“Heh Andrew, wanta play volleyball with us?”
“No! I want to play basketball.” The kiddo was trying hard to dribble
on the gravel next to the grass field. He had to use both hands.
Still, the ball did not bounce well. He kept his eyes on us, ready to
run away with his new found toy, if we made another move.
“How about soccer then?” I was quickly becoming a diplomat. “Right
here on the grass?”
“No! I want to play basketball. Want to play with me?”
“But that’s a volleyball!” Robbie cut in. “It’s not for dribbling.” He
was becoming a bit anxious, I could tell. If the ball were mine, I
would be a bit worried too.
“How about if we make a deal then?” I tried to buy some time. What
worked on me when I was a child?
“If you play soccer with us, Robbie will treat you to ice cream!”
“Ice cream? Is it chocolate ice cream?” The first grader looked up at
“Yup, and strawberry too.” Who knows? Maybe Robbie will offer everyone
some ice cream. That was a soothing thought on a hot afternoon.
“Ok, let’s play soccer then.” Andrew agreed. “This is my goal.” He
stretched out his arms as far as he could. “And from here" -- he ran from one end of the grass field to the other
-- "to here, is yours.” I could hear Robbie chuckle.
“Alright then, I’m on Robbie’s team.”
“That’s not fair!” The little soccer star protested.
“Alright how’s this then?” I took out whatever I could find in my
pockets. “Your goal is right between these two ‘posts’.” I chucked my
wallet on the ground, and put a bandana down a few feet away. “We’ll
be the goalies after we score.” And I scored.
“That’s not fair!” Protests came quickly.
“And Andrew is still up five to one with a commanding lead on the
field!” I tried to make it a fair game.
“No! It’s fifteen million to one!” The goalie announced. “My turn
“He dribbles… he fakes, and he scores!” By now I was enjoying being a
commentator. “And he has just become the highest scoring goal keeper
in the history of the game!”
Robbie and I made short work of the next goal. But it did not count
since, apparently, the goal posts were too far apart.
Robbie decided to take a break. So it was just Andrew and I. We
exchanged penalty shots, and mine always hit the meandering goal posts.
Then Robbie had to go.
“I hear they baked some chocolate chip cookies inside the church.” I
tried to divert the little goal keeper’s attention, so that Robbie
could get his ball back.
“Where? They have chocolate chip cookies? How come nobody told me?”
“Well, guess we better go before they are all gone.”
Before I finished my line, Andrew chucked the ball onto the ground and
tried to drag me into the church.
“So you said you lived two houses down the street?” I held Andrew back
for a moment and turned to Robbie. I think I wanted some ice cream.
“Yup. The pink house right there.” I couldn’t see any pink houses.
“Cool. Maybe I’ll drop by for some tea later.” Or ice cream.
Then I had to follow Andrew into the church. There were some muffins
in the dining hall, and some juice.
“Oh what happened to all the chocolate chip cookies?” I winked at the
person who was re-organizing the remaining muffins.
“We don’t have chocolate chip cookies.” Don’t think he caught the
“Oh, you mean we don’t have chocolate chip cookies anymore?” I nudged
him this time. Andrew looked on suspiciously.
“Oh, umm, yes, I guess they are all gone.”
“But oh look, aren't these chocolate chip muffins?” I didn’t want the kid
to feel too disappointed.
“No, those are raisin muffins.” was the same un-helping voice. Andrew grabbed a muffin
anyway, and some juice.
“Let’s go play in the park.” Wow, little kids are energetic. I must
have been that way too when I was younger.
“There is a park around here?”
“Yup, it’s right across from the church.”
“You mean the playground?”
“Yeah.” He was busy munching on the muffin.
As we stepped outside the church, Andrew suddenly stood still, propped
up his ears, and gestured me to hush.
“Listen.” He whispered, “An ice cream truck.”
And then, the music of the ice cream was gone.
Andrew waited and waited, but we could only hear the birds and the
“You know, we can get some ice cream at Robbie’s place.”
“Right! Where does he live?” His voice full of renewed excitement.
“Two houses down the street.” Although I wasn’t sure which street.
“Should we look for him?”
“Yeah.” The kiddo was already walking ahead of me, and shouting.
“So what kind of ice cream do you think he’d offer us?” I wanted
“Chocolate ice cream.” Andrew took a breath to answer my question,
then continued his search.
“Is that Robbie?” I heard some people talking on their patio. It sure
“Wait, let me see…" The little detective squinted his eyes. "No it’s not.”
“I guess Robbie is hiding from us.”
“R—O—B—B—I—E!” Andrew gave it his last shot. “Let’s play with your
“What? How do we play with a bandana?”
“Give it to me. I’ll run with it. You try to catch me.”
“Gee, I don’t know, why don’t we play with something else?” I clutched
onto the bandana, so it couldn’t be picked out of my pocket.
“Please?” My little buddy was determined.
“So what are the rules of this game?” I tried to buy some time. Maybe
he’ll forget about the bandana in a little while.
“I’ll run with the bandana, and you try to catch me.”
“Fine.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. “Here you go.” And I
“Time out!” I knew the protest was coming.
“I am touching a piece of wood. You can’t catch me when I am touching
Fair enough. I gave him a head start this time. Then I chased him
around the only bush on the grass field, and there was another time
“Can’t catch me when I’m touching grass!” The runner panted a little.
“I need a break.”
Time for creative thinking, I thought. “Can you do push ups?” Maybe I
could divert his attention away from the bandana.
“Oh yeah? Show me.”
“For every one that you do, I’ll do ten.” I challenged.
Andrew accepted the challenge, and tried. He couldn’t really do any.
But he tried hard. It made him tired. He was panting a little.
“Let’s go sit down.” He handed me the bandana and walked over to the
“Have you ever had a pee-cream?” The little guy suddenly began to
“You mean ice cream?” I’m reminded of Robbie’s place.
“No, p-e-e-cream.” He elaborated.
“Pea-cream? Is that when you put peas in a bowl and make them into
“Yup.” The little joker laughed almost hysterically.
“What’s so funny? I don’t get it.”
“Pee-cream is when you are at the toilet, and you take a bowl, and…”
he paused to giggle some more. “and then you put cream into it.”
“I see.” I was beginning to see the big picture. “So have you tried
it?” I felt like playing along.
“No. Have you?”
“No. But it would be an awfully good idea to bring it in for show-and-tell.” That prompted some more laughter.
“Let’s go to the park now.” He hadn't forgotten.
Our first stop was the see-saw. I put my leg on one end, and Andrew
started complaining in mid-air.
“Heh! No fair!”
I let him off. Then he walked from one end of the see-saw to the
other. The board tipped one way, then another. I couldn’t remember the
last time I was on the see-saw.
“Let’s go on the swing.” I guess a see-saw just isn’t as fun with one person on
“So how high can you swing?” I remembered this one girl from my
elementary school. She could swing herself until she was almost parallel to
the ground. I always thought the chains would snap if she went any
Just then, Andrew let out a little kiddish burp. “Excuse me.” He said
politely. It was cute. And that girl who could swing high, well she
also happened to be a champion belcher. I think she once belched for
forty-five seconds after a can of coke. At first everyone clapped. Then
many got scared and ran away. I couldn’t even exhale for
“So how old are you?” A new conversation was starting, as Andrew tried
to swing himself.
“Wow, that’s so old!”
“How about you?”
“I’m seven.” He was having difficulties swinging high. “Could you push
“Sure.” I stepped off of my swing and walked over to his. “How high do
you wanta go?”
“Higher. Just keep pushing.”
“So I hear you play club soccer. How do you like it?”
“Soccer is cool. I like playing air hockey too. I have an air hockey
table at home. Want to come over some time?”
“Sure, sounds like fun.” I changed my stance a bit, so that the
pushing would give me a nice workout.
“I have a Play Station too. And I just got Spider Man. Did you ever
play that game?”
“Nope, but I know the theme song.” I started humming.
“Aren’t you afraid to fall off?”
“Yeah, but I won’t. You know this kid at our school? He jumped off the
swing when he was this high, and broke his leg.” I had tried
jumping off the swing before -- it takes skill to not get hurt.
“Slow down a second please.” And I stopped pushing. Perhaps he was
scared by his own tidings. “Could you tickle me?” Andrew asked.
“What?” That came unexpected. “But you could fall off.”
“No I won’t. Would you please tickle me?” He was practically begging. I tickled him. He shrieked and giggled. Was I that way
too when I was this young?
“Thank you! More please.”
“You are welcome. And ok, more I guess.” The pushing routine was
becoming more complex for me. But I like it when a child giggles. It
makes me want to giggle too.
“You know, my dad pushes me on the swing just like you. Hey, do you
want to become my dad?”
“You want me to become your what?” I almost fell. Folks have asked me
to become their step son before, but never was I old enough to become
a dad. Not old enough even now, by my own standards.
“Do you say this to everyone who pushes you on the swing?”
“No. But I want you to be my dad so you can push me and tickle me on the
“So umm... what would happen to your dad?”
“I would have two dads.” Oh boy.
“So umm... do you want to become a dad?” I tried to change the subject. It
had worked before.
“No!” Good, it seemed to work.
“I don’t want to grow up. I want you to be my dad.” Uh oh, the second
coming. And the reasoning seemed solid.
“But when you grow up, girls will probably line up and chase after
you. What do you do then?” And that might happen too. Andrew had
blondish curls. And he had the build of a future athlete.
“Then I will drive far, far away.”
“So what happens when you come back? They’ll still be chasing you.”
“When I come back,” He paused to think, “I will be very old. And they
won’t be around anymore.” Whew, the conversation was finally about
“So, want to go for some ice cream?” I was getting tired from pushing all
two hundred pounds of him. “Maybe Robbie’s home now.”
“No. Swing a bit longer. I have a story to tell you.”
And he went on, it was about his dad and this friend of his, and a
toy-gun fight at his place. Something happened to the sofa, or someone
fell into it. I lost the storyline between the chorus of the birds and
Andrew’s giggling when he was tickled...
The trees rustled. The sun shone. Some birds stopped by and searched
for food. Swinging higher and higher was a little boy, laughing and
talking. I wished I could frame this scene and take it home.