Mary Oves
Mary Oves Danny Drake

My sons worked on a puzzle this weekend. They played chess. They whittled, and rock climbed. They told ghost stories, built a bunch of really great fires, and made S'mores. No computers, no video games, no washing machines. Just nature.

But that puzzle box is destroyed. My sons open puzzles the same way they open cereal. They tear at it to get to the innards, not caring how the innards will survive once they have ravaged them. All of our board games, puzzles and cereal boxes are torn from the side, the front, or the bottom. They consider the slogan "Please Tear Here" as a suggestion.

I have great kids who see the world as a giant puzzle box.

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And they ignore the directions. Often. Much to my chagrin.

I think it's the energy and dynamic that comes from three brothers who truly like each other. And I don't care what combination of siblings you have, nothing compares with the dynamic of three boys who use the world as a pinball machine, and each other as bumpers.

It's physical, emotional and mental, this bumping. One kid is the ball. He comes down, gets flung back to the game, and then comes down on the other side. On the way there are various traps, lights and buzzers to navigate. My sons are always laughing, shoving, kicking, singing, joking, sliding, eyeing. They never stop. You know that chute on the side of the pinball machine that sends the ball inside?

That's when they go to sleep.

We got away this weekend to Virginia with my friend and her daughter for a girls' weekend. We wanted to do some hiking, sit in front of a fire, drink some wine and just BE. As working mothers, we get very little of that.

But we got a late start, and arrived at the entrance to the National Park at midnight in pitch dark fog and rain, exhausted and anxious for our warm beds and a drink at the lodge.

Denied. We had entered the Park on the wrong side of the mountain, so it took an hour and a half to reach the lodge. Our GPS was out, our phones had no service, and we were stuck in a scene from "The Shining."


But my husband's texts got us through, and the beds were as warm as we'd hoped, and the mountains as beautiful. But to my sons, Virginia was just another giant puzzle box to be ripped open. Their exploits both amused and amazed our companions. They were. .. amuzed.

In Luray Caverns, people are asked to not touch the rock formations, as the oils in our bodies break them down. But my sons kept trying to touch the rocks. They wanted to come back every year to see if it were true.

In Food Lion, one of my sons thought he was playing with a Whoopie cushion on the ground, but it was sticky rat trap.

In the parking lot, one of my sons kicked the tire of a car, and the owner was sitting behind the steering wheel. His tolerant response indeed proved that "Virginia is For Lovers."

As I lectured them about their poor comportment, I angrily loaded the groceries into the car, and broke a large bottle of red wine. In my friend's car. In her brand new car. On her beautiful soft beige carpet.

Back into the grocery store for stain cleaner and a towel while my sons sat quietly in the car, wondering what murderous punishment would be doled out from their flagrant abuse of the universe.

My friend Nancy calmed me down, and reminded me that these things happen when you travel with kids. And even though I know this, I want to know something.

Those smiling families they show in commercials at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, do they really exist? Are there siblings that walk in a straight line, don't touch each other, and listen to directions? Who don't spill every drink they touch, don't get hour long bloody noses, and don't try to crawl into trashcans? Are there boys who open the puzzle box from the top?

As the weekend came to an end and the boys and my friend's daughter tried to finish the puzzle, they became aggravated at a corner piece that was eluding them. Even as we were packing up, they were baffled at their inability to locate this corner piece.

Sometimes that corner piece just won't show itself. And keeps you guessing. Like life.

Like boys.

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