I work out of the house and the boys are pretty good about leaving me alone when I am busy and being quiet when I am on conference calls. Before he leaves for school every day, usually as we walk to the bus stop, T2 likes to guess the over/under on the number of calls I have that day.
“Three conference calls,” he’ll say. Or two. Or four. When he gets home I let him know if he is right.
I had been pacing the house, obsessively checking my phone, waiting for a call to let me know that the latest crisis had been averted. T2 had gotten home a half hour earlier and was sitting in the family room, quietly working on one of his projects, casting side-eyes at me wandering around.
T2, as I have mentioned before, is very creative. He is constantly working on one of his “art-projects.” This can be anything from painting (landscapes and flags of countries which don’t exist, mostly), to paper projects (which generally results in the family room looking like it is covered in snow due to all the little cut up pieces of loose-leaf) to sculpting. The latter is interesting because he makes the most amazing little clay penguins. Like a lot of what he does, the reason why he makes penguins in unclear.
Anyway, I was only half paying attention to him, just enough to make sure that he wasn’t accidently cutting off his fingers with the scissors. The call came in, crisis was averted and I flopped down on the couch, relieved and frazzled.
T2 had cut a square piece of cardboard off of one of the formula boxes from the garage (the garage is the storage space for C’s work). He had run a piece of string through two holes in the cardboard and wrapped some duct tape around the string.
“Hey guy,” I said, “what are you making?”
He held up the square.
“A shield,” he said. Since T2 views every question as an opportunity to engage in extensive conversation, he continued. T2 talks with his hands, gesturing with both to the one side and the bringing them back to the center to emphasize points and counter points. There’s this, his hands will say and then that.
“See,” he said, hands swinging “when we play Nerf War I want something so when the other teams shoots at me I can block. That way I can kill them before they kill me, because if they shoot my shield, it doesn’t hit me and so I’m not dead. World War I was pretty tough and we won World War II but World War III is going to be really crazy and I decided that I needed more protection.”
As I think I have mentioned, the kids in the neighborhood (who are legion) are engaged in a long running Nerf gun war. I imagine that on any given morning in mid 1980s Beirut you could have walked down the street and seen the shell casing results of the previous day’s battle littering the sidewalks and laying against the curbs. Our suburb is like that, but with Nerf bullets. The kids refer to especially epic battles as World Wars. Actually, it is possible that only T2 does this, he is both the General Patton and Ernie Pyle of the local conflicts. I get all my information about them from him, so it is possible he news gets filtered.
“That seems logical,” I said, still leaning back against the couch.
“Yeah,” he said, “but it’s not working very well on the arm part.”
He was trying to use the string as a grip. He was right, it wasn’t working.
T2 has a look he gives you when he wants something and is trying to be cute. He actually calls it his “cute face.” He makes his blue eyes get even bigger than normal and pushes his lips together. He makes no pretense about the fact he is trying to be manipulative, which is what makes it funny. He wasn’t pulling his cute face this time, however. He was legitimately frustrated.
“Okay,” I said, “go get the rest of the box.”
We spent the next hour fixing his shield. We added a cardboard strap, reinforced the back with cardboard cross pieces and then covered the whole thing with duct tape to both reinforce the entire shield and to “make it look awesome.”
We didn’t stop there. He decided he could use a chest plate as well, so we made a cardboard and duct tape flack vest. We custom tailored it so it both hung around his neck and was secured around his waist (using one of his brother’s discarded belts). We made sure he could run and jump while wearing it and that it wasn’t pokey anywhere.
By the time we got done, I felt considerably better. I had been one jump ahead of a fit, but making combat protective gear with T2 made me feel relaxed and happy. It was nice. I needed it.
The end result was deemed “awesome.” He immediately showed it to his friend and Nerf war teammate from next door, the gentle, kind and surprisingly erudite (for a six year old) R. R agreed that it was awesome, adding a “totally” at the front. He commissioned a shield and breastplate for himself.
I am the Hephaestus of the elementary school set.