The Boys

By Maida Korte

“I’m not trouble at all. I’m just a guy trying to get a girl to give him the time of day. I’m like every song on the radio.”Hailey Abbott

                        It was such a short time ago, it seems, when I was pregnant with Kimberly, my oldest daughter.  I didn’t care if I had a boy or a girl, and was so excited that I wrote odes to my unborn child.  I wrote volumes in spiral notebooks espousing the virtues of unknown motherhood and the epistles were love letters to both my baby and the world.  I was Mother Earth and my baby was Simba held up by Rafiki, blessing not just our family but all of human kind.  Then I threw up violently for the next six months and the vision was replaced with the reality of shuffling around in a slightly nauseous smelling bathrobe.   

            Nine months after Kimberly was born I was pregnant with Kerianne, who graced our lives with huge blue knowing eyes.  I bought a double stroller so that I could walk the streets of Chicago as the proudest Mom in the world. Giving birth to Heather two years later gave Kimberly and Kerianney someone to fight over in their play time.  Heather’s spunk and smiling charm helped her hold her own and Miranda came two years later completing the set.  Being the youngest, Mandy was the star that the other girls doted on.

            I insisted that my girls get along and I remembered my mother and how she just expected us to be nice.  Nice was not rewarded, it was expected, and I have come to admire the way she and my father parented by natural virtue and a sense of justice that did not come from books.  It is true though, that books were a huge part of their lives, our lives, though not referenced to teach potty training, nor how to raise a good little boy or girl.  My parents instructions on parenting came from the gut and everyone seemed to know the rules.  I expected my daughters to be good and work hard, and developing sister loyalty rounded out the simple list of my child-raising declarations. These became the core elements of their growing up years.  I also had no time to imagine anything different, since four girls in six years took all my time. 

            Hair was a major part of our lives and morning line-up consisted of being called into the dining room, one at a time, where I had pulled out plastic bins filled with all the accoutrements necessary for long hair with braids and pony tails and buns.  Little girls with long tresses, two blond and two brunettes, made for tangles and snarls that had to be tamed in order to make it through the day of school and the events that followed. 

Swim lessons meant washing chlorine out of their hair every day and then tightly winding their hair into buns for ballet and gymnastics later in the afternoon.  At night brushing out long tresses in order to start the whole thing over again in the morning often had me feeling like the owner of a hair salon.  In between sports, hair styles and moods changed quickly, and where long tresses with headbands were fine a day before, they could suddenly require French braids on a moment’s notice.  I began to set term limits to styles. 

            Baubles and beads and barrettes and bracelets were mixed in with swim caps, ballet slippers, leotards, and tennis rackets. Our back porch mud room walls were lined with snowsuits of bright pink and lavender for sledding and ice-skating. Long scarves and colorful mittens, adorned with pictures of ponies and imps and elves were stored in metal milk crates painted green, each crate hanging from large silver hooks.  Below the crates were neat rows of bright red wooden clogs, worn by each girl for year after year.  Growing out of one pair meant slipping into another and when the last little foot graced the last Swedish clog, it meant the girls were growing up.  And then came the boys. 

            One by one these testosterone laced young guys came across our threshold. Our reactions leap frogged from skepticism, to surprise, then delight. Dating led to engagements which led to weddings and the fourth ceremony was representative of how our lives would be different.

The wedding of our youngest daughter really was magical.  Butterflies released perfectly into the air, though a few still clung to the sides of the white boxes that had held them captive. Just a few minutes earlier, pretty girls in fancy dresses, holding the little boxes that had lids adorned with tiny green rose buds, were waiting for the kiss.  Then the girls, balancing on heels, lifted the lids off the boxes on cue and the monarchs fluttered to freedom providing a living veil.  As our last little girl, Miranda, said her vows, she joined the ranks of her three married sisters.  How perfect that butterflies lifting into the sky in a fluttery, disorganized and lovely dance, should symbolize forever in my mind the boys who changed the feminine mystique which has held our home captive for three decades.  The first boy entered our outrageously girlish lives seven years earlier.  Nick met Heather and that was that.  He saw the sparkle in her eye, and grasped the fire-cracker storm of her soul and Blam! 

Boys change everything and it is not just the sex or the shoes or the bathroom time, or even the vacant stares or preoccupation with sports. Boys change the number of towels in the laundry and bed linens are crumpled into wild balls of chaos every morning. The biggest change though is definitely food consumption.

Boys have changed the pantry completely.  What was once a well-stocked room, having the scent of a savory spice shop, with shelves filled with staples of quinoa, oats and soups now possesses the look of a shop soon going out of business, shelves empty and forlorn. We never have left-overs any longer.  The days of chili-that-tastes-better-the-second-day are gone forever. I have three brothers and when I was a child, my mother labeled items in the refrigerator.  I have now formed a new respect for this system and am tempted to copy-cat her idea.  It was not a system that named foods.  The signs read more like, “DO NOT EAT OR YOU ARE DEAD.”  While I was growing up the only foods in our refrigerator that didn’t have a warning label were the ketchup and mustard. 

As a child we always had food and lots of it, but my brothers were known to consume whole pot roasts which were intended for our entire family’s evening dinner.  Without proper labeling, I don’t think any families with young boys would eat.  The parents and the girls would eat cereal – wait, no – even that is not safe.  The boys eat their morning cereal by carrying the box to the table with a carton of milk.  They fill their bowl with cereal, pour the milk and consume the bowl of cereal.  This was repeated until box was empty. Leaving the house meant the food was out.   

Boys bring a new pattern to eating in our home and having food around that can be eaten standing up is how I view all recipes lately.  Rather than three meals a day when the girls are here with their men in tow, I have to plan for sitting down food and standing up food, and then all the food in between.  I take inspiration from my Mom.  She would make an enormous pot of spaghetti sauce, and dole out small “schnitzels” as she liked to call them when we came home from school starving and unable to wait until dinner. Cooking a small amount of “after school pasta” to be eaten standing up, with sauce made early enough to stave off our hunger pains before dinner, is something I am now doing regularly.

  Lately, our television remotes have become undecipherable because of the boys and impossible configurations of channels have left us watching three when 787 are available.  Andy can talk to the boys about electronics but they speak a language of orbs and dashes and cabling wires that sound very important and I try to follow but get lost when they get to the tenth decibel configuration of fiber optic cables from the North.  I tried to join the conversation once by saying, “What?”  The next thirty minutes were filled with words they made up though their faces were very serious and I nodded often to make them feel better.  When they were done with answering my question they were hungry and I was exhausted.  Since we had only bread crumbs in the drawer I called the pizza delivery man. 

             The timbre of boy’s voices is different from the girls. The low rumble heard when the boys are talking is a stark contrast to the sounds coming from the girls’ direction.  The girls talk loudly, with pitches that range continually from high to low.  Punctuations of laughter and shrieks of exclamation create constant interruptions in their conversation.  With the girls, voices are fast paced and quick quick or you’re out, moved past, on to next topic.  Nobody seems to mind as the conversation winds back around again like a tapestry in song. It is precisely this kind of conversation that I am used to.  Jump rope double dutch conversation: watch for a second, get your timing and then leap in and join in the harmonic chaos.  A newcomer watches, jumps in and is sent flying with tangled legs to the side of the conversation, but is encouraged to try again. Warmth and laughter are the norm, and sometimes the boys give up, nestling into their own worlds of man talk.  The girls ask the boys to come and join them and sometimes they do, but sometimes they mimic Andy’s words when he says to me, “I just like to watch you live.” 

Accommodating a growing population of men has meant making changes to our home.  With the continual run to the grocery store as baseline, we have added comfy seating in every room since conversations are caught more than prompted.  Blooming from the coupling all around us is an expanded knowledge of almost every topic and this enriches us every time we are all together.   Where one boy knows about trucks another has explored American History.  From whether a leak under a car engine is serious to which president was responsible for our highway system we have it covered.  Andy does mourn the lack of a plumber in the family, one of his suggestions when the girls began dating that was never heeded.

Other more subtle changes are evident such as larger stacks of towels, man-soap as Andy calls it, crock-pot creations, more boisterous game nights and movie lists that include the names of planets and machines.  Large shoes are left under coffee tables, newspapers are in all the bathrooms and every Friday night we listen for the back door to open and we holler to the girls and their boys to come on in.

One Response to “The Boys

  • Jackie Larson
    6 months ago

    Such vivid pictures you create with your words. I feel like I’m in the midst of all the glorious fun!

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