Tag: surprises

Charlie’s Room: Childhood Wishes

Marianne and Charlie were doing their weekly craft project. It looked like it involved yarn and big round plastic looms. Apparently this project was meant to be a secret. The moment the looms came out, Charlie said, “Dad, I think you need a long walk. Come back in an hour or so, but not less than an hour.”

Isaac liked walks, and he was pretty sure that the secret was meant to be a nice surprise, so he didn’t really mind. He put on his coat, changed his shoes, and left. It was a lovely day. The sun was shining and the plants were green and flowering.

He tried to whistle along with the bird songs. Wouldn’t it be nice to arrange a composition nearly entirely from bird songs? You could list them as the co-authors. How would it be to have written a song alongside robins and blue jays and crows and sparrows? It would be awesome.

Unfortunately, Isaac wasn’t really sure how to write music. He would need to spend some time figuring that part out. Mentally, he tucked the idea into his to-do list. The list was getting rather long. He’d need to transfer it all to paper soon before he started forgetting things.

Isaac turned the corner so that he could pass by the park. He hoped that the lilacs were still blooming. He paused when a little brown bird darted close, landed right in front of him, and looked up at him, waiting.

“Hello,” Isaac said. “Isn’t it a beautiful day?”

The bird bobbed it’s head.

“I don’t have any food to share with you. Next time I’ll remember to bring crackers.”

The bird fluttered its wings and hopped back. Then it launched itself in the air. It flew forward, following the sidewalk, and Isaac watched it go, expecting to see it turn and land in a tree nearby. Instead, it turned and flew back, landing at his feet again. It chirped at him.

“Hello again. Did you forget to tell me something?”

The bird fluttered its wings again, and then turned and hopped away a few feet. It turned and chirped. It hopped and turned and chirped once more. It waited and looked up at Isaac.

“Do you want me to follow you?” He asked, feeling a little uncertain.

The bird bobbed its head.

“Then lead the way.”

The bird flew into the park and Isaac followed it. He had to jog to keep up. He was feeling rather out of shape, and hoped that the bird didn’t need to go very far. How long had it been since he last went running? Too long.

The bird followed the path and stopped at the empty basketball courts. There was a lone basketball sitting at the edge of one of the courts. The bird hopped up to perch on the ball. It chirped at him.

“Is this ball in your way?”

The bird fluttered its wings and chirped at him.

“Do you know who it belongs to?”

The bird bobbed its head.

“Do you need me to look for them?”

Flutter, chirp.

“Do they need help?”

The bird bobbed its head.

Isaac looked at the bird closely. “Is this your ball?” The bird bobbed its head twice. “Are you a person that was changed into a bird?” The bird hopped and bobbed its head. “I’m going to need to call for help.”

Luckily, in his wallet he still had the business card for Wendell, Wizard Extraordinaire. He called, and Wendell agreed to come right away. In moments, the air unzipped itself and Wendell stepped out. He looked at the little bird perched on the basketball and the bird looked back.

“Oh, good. It’s just a childhood wish,” he said.

“That’s good? Is it easy to fix?” Isaac looked at the little bird, feeling hopeful.

“Of course. It would probably fix itself in a few minutes. But, since you’re both feeling anxious, I’ll fix it now.” Wendell wiggled his fingers and muttered something. Suddenly, there was a little boy standing on the basketball.

The ball started to roll and the boy jumped backwards. He looked at Isaac and Wendell with his eyes opened wide. Then he darted forwards, grabbed his ball, and ran away. “Thanks, mister,” he called over his shoulder.

“He probably caught a falling leaf and made a wish,” Wendell said. “It happens all the time.”

“Will he be okay?” Isaac asked.

“Of course. He’ll forget that it really happened by the time he’s home and think it was all a daydream. Childhood wishes are like that.”

Isaac smiled and wondered about some of his childhood daydreams. “I really appreciate your help. I wasn’t sure what to do. Thank you so much for coming.”

Wendell smiled and shrugged. “That’s what I do. I’m happy to help. It was good to see you.”

“It was good to see you too.” Isaac chuckled. “Even though I only see you when there’s a problem I need help with, I’m always glad to see you, because that means the problem will be solved. Well, I won’t keep you away from whatever you were doing. Please send me your bill when you get a chance.”

“Thank you. Stay well,” Wendell said. He unzipped the air and waved as he stepped through. Isaac waved back and the air zipped back up.

Isaac checked his watch. He still had another half hour of walking to do. Where would he go next?

Charlie’s Room: Chef for a Day

“I want to make something for mom,” Charlie said. “Something special. A surprise.”

“Well, we have lots of materials for all sorts of crafts in the closet.” Isaac started counting things off on his fingers. “Colored paper, yarn, googly eyes, glue, glitter…”

“No, no, no.” Charlie waved his arms. “I want to make something in the kitchen. Something yummy, like on the cooking shows.”

“Ah. What recipe would you like to make?”

Charlie frowned. “I can’t tell you. Then it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

“I thought it was a surprise for mom?”

“Nope.” Charlie folded his arms. “I know better. The best way to keep a secret is not to tell anybody. Besides, if I tell you what I want to do, then you’ll want to help. If you help, then it won’t just be from me.”

“I could be your helper. Real chefs have helpers in the kitchen. They chop things and use the stove and such.” Isaac smiled. “It would still be you in charge, so the surprise would come from you.”

“I’d be in charge?”

Isaac nodded. “Of course.”

“And you would listen to me and not try to change things?”

“Unless it was something dangerous,” Isaac said. “I am a dad, and safety rules are important to dads.”

Charlie sighed. “Fine. You can come. But it’s my idea, so I’m the chef.”

“Okay. Let’s go.” Isaac and Charlie went to the kitchen. Isaac took two aprons off the hook. He gave the smaller one to Charlie and put on the other one. “What are we going to make?”

Charlie took down the family recipe book. “Hmmmm.” He flipped through the pages. “None of this is special. We’ve tried all of it before. I’m going to make something new. Then it will be a big surprise.”

“Making up a new recipe can be difficult,” Isaac said.

“I can do it.” Charlie tugged on his apron. “See, I’m wearing an apron. I’m a chef. I’ll just look at what ingredients we have. Then I’ll decide what to make.”

Charlie found eggs and butter and cocoa powder and peanuts and oranges and celery. He found flour and pepper and salt and cinnamon sugar and chili powder and milk. He found an onion, but he put it back. “No onions,” he said. “Not today.”

He looked at his collection of ingredients. “I think I’ll make a cake. You can peel the oranges. I’ll start mixing things.”

“Do you want me to preheat the oven first?” Isaac asked.

“Yeah. Put it to cake temperature. I’ll get out the mixing bowl.”

“We should probably wash our hands,” Isaac said.

“I was going to say that. I didn’t forget.” Charlie turned and headed to the sink instead of the cupboards.

In the big plastic mixing bowl, Charlie mixed the flour, milk, cocoa powder, peanuts and spices. The eggs didn’t crack very well, and he spent a lot of time trying to get the bits of eggshell out. “I can’t see the eggshells in all this flour. You should have cracked the eggs.”

Isaac looked over his shoulder. “I think you got them all.”

Charlie frowned and pushed his wooden spoon around in the batter. “I guess so. What’s next?” He looked at the ingredients. “Did you peel and mash the oranges?”

“I just peeled them, but I didn’t mash them.”

“Could you mash them? And chop up the celery?”

“Of course.” Isaac started mashing and chopping. Charlie found the cake pan and smeared the inside with butter. When Isaac was done, he brought them over to Charlie. “Now what?”

Charlie pointed to the plastic bowl. “Put them in there. After I wash my hands again, I’ll mix it all up.”

Charlie stirred the batter energetically and poured it in the pan. Only a little bit spattered over the sides. “Okay. You put it in the oven and set the time,” Charlie said. “When the timer goes off, we can check it.”

“After it’s in the oven, we can clean up a bit,” Isaac said.

It took a little time after the cake was brown for it to stop being jiggly. It puffed up a lot, but then deflated pretty soon after they took it out of the oven. Isaac set it on a potholder on the counter.

“Should we taste it?” Isaac asked.

“No, it has to be a surprise,” Charlie said. “We’ll wait until Mom gets home.”

“Let’s make dinner while we wait. What should we make?”

Charlie grinned. “Spaghetti! I’ll go get the noodles.”

By the time Marianne came home, dinner was waiting on the table, the dirty dishes were washed, and Isaac was lighting candles. “What’s the occasion?” she asked.

Charlie jumped up from where he was sitting and hugged her. “It’s a surprise for you, mom.” He looked up at her and grinned. “Do you like it?”

“Of course I do. Let’s sit down and eat, and you can tell me all about your day,” she said.

“We have cake for later, too. It’s my recipe, because I was the chef today.”

“I’m sure it will be wonderful.”

It wasn’t. Not really. The flavor and the textures just weren’t very cake-like. Charlie took one bite and spit it out. “Don’t eat it,” he said. “It’s awful. I’m sorry.” He looked close to tears.

Isaac and Marianne each took a bite.

“It’s different,” Isaac said. “But it’s not awful.”

“It’s my surprise cake, and I love it,” Marianne said.

Charlie frowned. “You don’t have to eat it. I know it doesn’t taste good.”

But Marianne ate every bite. Isaac hid most of his in his napkin. Charlie threw his away and ate a Popsicle.

“Did you have fun being a chef?” Isaac asked later at bedtime.

“Yes. But next time I’m going to taste what I make before I give it to someone.”

“Or you could use a recipe that you know will turn out well.” Isaac sat in the chair by the bookshelf in Charlie’s room and opened up the book they were reading.

“I think I’ll be fine. I’m a chef,” Charlie said. “But next time, you can crack the eggs.”

Just Keep Going

Life is made up of opposites. There is day and night, happiness and sorrow, too busy and too bored. And of course, there are good days and bad days.

Somehow, life is predictable and full of surprises. Strange, right?

Sometimes there are bad weeks and bad months and bad years. Sometimes you only know which weeks and months and years were the good ones when you look back on them from the middle of hard times–the contrast makes it seem obvious.

It is important to know that life goes up and down like a roller coaster, because in the middle of a bad year, it feels like things will never be okay again.

Things will be okay again. The tide goes in, the tide goes out. The earth turns. The seasons change. Nothing stays the same. Life gets hard, then it gets better again.

On a bad art day, a bad life day, a bad hair day, know that it will get better—and JUST KEEP GOING.

Charlie’s Room: The Favorite Mug

It was a day where the weather seemed determined to remain dreary. The sun threatened to peek through the clouds, but never did. It was too warm for thick coats and too cold for thin coats. The snow didn’t melt all the way, but remained slushy. It spilled onto the walkways and mixed with mud and brown, dead leaves that stuck to everyone’s shoes and froze their feet and ankles.

Charlie wanted to collect pine cones for a school project. Marianne had paperwork to do, so Isaac and Charlie walked to the park nearby. Once they arrived, Charlie forgot all about his project and ran over to the swings. He reached out for the closest swing and paused.

He whirled and frowned. “They’re all wet.”

“You could try to shake the water off.”

Charlie trudged through the slush back to the path. “That’s no good. It won’t work.”

“Well, let’s just go look at the big pine tree then.” Isaac led the way to the tree. He had to jump to pull down the lowest branches. They found two pine cones.

“That’s not enough. Are there any other branches you can reach?” Charlie looked around the park. “What about those bushes? They look like they might be little pine trees.”

“Let’s go see.” Isaac followed Charlie this time, trying to step on the firmest bits of mud or snow. His jeans were soaked halfway to the knees. He couldn’t feel his toes.

Charlie found five more little pine cones on the bushes. “Do you see any more?” he asked.

Isaac looked at the bushes. “No. Do you have enough for your project?”

“I guess so. Let’s go home.”

They changed out of their muddy shoes and clothes and into pajamas and slippers. Isaac was sure he’d be grateful to feel his toes again, once they stopped hurting. Charlie met him in the kitchen.

“Can we have hot cocoa? It was cold outside.”

Isaac smiled. “Of course we can. Let me get out the cocoa mix.”

“I’ll get the mugs and spoons.” Charlie opened the cupboard and started rummaging around. “I want the red one. Where’s yours?”

“It should be in there.” Isaac turned on the stove and started to heat some milk.

“Here it is. Oops.” There was a loud crash.

Isaac turned around. “What happened? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Charlie was standing next to the shattered remains of Isaac’s favorite mug.

Isaac turned around to turn the stove off and took a deep breath before he turned back to Charlie. “It’s fine. I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Do you think we can fix it?” Charlie reached for one of the pieces.

“Stop, it’s sharp. I’ll clean it up and make the cocoa. Why don’t you show your mom those pine cones, and I’ll call you in when it’s done.”

Charlie’s eyes watered and the edges of his mouth pinched. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to break it.”

“I know. It’s okay.” Isaac gave him a hug and then a little push towards the door. “Go on. I’ll call you back in soon.”

Isaac looked down at the splintered remains of his sky blue mug. It looked like a bit of summer sky lay broken in pieces on the kitchen floor. With a sigh, he got the broom and swept it up. Then he made the cocoa and called in Charlie and Marianne.

Isaac tried to mostly forget the mug. A few days later, he was shuffling through the cupboard for mugs for cocoa again, feeling a little sad. He found Charlie’s red mug and Marianne’s black and white mug. He was reaching for the green mug that no one liked, when he saw something sky blue near the back of the cupboard. This was odd, because his mug was the only sky blue dish they had, and it was broken into tiny pieces and gone. He moved the other cups, and pulled out a sky blue mug.

Was it fixed by brownies or elves like in the story about the shoemaker? Did he need to leave out a saucer of milk to say thank you? Or did modern elves and brownies prefer something else? Orange juice? Cocoa?

Maybe the mug was self-repairing. Did that mean it was sentient? Did it mind being a mug? How would he ask its opinion? It did return to the cupboard, so it must not mind that much.

As Isaac was holding the mug and trying to figure out what happened, Marianne finished mixing up the cocoa. “Oh, I see you found the mug. Charlie insisted we had to get you a new one. We had to go to three different stores to find one just that color.”

Isaac smiled. The mug shone bright in the dim kitchen, just the color of a summer day. When Charlie came in, he gave him a hug. “Thank you for getting me a new mug.”

Charlie smiled. “I’m glad we found one that color. It’s your favorite, right?”

“That’s right.”

They drank their hot cocoa and laughed and talked. Even though the weather was just the same as it had been all week, in their kitchen it felt like the sun had come out at last.

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