost hear them, hooting and hollering, running free in the woods.
They were living a kid’s dream.
They raced down the hill through the tall trees and back uphill to the house. Up and down, up and down. Sweat streamed down their faces. They ran out of breath. But just then, they spied the pond and began the tricky maneuver of leaning over the edge to see what was in the pond. All three of them stood on the edge, peering, balancing on the rocks.
One of them lost his balance.
The oldest, Lex, appeared at the back door, dripping. Jean and Minh cleaned Lex up and I suppose sort of reprimanded him for not being more careful. That’s an important value for Jean. Be careful!
That value was going to be tested.
They were not even done with putting Lex’s clothes in the dryer, when Drew appeared in the same wet condition. John was kept busy coming up with towels. They dried Drew off and put his clothes in the dryer along with Lex’s
I bet you know what happened next. Yes, of course you do. Bella appeared dripping wet.
Since she was smaller, she was wet up to her chest and crying indignant tears. Her parents toweled her off and added her clothes to the pile. I have no idea what was said at this point. What could anybody say? You could laugh or cry, and I know that John was laughing because when he called me later, he was still lauging.
Eventually everybody’s clothes come out warm, dry and ready to wear.
Are we done with the story? Not yet.
Bella, determined soul, went outside, walked around the pond again, slipped on the mossy stones and went in.
By now John was stunned. Things like that did not happen at his house. “Twenty-five years,” he said when he called me. “Nobody even got a foot wet in twenty-five years, and in one day, three kids fall into the pond, one of them twice.”
We are going to move ahead two years. There’s still more of the pond story.
The kids and their parents go back to visit John for the Lunar New Year. It’s February, and there’s snow in the woods. The snow covers everything. Drew, Lex and Bella and run up and down the hill. They are oblivious to the cold and snow. Drew follows the tracks of a chipmunk which lead toward the house.
He is only thinking about the tracks. I am pretty sure he is not thinking about the pond at all. He certainly can’t see it because the pond is covered with a screen so that leaves will be caught as they fall. The screen is covered by the snow. Drew trudges closer and closer to the house his eyes are chipmunk tracks. His older brother is behind him.
Oh, it’s coming! He is about to…
Step on the thin snow-covered screen, fall through the thin ice and into the pond. Lex lets out a shout. He knows he was minutes away from doing the same thing.
Drew knocks on the glass door. His shoes are soaked. His jeans are wet. John and his parents are caught between the past and present, between laughter and amazement.
How is it possible?
My son stops to see us on their way home. Drew is carried in. I can see he has no shoes. They tell the story. “Is it this a tradition now?” I ask.
Drew looked at me and shrugged his shoulders, sheepish. I hugged him, said it could happen to anyone. ( Maybe). There’s something about the story I love. It is the unexpectedness. How many more times will this happen?
Plus there’s the drawing that Lex made when he sent off a thank you note to John for the visit. This is the best part, I think.
"Caution", he wrote. "Falling Persons on Falling Leaves". Then he drew a picture of a person flat on his back in the pond. Who could not love that?