We used to have this kid in our neighborhood. He was loud and obnoxious and couldn't take a hint. He was also one of the most sincere kids I've ever met. The moniker 'rascal' would not be a poor fit. His age put him right between my daughters. My eldest couldn't stand him. My youngest thought he was a great playmate. And he WAS a great playmate - for the most part - but I never let her play with him if I couldn't be RIGHT THERE because along with loud and obnoxious, he was very impulsive. Hearing him say (scream) "Hey! I have an idea!" would send chills down my spine.
He moved away last year when his parents divorced. Dad was still our neighbor, but he went to live with Mom. My eldest and I breathed a sigh of relief. Every now and then he'd visit his dad - more over the summer months - and every time he visited, he always made a beeline for our house.
Yesterday my youngest and I were assembling some patio furniture on the back deck. We were determined to have it all together before my husband came home, because we (okay, I) didn't want to ask for his help. I am woman, hear me roar. We were working our way through the directions and sorting the hardware when up rolled our old neighbor. He parked his bike outside our fence and stood at the gate, clearly waiting for an invitation to join us.
"Putting chairs together."
"I could help. If you'd open the gate. Never mind, I think I can jump the fence.'
"Don't jump the fence! We'll open the gate."
Turns out he was quite helpful indeed. Although I did have to stifle a giggle when he slid under my patio chair like it was a car on a lift. There was an easier way. But it wouldn't have been nearly as sweet. And he wouldn't have felt nearly as manly. My daughter ran into the house to fetch him a glass of ice water. He hadn't asked. So much for roaring women.
I'd effectively gotten out of putting together the furniture.
When they were done, they took to playing with the box.
"Oh, that's cute" I thought, as I turned my back on them and started preparing dinner.
"Can I play your drums?" that went about as well as you are imagining...
"Dinner's almost ready."
"Can I stay for dinner?"
"Of course. Call your dad and see if it's ok."
Of course it was.
As I turned my attention away from the task of preparing dinner, I was treated to the sight of pieces of box and packing material spread out over my entire first floor. This had taken less than 15 minutes.
It felt like I had toddlers again.
Then we sat down to dinner.
Our guest had impeccable table manners. He waited to eat until everyone had been served. He asked if he could have things that were right in front of him. He complimented my cooking.
He complimented my cooking.
One more time -
He complimented my cooking.
I used to think I was a pretty decent cook, but my kids have complained so much about what I serve them over the last decade or so that I have completely lost my confidence in that particular arena. And here was this child - this child who annoyed me more often than he didn't - telling me it was the best he ever had and asking me for my recipe. He's twelve.
Could he have been Eddie Haskell-ing me? It's possible. But he's a pretty sincere little kid.
Could he have just been being polite? Also possible, but not likely - since ten minutes earlier, in the midst of banging the hell out of my daughter's drum kit, I'd heard him scream to her, "let's see how loud we can get before your mom goes crazy and yells!"
I'd made dessert, too.
We rarely have dessert, but last night we did.
Do I have to tell you it was the best thing he'd ever tasted in his life?
Do you have any idea how much I enjoyed being complimented on my cooking?
He also very happily remembered very specific gifts my daughters had given him at his birthday party two years ago.
He also told us his dad sold his house and will be moving.
Dang. I think I'm gonna miss that kid.