There's a huge difference between growing older and growing up!
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"You are only young once,
but you can stay immature indefinitely."
-- Ogden Nash
Great Truths ... and Other Lies
"It wasn't fair! It just wasn't fair," mumbled fourteen-year old Jaime as he slammed his bedroom door and flung himself on his unmade bed. Two whole months of this and starting it off with being grounded! For four whole days! Summer with his grandparents was so going to suck! He threw his pillow across the room where it bounced off a bookshelf holding some stupid trophies his grandfather had gotten as a kid a million years ago. Just because he was 'late' for breakfast and hadn't made his bed? And, grandma had said since he slept through breakfast, he could go hungry. It was summer, for Pete's sake. Who got up at six in the freaking morning during the summer anyhow?
Three hours later, his grandmother called him downstairs. "Lunchtime, Jaime."
He walked into the kitchen. On the table was a platter holding a pile of tuna fish sandwiches, a bowl of chips and a pitcher of milk. He sat down and grabbed a sandwich.
"Wait for the rest of us to sit down," his grandmother instructed as she bent to take something out of the refrigerator. "I know my daughter taught you better manners than that! Did you make your bed?"
"Um. No, not yet."
"Always make your bed when you get up in the morning."
"Never understood that. I'm just gonna mess it up when I go to bed," he groused.
"Because you'll sleep better in a neatened bed and maybe you'll get up on time instead of sleeping half the day away, that's why," she said, bringing a dish of carrot sticks to the table. "Did you wash your hands?"
He shook his head, got up and went to the kitchen sink to wash them. Not like they are dirty or anything, he thought.
"After you eat, you go right upstairs and make that bed, young man. You hear me?"
"Good habits will carry through a lifetime. Starts the day off right. As does getting up at a decent hour. You can sleep when you are dead."
That doesn't make any sense, he fumed, as his grandfather came into the kitchen and washed his hands before seating himself at the table.
"So, what did you do all morning, Jaime?" asked his grandfather.
"Ah, just sulked at how unfair we are, eh? Bet you still haven't made your bed either. Might as well get in the habit now," Grampa said as he finished his sandwich. "Now, after lunch, I want you to help me in the northwest field. We need to fence in the pasture there," he said. "Grab some gloves from the bin in the breezeway, you'll need 'em. I'll see you out in the barn after you make your bed," he said with a grin before heading out.
It's going to be a long summer, Jaime thought as he made his bed. For good measure, he tossed his dirty clothes from yesterday in the laundry hamper in the bathroom.
Standing out in the northwest pasture, Jaime stared at the posthole digger his grandfather handed him. Every twenty feet or so was a pile of posts. "You're going to help me, right?" he asked.
"Nope. I'll be working on the other side of the field. We got to get these in today, so we can string wire tomorrow. Get to work, boy. Make sure them posts are in good and straight." With those words, his grandfather jumped into the tractor and headed off across the field.
It was hot and dirty work. Jaime swiped his dusty brown hair out of his eyes and pulled his tee-shirt up to wipe at the sweat. If he didn't dig the holes deep enough, the posts slanted every which way. They sort of did anyway. Jaime drank some water from the bottle his grandpa had left with him. This is gonna take forever, he thought.
He'd put in ten posts when his grandpa came back to see check on him. Grandpa walked along the row of posts and kicked over half of them. "I told you to put them in straight. Do it again. Do a thing right the first time, then you won't have to do it twice. Saves work. Do a sloppy job and the posts won't hold. The horses would lean against them, knock 'em over and then the horses would get out. Know how much work it is to round up twenty horses? Of course, you don't, and you don't want to find out."
All afternoon, Jaime dug post holes. For every five he put in, his grandfather kicked over three each time he came to check on him. He was nowhere near done when his grandpa picked him up at dinner time.
"Guess we'll have to finish tomorrow," his grandfather said. "You look whupped, boy. Don't you ever do chores at home? Go get washed up for dinner."
Jaime was asleep before the sun went down, but he was just waking up when his grandfather called for him in the morning. Muscles he didn't know he had hurt like the devil.
It took four days, but finally all the posts in the row were 'grandpa approved.' While he'd done the one side, his grandpa had done the other three, strung the wires and numerous other chores. As the last horse left the semi-truck and the gate was closed, his grandfather smiled. "That's a job well done then."
The next morning, after breakfast, and a made bed, Jaime figured he'd scout out the area. "Jaime, I need you help me out a bit around the house today." She handed him a bottle of furniture wax and a soft rag. "Please dust the furniture in the living and dining rooms."
"Dust? That's girl's work."
"And when you are all grown up and have your own place, who is going to do it if you don't? Dust!"
He figured it would only take him a half hour or so. Three hours later, he was done. His grandmother had at least a million knick-knacks, he thought. And it took forever to work the wax in.
"Round in circles. That's how you do it," Grandma showed him. "This furniture is a hundred years old, at least. Your great, great grandfather made this set himself from black walnut trees he cut down on this farm in 1839. You take care of things, they'll last lifetimes."
Two days later, Jaime and his grandparents were on their hands and knees weeding the vegetable garden. "This is a carrot top. This," she said pointing to something else green, "is a weed. Got to get the weeds gone so the plants grow strong. Nothing grows well surrounded by weeds."
Jaime just nodded. Carrots, peppers, corn, pumpkins and squash. Couldn't they just buy them at the store like everyone else did? Then again, they do seem to taste better here than at home," he mused.
After a month, he made his bed without even thinking about it. "Do a thing consistently for a while and it becomes a habit. Good or bad," his grandmother had said. He had to admit that she was right, even if it did tick him off to do so.
Cleaning his room, one afternoon at the beginning of August, he decided to dust his grandfather's trophies. Looking at them closely for the first time, he read the words on the front of them. Doing so, he realized that not only his grandfather's name was on them, but his mother's and his great grandfather's as well. And they weren't for sports either. One said, 'Best Post Digger.' He almost dropped it when he saw his name below his mother's. Another bearing his name as well and less dusty than the others, said 'Champion Weeder.' When had they done this? He read the last one as he dusted it: World's Greatest Kid. He wondered what he'd have to do to earn that one.
He didn't mention seeing his name on the trophies. He wasn't sure how.
Summer ended and though he'd checked (and dusted) the trophies several more times, his name still wasn't on the last one. He went home just before school started. The school year dragged on as it usually did, but he did better than he had last year. His grades were higher, and he did much better in track the following spring than he had before. At odd times, he'd remember things his grandparents had told him. He realized he was helping out more at home and still made his bed every morning although, as far as he knew, his mom hadn't been in his room in months.
Late spring, his mom asked him if he'd mind going to his grandparents again for the summer. To his surprise he didn't. At all. "Sure. I need to see if--" he broke off mid-sentence.
"Need to what?" asked his mom.
"Nothing," he smiled. "Sure, it'll be fun." He was surprised to realize he meant it.
A couple of days after he arrived, while he was helping his grandfather feed the horses, his grandpa slipped and fell from the haymow, breaking his leg. The next morning after all the hoopla of racing to the hospital and his grandpa getting his leg in a cast, they talked at breakfast.
"Grandpa, you will need me to help out more. I'm not sure what to do and all, but if you tell me, I can do it."
"Well, I was thinking of hiring in someone to help."
"I can do it," Jaime said.
His grandfather nodded. "Alright, Jaime. Let's see what you can do."
The summer flew by. He took care of the horses, feeding and grooming them. He learned how there was time to think mucking out stalls. He hauled and stacked hay, weeded gardens and dug more postholes when his grandfather decided to fence off another section for the new colts. His grandfather never said much, but would smile now and again, nodding his head. Jaime looked forward to seeing those smiles. Every so often he'd check the trophies, but eventually, he forgot all about it. He was just too busy.
Mid-August, his grandfather's cast came off his leg and he was walking with a cane. "You've done a heck of a job here this summer, Jaime," his grandfather said one morning. "Trying to earn that last trophy, were you?"
Jaime looked up, surprised. "Well, maybe I was, I guess."
"You need a trophy to believe when you've done a job well?"
"No, don't guess I do," he smiled.
"You have, you know. I'm very proud of you. We both are. But more, I hope you are proud of yourself!"
Jaime nodded and then smiled. "I am. Last summer, Grandma told me she was teaching me 'great truths.' I figure maybe she was."
"Thing about those grand and glorious truths? They are truths, but inside of them are a string of lies."
He nodded. "There's things we all need to learn. Part of growing up, I'd guess. Would it really make a difference if you made your bed every day? Would the world end if you didn't? No. Would a garden grow if you didn't get every weed out of it? Of course, it would. You can't keep every weed from growing, and trust me, boy, there's a lot of weedy folks out there. Point is, you've learned a bit about seeing the weeds in the first place. You've learned about taking pride in a job well done even when you think only you noticed it. You do and that's what's important.
"You can grow and mature and yet still be a kid and have fun. You've learned to see the weeds. That sets you apart. Too many folks might be adults, but still act like immature children. They don't understand accountability. You do. Jaime. You've the best of both worlds now. You've earned that trophy," Grandpa said, giving him a hug.