By RHONDA SCHROCK
It was the second time through that did it. I’d found it once already, counted it up and gave it back. A day or two later, kneeling on the rug to sort and spray, there it was. Again.
“Finders? Keepers. Losers? Well, the other guys.” And like that, Rhonda’s Theory on Cash Found in Pockets When Laundering was drafted.
From other states, my friends chimed in. “At our house, it goes in the vacation jar,” someone, a cousin from Ohio, said.
“If I know whose jeans it came out of, I usually give it back. If I don’t know, I consider it my tip for doing laundry,” said someone else.
“I’ve done pretty good over the years,” added another friend, herself the mother of a passel of boys. I chuckled, thrilled to be understood, then threw in a little pat on the back for my efforts to raise a responsible child.
The protests were heard as far as Atlanta when the theory was announced to the owner of the jeans. There was, I noted, no chuckling at all and no pats on the back for my efforts to raise a responsible kid. Judging by his countenance, he was contemplating mutiny, but a quick glance at his father’s expression took the wind out of his sails, and he went back to his Cap’n Crunch.
Civil unrest was nothing new, not to this mother of four. In fact, I took it as a sign that I was doing my job if a theory (read “rule”) was unpopular. A foundational one that had been highly unpopular with our crowd went like this: “You live here, eat here, sleep here, you work here.”
Periodically, The Mister and I would lead the troops in this chant. Around the table we’d march, reciting the family mantra. The two in front (that would be us) oozed excitement; emitted positivity, joy and hope for the future while the stragglers in the back (that would be them) oozed something else entirely.
“She got a new tip for her whip.” That’s what one of them said over the phone to a grandmother one day. Sighing, I took it from him. “They think I’m the Original Egyptian Slave Driver,” I explained as she laughed into the receiver on the other end. “They’re looking to escape Egypt and head for Canaan.”
It was true. They were crafty, those kids. They’d heard the stories. Knowing of Canaan, they were convinced it wasn’t here, that this was Egypt and that the land of milk and honey lay outside our borders.
To hear them tell it, in fair Canaan, there were no chores (at all!), kids slept in (every day!) and mothers begged (yes, begged!) their children to play video games. That’s why, when friends came over, I began searching glove boxes and trunks before they’d leave, looking for small, blue-eyed Israelites trying to beat feet for the promised land.
“What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” This never seemed to help. Neither did my observation that, “You lived to tell about it, didn’t you, because I can hear you complaining from here.”
Yes, those lively Israelites could set up a squawk and a fuss at the drop of a dusty Egyptian sandal. That’s why, the year I studied the life of Moses and his hassles with grumbling tribes, I chose a Verse of the Year. “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” it said.
“Can we drop it when the year’s up?” someone, a grimy “tribesman” with a hole in the knee of his jeans, wanted to know. Which is when I fled Egypt myself for a bit, sneaking out in a departing friend’s glove box, leaving them to the mercy of their dad.
Another closely held theory on The Three was that Sunday afternoons were made for naps. If the Sabbath was made for rest, we figured, then rest we would. Unless people overhead were galloping around. Or slamming doors. Or flushing toilets. Or dropping things — repeatedly — on the hardwood floor. Directly overhead.
Sunday after Sunday, I’d lie there, wishing for rest. Longing for rest. Praying for rest while those one level up were reenacting Custer’s last stand, for all I could tell. With live horses.
At wit’s end, I laid down the law. “From now on, there are two things you can do on Sunday afternoons. You can blink, and you can breathe.” I glared at them, unblinking. They peered back, barely breathing.
It brought them no joy, the resident blinkers, when we floated one more Sabbath day theory, “Mom gets a break on Sundays.” That’s how it reads in English. But in the Hebrew, what it meant was, “So you guys are doing the dishes.”
Predictably, this sparked a flood of complaints from the erstwhile Israelites. Which may be when I promised a steady diet of quail and manna (bread and water in Hebrew) until they recovered their joy.
As the song goes, “You’ve gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” That’s my theory, anyway, and I’m stickin’ to it.