Marbles and Rhubarb

Marbles and Rhubarb

Craig Allen lived on the next block up Murphy Drive.  He was two years older than me. If you would have put the question straight to me if I thought he was a friend of mine, I don’t think I would have been able to answer that.  We lived on what was then the western edge of town where neighbors were few and scattered.  Craig Allen lived close by.  When I was young, at least to my thinking, if there was someone close to your age and house, you spent some time playing with them.  At the time I didn’t give it any thought; now, looking back I would have to say that we had a relationship of convenience.

Besides convenience, Craig Allen had many more toys, especially indoor toys, than any other kid I knew.  He had things like GI Joe figures.  The rest of the kids that lived within playing distance just didn’t have toys like that.  The rest of us rode our bikes to the park to play baseball or football, and we engaged in now what I’m sure are politically incorrect outdoor games with our cap guns of ‘army’, ‘cops and robbers’, and ‘cowboys and Indians’, which were really all the same game.  We didn’t really ‘identify’ with whatever group we were drafted into for sake of the game; it was just necessary to divide the group into two more-or-less equal sides.  The hardest part of the game was deciding who was really ‘shot’ and who wasn’t.  Anyway, Craig Allen had so many indoor toys, he hardly ever ventured outside to play with the larger gang.  I was one of the few kids who would every once in a while ring Craig Allen’s doorbell and ask if he wanted to play.  I think that’s why his mother seemed to like me.  I remember her fondly for two reasons: marbles and rhubarb.

The marbles came on my birthday.  Well, it wasn’t my actual birthday; that had happened just a few days before.  That’s why I was very surprised when Craig Allen and I were playing GI Joe in his living room and his mother came in with two wrapped presents.  She handed one of the packages to me, saying, “I heard that you had a birthday recently, Daniel [she was always very formal about names].  I have a birthday present for you.”  I was a bit taken aback that anyone outside my immediate family would know when my birthday was, much less give me a present. 

When I opened the package I was amazed.  It was a cloth sack with a drawstring that held hundreds of marbles. Every kind of marble known to children were there: cat’s eyes, puree’s, stripes and solids.  I never had any real glass marbles.  Oh, I did play marbles at school.  (I am old enough that circles for playing marbles for the boys along with hop scotch for the girls were actually painted on the blacktop on the playground.)  I played at school with a large “steelie” shooter which was really a ball-bearing from a railroad car that I picked up along the railroad tracks. 

The other wrapped present his mother explained was for Craig Allen.  It was the same collection of marbles as mine except his mother assured Craig Allen that his collection had more marbles than mine.  I asked Craig Allen if it was his birthday as well, but his mother interrupted with a quick comment about his birthday being in in January.   

The rhubarb came on a summer day when I was invited to stay and have lunch with Craig Allen.  After our peanut butter and honey sandwiches (I discovered over several lunch invitations that Craig Allen always had peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch) his mother invited out to the backyard for a treat.  We went into the back of the yard where there was a rhubarb patch. 

I had never eaten rhubarb before.  She took a paring knife and cut off a stalk.  She trimmed off the leafy part explaining that eating the leaves would make you sick.  She then dipped the end of the stalk in a cup of sugar that she had also brought with her.  She handed it to me.  ”Try it,” she said.  I took a big bite off the end of the stalk.  The sweetness of the sugar quickly dissolved while the sourness of the rhubarb seemed to suck all of the moisture out of my mouth.  Craig Allen’s mother laughed at “the look on my face”.  “There,” Craig Allen’s mother said; “That will put hair on your chest.”  I pressed the end of the rhubarb into the sugar and took another large bite.  It was a bit like reward and punishment happening on my mouth at the same time.   

I still enjoy rhubarb.  I will eat it most anytime, most any way I come across it.  On a recent Saturday morning, my wife had just taken some rhubarb scones out of the oven when her cell phone rang.  It was my daughter-in-law Ashley inviting us over for coffee.  Michelle put the scones in a basket, covered them to keep them warm, and we headed over for a visit.

Our 12-year-old granddaughter Evie joined us at the kitchen table.  She looked tentatively at the basket of scones.  She had heard Michelle say that they were fresh-from-the oven rhubarb scones.  “Rhubarb, huh?” Evie asked Grandma.  “That’s right.”  Evie took one.  She nibbled.  It took her about a half hour to finish her scone, and then she asked to be excused from the table.  At best, she was obviously unconvinced of the tastiness of rhubarb.  I thought briefly about telling her that it would put hair on her chest, but thought better of it.

His Peace <><

Deacon Dan   

Photo by Crissy Jarvis on Unsplash

Photo by kaori nohara on Unsplash