Chimney

Chimney: (n) the part of a chimney that extends above the roof; a chimney stack.

I grew up living in a brick home.

Dead center in the middle of our roof was a huge chimney. It was probably about one-third the size of the house. I don’t know why they made such a large chimney–the fireplace was tiny.

But affixed to the chimney, on the front, was a large letter “S.” Now, this had nothing to do with our name, so as young children we speculated on what the “S” stood for. We never actually came up with anything that made sense, but it filled some time.

What also occupied our interest was using our sloped roof as the bouncing area for a ballgame, where we tried to get the ball to bounce as near to the chimney as
possible without getting lodged behind it.

It was great fun–until the ball got lodged.

The chimney was so large that we couldn’t reach the ball with a long stick, and so, after three weeks there were six of our rubber balls stuck behind the chimney.

Every time I complained to my parents about the situation, they gave me a lecture on how foolish the game was in the first place and how if we didn’t throw the ball on the roof, it wouldn’t get lost behind the chimney. You see, to an adult mind, this logic made sense. But when you’re a kid, to eliminate fun just because it’s sensible is sheer torture.

So one day when my parents were away, we tok the youngest, smallest kid in our community. We called him “Toot.”

I’m not sure why. Maybe because it sounded small.

I stood on the bottom. Someone smaller than me climbed up on my shoulders, and finally, Toot scaled all the way up both of us, as we groaned in pain each time his foot stepped on our skin.

He got onto the shoulders of the fellow above me, and tried to jump over to the roof. He was able to get there–hanging by his fingertips.

We were scared to death.

We quickly tried to push him up on the roof as Toot struggled to pull himself up by grabbing shingles, which fell off the roof and onto the ground below.

Eventually, Toot, by some miracle, got his knee up on the roof, climbed up, raced over to the chimney, and threw down our six balls--and two frisbees which apparently had been thrown up there generations before.

We were so delighted that we forgot that Toot had no way to get down. He wouldn’t be able to get down the way he got up. So Toot sat on our roof waiting for my parents to return–because they had taken our ladder with them to do some work out on our farm.

When they arrived and saw Toot sitting on the roof like a little leprechaun, they were quite angry.

They quickly put up the ladder, retrieved Toot, and then began their lecture. They screamed, yelled, yammered and yakked for a good fifteen minutes. My friends wanted to leave, but my parents decided to be the disciplinarians for the neighborhood.

Afterwards, my mother turned to me and asked, “So what do you think about this?”

I thought for a long moment.

I probably should have thought a little longer–because without really being thoughtful enough, I replied, “Toot got our balls down.”

Needless to say, playing with balls was not permitted for me for several weeks.

 

 

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Buster

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Buster: (n) a mildly disrespectful or humorous form of address, especially to a man or boy.

Beware of an aunt who doesn’t have children of her own, and insists that she “really loves kids,” who comes to visit and in no time at all is so irritated that she starts referring to you as “buster.”

I had one.

I will not mention her name out of deference to her feelings, even though she has since passed away. We always have hope for people when they go to a proposed afterlife. For my aunt, my hope is that it is an adult-living condominium with no children allowed.

I will have to admit to you–she tried. Each time she arrived at our home, she came with a fresh, energetic approach, to relate to us kids as human beings.

She always brought books instead of toys. And these were books that were at least five years too old for us. There were no pictures, and she would always take at least ten minutes explaining the history, background and mission of the author.

She would also bring a casserole with her, ablaze with color and all kinds of ingredients, but for some reason, the taste and texture of it always reminded me of asparagus snot. (Now, I don’t personally know what asparagus snot is, but I thought it was a very descriptive way to relate my feelings about the dish.) More annoying, she stood over me and waited for me to taste it before I got the chance to scrape it into the trash can or slide it under the table for my hapless dog to slurp.

Also, this particular aunt was always on the verge of tears. Now, it didn’t take much. One day I was yelling at my little brother because he wouldn’t help me with the trash cans, and she came over to hug him in the most exorbitant way, looking up at me as she did, scolding me for failing to be sensitive to one of God’s precious creatures.

Interestingly though, it didn’t seem to bother her that when she talked to me, she was always suggesting that I lose weight, tuck in my shirt, or, on several occasions, remarking on how bad my breath was. I guess you had to be a little kid to be one of God’s creatures.

My aunt was a woman who married once, got a divorce, never had children–but was sure she would have been the best mother in the world.

Whenever I was out of line, she looked at me with her fiery eyes and said, “Buster, you should be glad I’m not your mother!”

She was right.

I was.

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Brook

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Brook: (n) a small stream

About two miles outside of our little town, my dad bought a piece of land, where he hoped his growing children would be able to escape and get a sense of “farm” and fresh air.Dictionary B

It wasn’t large, and because it wasn’t tended well, it was usually overgrown.

But every once in a while I got an itch to go out and walk through the tall grass to a clearing where there was a high bank surrounding a brook.

The stream was not very impressive–probably about seven feet across at its widest place, and no more than a foot-and-a-half deep.

But it was usually clear–see right to the bottom.

One day I told my dad I was going to go fishing in the brook. He laughed at me, and explained that our little waterway would not sustain fish because there was no place for them to go.

After soaking my worm in the water for about an hour–to no avail–I realized he was right. I was about to give up when I sensed some movement in some nearby rocks.

It was a little fish.

I don’t know how he got there (or if he was a she). But he was obviously trapped, not knowing which way to go. Every time he swam forward he hit a rock, and every time he swam the other way, he bumped his nose on a stone.

He was literally caught between a rock and a hard place.

So for the next hour, I threw my hook and worm near him, hoping to draw the little fishie onto my rod and reel, so I could go back proudly and tell my dad he was wrong.

When the worm didn’t draw the fish’s attention, I attempted to reach in and grab him. He was very athletic and eluded my grasp.

I finally gave up.

I went to tell my dad to come and see the fish that was in our brook. He waited, puttered around, and finally made his way out to view my discovery.

The fish was gone.

I have no idea how that little blue gill figured out a way to escape his prison. But Nature always comes up with a plan.

Fish are not like us.

They don’t get frustrated, mad … and decide to hide out in their room.

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Bohemian

Bohemian: (adj) a person who has informal and unconventional social habits

Dictionary B

It took me years to understand that Bohemia begins two inches outside “the box.”

I have often been accused of Bohemian behavior simply because I question a misguided practice which long ago wore out its worthy welcome.

It’s remarkable that people would rather sustain the dead than risk birthing something squalling. Children are annoying, after all. It’s a very long time before they prove any value to society–and in that way, Bohemian ideas are similar to offspring.

Some are good and grow into delightful examples of wisdom and kindness.

Others are bad seed, pointing out our weaknesses and stupidities.

So I would like to give a counter-definition for Bohemian:

Bohemian is the next thing we’re experimenting with, which soon will be so common that we’ll be looking for something Bohemian.

 

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Blurt

Blurt: (v) to say something suddenly and without careful consideration.

Dictionary B

Children are dangerous because they tell the truth. (Well, at least as much truth as they know.)

You may be at a dinner party, and in front of all your guests, your eight-year-old son will describe the discoloration of your underwear.

They blurt.

They come right out with it and speak what they’ve seen and heard.

We have to teach them to be good liars. It doesn’t come naturally.

Matter of fact, the first time we ask them to exaggerate or avoid sharing a secret, they are suspicious and question us. We sheepishly explain that in some cases, it’s necessary to give half-truths so as not to hurt people’s feelings or keep the family’s business in the family house.

Adults don’t blurt.

For instance, if a politician blurts, it makes the news. We find it refreshing–and stupid at the same time.  I’m sure when you saw the word “blurt” you immediately thought something negative instead of positive.

We live a life of cautious calculation, carefully considering our choices–without contemplating candor.

 

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Beseech

Beseech: (v) to ask someone urgently and fervently to do something

Dictionary B

I beseech politicians to answer the question and then offer explanation instead of the other way around.

I beseech women to stop thinking they are smarter by treating men like they’re dumb.

I beseech men to stop acting dumb while secretly relegating women to a secondary position.

I beseech religion to start believing that God is our Father and therefore does not want to hurt us.

I beseech business to perfect the product before inflating the price.

I beseech parents to create a balance of responsibility and blessing for their children.

I beseech the military to be so prepared and so powerful that they don’t ever have to actually prove their worth.

I beseech educators to teach a balance of humility with information, since we are constantly learning things that contradict our arrogance.

I beseech those who are blessed to imagine what it is like to be without such a courtesy before deciding to judge weaker brothers.

I beseech the homeless to organize and simplify their lives to match their financial intake.

I beseech those who offer counsel to do so with an eye on their own weaknesses instead of merely poring over the philosophies of psychologists.

I beseech humanity to step far enough out of the jungle to plant a garden.

I beseech myself to remember all these things that I have beseeched from others.

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Berate

Berate (v): to scold or criticize someone angrily.

Dictionary B

My wife’s parents didn’t like me.

They had good reason.

I lied, cheated, misinformed and did a bunch of crap which forced them into the role of being critical defenders of their daughter.

Yet I had the excuse of being intoxicated by adolescence. They were supposed to be mature and understand my weakness, but instead, berated me, telling me I would never be anything of quality.

Being very young, I felt it was my duty to verbally attack them also, leaving a chasm of misunderstanding, which I believed would be taken care of over time. I thought that once their daughter and I were married and had children, matters would miraculously transpire to turn us into a family, laughingly remembering former days of conflict.

It never happened.

Matter of fact, I can recite several events in my life when I was berated–or was the berator of others myself–where those relationships have never healed, but have instead settled into an uncomfortable silence of unacceptability.

We are civil.

I suppose there are even moments of kindness.

But the grudge that is still carried leaves both parties breathless, if not hopeless.

So what I have learned with each passing birthday is that the less I confront those around me, the greater the possibility of maintaining the warmth of fellowship.

I suppose we should be a race that is forgiving, gentle and free of resentment.

We are not.

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