Opie

My husband doesn’t like children. It’s not that he hates them. He’s just one of those guys who is more comfortable with adult conversation. As he’ll readily confess, “I didn’t like being around kids when I was a kid. And I definitely don’t understand them better now.”

But I have a theory about children: I think they are drawn to the very people who dislike them most. Isn’t every good young adult story about the precocious kid who softens the heart of the old geezer yelling at him to be quiet? Not that John would ever be a yelling old man. I mean, I hope he isn’t that bad. Then again, one time after I recounted a funny experience that happened in the church nursery, John solemnly responded, “You realize you just described my personal version of hell, right?”

But despite his dislike, I have seen more than one young boy attempt to draw John out of his Adults Only comfort zone. Many people have heard the story that happened shortly after we moved into our current house. John tilled up a garden spot for me in the backyard. Unbeknownst to us, a visiting boy sat in his treehouse for over an hour, just watching my husband work. When John finally finished what turned out to be a harder job than anticipated, the little boy shouted down at him, “Hey mister, why’d that take you so long? That took you hours and hours!”

Cute, right? But if the kid was trying for Opie Taylor, he needs to get in line for the Mayberry Auditions. Another young boy has been riding his bike around our block lately. To be honest, I haven’t seen him. But I don’t get outside as much as I should — unlike John, who converted our one-stall garage into a workshop and spends most evenings out there. Apparently, Bicycle Kid stopped by our open garage once to ask John to go on a bike ride with him. Just out of the blue like that. My poor, socially-awkward-around-kids husband then had to mumble, “Uhhhh. No….. Sorry.”

When I first found out, I was upset. “You should have gone with the kid!” I said. But then I realized that riding around with a minor you don’t know might be a lawsuit waiting to happen. It’s okay, though, because Bicycle Kid didn’t give up. He came back last night just as John was finishing up a project. The kid parked his bike and watched as John cleaned and swept up all the sawdust chips from the garage floor. Apparently he chatted a bit and attempted to lift a few of the free weights in the corner. The kid asked if John had any work he could be hired for, because apparently he’s riding around town trying to earn some spending money. He’s saving up to buy some tools.

Poor John was done working and didn’t have anything he could give Bicycle Kid to do. But then he did something pretty brilliant. “You know, I have a lot of extra tools and multiple sets. Why don’t you take a look and see if I’ve got something you want to try. You can just have it.”

Can you imagine being 10 years old, and having the cool stranger down the block — the man you’ve heard pounding away all summer — whip open his big red tool chest and tell you to take your pick? That’s gotta be better than Christmas!

John said Bicycle Kid was actually pretty quiet about the whole thing, but he picked out a socket set, including the wrench.

Methinks he’ll come back yet again.

When it was all done, John came into the house with a very confused expression and recounted it to me. “Well, that was the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said.

But I was over the moon with pride. “Do you realize what you just did?” I asked. “That kid probably has a life of lame babysitters — teenage girls who make him watch dumb movies like Barnie or Frozen or something. You gave him free tools! Babe, you just became that little boy’s hero!”

I’ll probably never get him to volunteer in the church nursery, but I think he understands kids a whole lot more than he realizes.

Our garage, aka John's workshop.
Our garage, aka John’s workshop.

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