Tech-Free Games to Play via Zoom

Technology has been a godsend during the quarantine. Sonny and Ace are attending school via Google Classroom and video meetings with their teachers, and they stay in touch with their friends via Hangouts, Messenger Kids, and Minecraft. We order groceries online and pick them up curbside. Our families have gathered via Zoom. We read books on our tablets. We text our friends to offer and accept moral support. Church services are live-streamed. We’ve played JackBox games with friends.

Technology has made it possible to cling to our sanity, such as it is.

Still, too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing, and the truth is that I have technology fatigue. Needing to connect with others yet often depending on technology to do so is a paradox that can be tricky to navigate. While JackBox, Houseparty, and other online game options are fun, classic, old-fashioned games are appealing as well. And for some, a videoconference alone is enough of a burden on their technological savvy; they don’t want to have to expend energy figuring out how to play an online game. 

Enter the compromise: Here are 13 games that can be played via Zoom, Hangouts, and the like yet require no additional technology. (Of course, these games can be played at home as well. No Zoom necessary.) While some of these offer apps as one option, none require them. And they all make it possible to focus on those with whom you are playing instead of on the screen itself.

Battleship. If you own the board game, set it up and play it as usual. But you can easily play without the board game as well; in fact; Battleship first became popular during World War I as a pencil and paper game. So grab a writing utensil, and print these grids to place your ships and record your hits and misses. Ahoy! Directions are included. 

Two Truths and a Lie. Each player names two things that are true and one thing that is not. The others guess which one is false. Try the following categories, or make up your own.

  • Bucket lists: “These three things are on my bucket list: taking a photography class, learning to play the ukulele, and hiking the Appalachian Trail.”
  • Experiences: “I have done these three things: been stung by a bee, won a coloring contest, and gotten four stitches on my chin.”
  • Likes: “I like these three things: Nutella, painting pictures, and playing gaga ball.”

Scattergories. This party game was around long before the boxed version; my mom has fond memories of playing it at her aunt’s house on Thanksgiving. All players work from the same list and write examples of each term that start with a particular letter. If you each happen to own the boxed party game, coordinate the lists and play from that. If not, you can each print out (or screen share) these lists. Find detailed directions here.

A to Z. Choose a category (something you find in a house, an animal, something school-related, a food, etc.), and think of an example from each letter of the alphabet. Use scrap paper or this record sheet. After three minutes, everyone shares their list and crosses off examples that someone else had. Assign one point for each word that remains. 

Boggle. If one of you owns Hasbro’s Boggle game, you could shake the letter pieces and situate the camera so that everyone can see the grid. If not, or if doing so is too unwieldy, print out (or screen share) these Word Chain grids. Alternatively, you could use this resource and share the screen.  

Would You Rather? Take turns choosing another player and asking a question that offers two choices. (Alternatively, everyone may answer the question.) Make sure that the choices are difficult either because neither choice is desirable (e.g., “Would you rather always wear tight shoes or always wear shoes that fall off?”) or because both choices are desirable (e.g., “Would you rather have the ability to become invisible or have the ability to move things with your mind?”).

Hangman (or Snowman, for those who prefer a less gory option). One player draws blanks for each letter of a word or phrase, leaving space to complete the drawing of a hangman/snowman. The other player guesses each missing letter of the word. Each incorrect guess results in another part of the hanged man or snowman being drawn. The player who guesses the word before the drawing is completed wins. Otherwise, the player who chose the word wins.

Yahtzee. Each location will need five dice. (If not everyone has five dice, or if you want everyone to be able to see for themselves what each person rolled, you can share the Zoom screen with this dice roller.) Directions and printable scorecards are available here.

Charades. An oldie but goodie: act out the words to a phrase, movie title, book title, etc., and everyone else guesses. Remember: the person acting out the charade may not talk.

The Last Becomes First. Choose a category (animals, food, movies, books, actors, things found in nature, fictional characters, etc.). One person says a word that fits that category. The next player says a word that starts with the last letter of the previous word. (Example: Bear. Rabbit. Tiger. Raccoon. Nightingale. Elephant.) Players have five seconds to think of a word, or they must drop out. The last person remaining wins.

Twenty Questions. Another oldie but goodie. One person chooses an object or a concept. Everyone else tries to guess what this is by asking “yes or no” questions. The guessers can ask up to 20 questions to figure out the answer.

Trivia. Choose questions from trivia games you have at your house, or make up questions based on your own knowledge. (You could also use a trivia generator.)

Courtiers. In this old-fashioned parlor game, one person (designated as the king or queen) begins to gesture with the goal of making the others smile or laugh. All other players copy the gestures without smiling or laughing. The first person to smile or laugh becomes the next king or queen.

No-Peek Drawing. Everyone closes their eyes and draws something on a piece of paper. Take turns holding your drawings up to the camera and guessing what everyone else tried to draw.

What other ideas do you have?

Be well, everyone.

 

Have a Scrunchie and Five Minutes? Make a Mask Extender/Ear Protector.

Our healthcare professionals and other heroes need masks for protection from COVID-19. Many wear masks for their entire shift. While this practice keeps them safer, it has also introduced the problem of sore ears; constant chafing from the mask straps rubs skin raw.IMG_2702

Enter the ear-protecting mask extender, which offers a painless place to hook the straps. Such extenders have been fashioned with 3-D printers, crocheted of cotton yarn, and crafted from headbands and buttons. I even saw a suggestion for using detachable bra straps.

If you don’t have a 3-D printer, don’t know how to crochet, and don’t have access to extra headbands (or detachable bra straps) but still want to make mask extenders, you can use scrunchies. (How fortunate is it that scrunchies have come back into fashion?) Oh, and this takes only five minutes.

Ear Protector/Mask Extender  (Here are printable instructions.)

Materials:

  • A scrunchie (If your scrunchies are quite small, you could loop two of them together.)
  • Two flat buttons (¾ inch or larger) (Make sure to use flat buttons with two or four holes; buttons with a shank instead of holes will not work.)
  • A needle
  • Thread

Instructions:

  1. Holding the scrunchie flat, sew a button in the center of one side. (Make sure to sew through the elastic inside the scrunchie. This will keep the buttons from flipping when the mask straps aIMG_2706re attached.)
  2. Sew the second button on the scrunchie in the same way, directly opposite the first.
  3. To use, hold the extender against the back of your head. Put the mask on, hooking the straps around the extender’s buttons instead of around your ears.

And to all the heroes: thank you!

 

Thank you.

Sixteen Things to Do While Sheltering In Place

The last blog post before my blogging hiatus was called “Hand Sanitizer and Other Imperfect Tricks.” Not to overthink things, but that strikes me as ironic—almost prophetic—for these times of isolation and Coronaschooling, when hand sanitizer is priceless and many of my efforts seem imperfect at best. (Anyone else?)

Thursday, March 12 was the last day that Sonny and Ace were in “real” school. That evening we discussed their disappointment over canceled field trips and programs but predicted that school would probably still continue, at least for a while. But within hours the governor had called off all Michigan schools; Sonny and Ace awoke to the news that I would be their “teacher” for a while. “This will be fun!” said Sonny! (Dear reader, he swiftly changed his mind.)

Thanks to Sonny and Ace’s real teachers and to Google Classroom and Zoom, the kids have not lacked enriching activities or opportunities to connect. Still, isolation is growing heavy, and while it’s comforting to know that boredom breeds creativity (although am I the only one kind of nervous about April Fool’s Day this year?), time is plodding. Here are some things that we’ve tried or are hoping to try in order to sprinkle some variety into our sheltered-in days. (What are your ideas? Please share them in the comment section.)

  1. Explore Morse code. Print a Morse Code key, and challenge your kids to first learn to tap out their names. Additional ideas:
    • Suggest that your kids become fluent enough to tap out messages to each other. Tip: If that happens, you may want to learn Morse Code too, lest they plot against you (in your very presence, no less), and you will be none the wiser.
    • Print this starter sheet of messages. (Translations are included.) Cut the messages apart, choose those that appeal to you,
      page-1

      Print out three pages of Morse Code messages for others to translate.

      and challenge your kids to translate them.

    • Use this online translator to create your own messages.
  2. Listen to a variety show online. Then create your own. Include music, comedy, news, and stories. Don’t forget the advertisements! Perform it live, audio record it for that old-time radio feel, or make a video. 
  3. Have a family progressive dinner. Each person can responsible for one course, served in a different room. (Play fast and loose with the term course. Apple slices count. Packaged snack cakes count. No pressure to get fancy if you don’t want to.) Each server can provide the ambiance (decor and music) for his or her venue and create a menu description for that course.
  4. Invent a new kind of sandwich. If it turns out to be good, name it and record the recipe. (Share it with the rest of us so that we too can expand our palates!) Have a family sandwich “cookoff.” 
  5. Create a code based on symbols. Write a note to someone in that code, and include the key with your note.
  6. Learn to juggle. YouTube may help. (Include the juggling in your variety show.) 
  7. Design a Rube Goldberg machine (real or on paper). You may want to give your kids a challenge: Design a machine that will feed the cat. Design a machine that will pick up dirty socks. Design a machine that will tickle someone’s nose.
  8. Create colorful artwork, and hang it in the window so that your neighbors can see it. Switch it out occasionally.
  9. Keep a running list of people who would appreciate connection. Each day, send at least one note, drawing, or text to someone on your list.
  10. Write a poem (haikus and limericks are fun!) or a song, or change some of the words of an existing poem or song to make a new one.  Here are some limerick starters: “There once were some kids stuck inside . . . ” “I was looking for something to do . . .” “One month I had nowhere to go . . .”
  11. Make puppets from found materials. Paper lunch bags work well, as do socks that have for months (years?) been languishing for their mate. Put on a puppet show; create your own, or tell an existing story. Consider recording the puppet show and sending it to someone.
  12. Make a simple loaf of bread. (Consider it a science lesson if you need one for Coronaschooling.) Here are some ideas: no-knead bread, sourdough bread (this requires no yeast, but starting the sourdough does take a few days), and beer bread, which also requires no yeast. You can substitute soda for the beer if you wish.
  13. Journal with comic strips instead of only words to tell about your day. Family members can do separate journals, or you can collaborate on one.
  14. Take pictures of your pets and of family members in the same poses as your pets. Curl up like your cat, stretch out like your dog, or nibble a piece of carrot like your hamster.
  15. If you have a driveway, have your kids measure it. Then have them calculate how many laps of your driveway are in a mile. (Presto: gym class!) Challenge them with a distance and a different style of moving (running, walking backward, skipping, etc.) for each lap. How many miles can they collectively run (or walk or skip) in a week?
  16. If you have older kids, choose a show that they enjoyed when they were younger, and watch an episode together. Surreptitiously observe their nostalgia.

 

Whichever ideas you choose, feel free to do them imperfectly. There is no other way, especially now.

Be gentle with yourself, and be well.

 

Hand Sanitizer and Other Imperfect Tricks

The well pump had failed in the middle of the afternoon. Hours later we still hadn’t made it to the store to buy water, so take-out seemed like a sensible dinner plan. We stopped at the lone restaurant between guitar lessons and our house and placed an order.

The restaurant was not a fast-food restaurant, in name or in fact, so we lingered long in the not-spacious waiting area. As we waited, Sonny and Ace ran their hands over every possible surface:  the candy machine, the counter, the door, the menu rack. The walls. The floor. They stopped when I asked them, but then, bored, would find something else to touch.

Everything seems grimier when you know you can’t turn on the water and scrub something, or someone, down. I quickly became squicked out.

To distract myself, I thought about the local schools that had already canceled the next day’s classes due to illness: strep and gastrointestinal wretchedness, mainly. I thought about the strep and gastrointestinal-wretchedness germs hunkering on the candy machine, the counter, the door, the menu rack. The walls. The floor. The obvious solution—packing Sonny and Ace off into the restroom to wash their hands—was not a viable one, as apparently restrooms aren’t a guaranteed amenity in restaurants whose services are limited to carry-out and delivery.

The other obvious solution—stopping to buy water on the way home instead of waiting until later in the evening—would have worked had I  been willing for the food to get cold and were we not all in the process of rapidly evolving from hungry to hangry. Besides, I had a plan.

When we got home, I stood between my sons and their supper and brandished the hand sanitizer.

“You need to use this before you touch your food,” I said.

They were hungry enough that you’d think they wouldn’t have objected. You’d be wrong.

“Hand sanitizer doesn’t work so well, Mom,” Sonny said. “It doesn’t get dirt off, and it doesn’t even kill all viruses.”

“And? AND! It kills the good germs along with the bad,” Ace said, tucking his hands behind his back for safekeeping.

They spoke the truth. I knew they spoke the truth. (But where did they learn these things? Not from me.) But I was still squicked out, and they were hungry, and I was in charge of the food, and we hadn’t yet gone out to buy water, and hand sanitizer was all we had. So they used the hand sanitizer. Sorry, good germs.

The next morning neither child wanted to get up. When they got up, they did not want to move along as befits a school day. They laughed and consulted and sat on the vent to read, but they did ready themselves for school. After asking nicely once or twice—okay, probably just once—I dipped into my bag of tricks and pulled out Nagging and The Raising of the Voice. Go get your socks, why is your lunchbox still in the van, why are you playing in there when you should be eating in here, why haven’t you brushed your teeth? And through the nagging and raised voice nagged another voice, in my head:

“Nagging and raising your voice don’t work so well. They don’t inspire anyone to do better. And? They backfire, both short-term and long-term, and they are antithetical to what should be modeled to kids. AND? They suppress good moods and exacerbate already-bad ones.”

That voice whispered the truth. I knew it whispered the truth. But time was marching on, and the kids weren’t, and I was crabby about various things, such as the defunct well, so I nagged and raised my voice. Sorry, good moods.

Two days after the hand sanitizer, Ace woke up hacking and feverish. Did he get sick from a candy-machine germ or from a kid at school? I don’t know. Would soap and water have killed off that germ better than the hand sanitizer had? I don’t know. Did the hand sanitizer keep Sonny from getting sick? I don’t know.

About 20 minutes after the nagging commenced, we were on the road to school. Would my kids move more promptly in the future after this morning of nagging? I don’t know. Would we have been more punctual had I shown more patience instead of nagging? I don’t know. Would gentleness instead of The Raising of the Voice have effected more cheerfulness on the way to school and throughout the day? I don’t know.

A lot of things have drawbacks. Hand sanitizer. Nagging. Life in general.

But sometimes we just do our best and try again next time.

You too?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Let the Feathers Out?

Jewish folklore tells of a man who had spread many malicious rumors, hurting many people. Eventually, though, his conscience got the better of him and he wanted to make amends. He appealed to the rabbi for advice.

“Tell me how I can undo what I have done,” he begged.

“Go home and get a pillow,” the rabbi said. “Take it to a hill, and cut the pillow open. Wave it in the air until it is empty. Then return to me.”

The man followed the instructions. “I have done what you said,” he told the rabbi. “What is next?”

“Return to the hill,” the rabbi said, “and retrieve all the feathers. Put them back in the pillow.”

“The feathers have blown all over the countryside by now,” the man objected. “It is impossible to retrieve them.”

“You are correct,” said the rabbi. “And neither can you retrieve words once they leave your mouth. You can apologize, but you can never fully make amends

. . . . . .

When I was in high school, two girls approached me in gym class, interrupting my watching of the clock.

“You don’t have to respond if you don’t want to . . .” they began, and went on to explain: a rumor was circulating about me. They didn’t think it sounded right, and they wanted to offer me the opportunity to clarify.

The rumor was one of those false ones, as many are. (I had no idea how or why it had started, but rumors are sneaky that way.) They believed me when I denied entanglement in the situation. Watching them stalk across the gym (twice) to set a couple people straight, I was touched by their indignation on my behalf and grateful for their willingness to retrieve a few feathers, even though they had not been the ones to unleash those feathers to the wind in the first place.

It’s still remarkable to me that these girls—who didn’t even know me well—were willing to place themselves in the awkward position of bringing the rumor to my attention. I’d like to think that I would have done the same thing, but then again I’d like to think a lot of things about myself that would be filed under “In your dreams, lady.” (Reality is funny that way.)

I’m not sure what summoned up this memory today.

Maybe it was overhearing Sonny and Ace define gossip at dinnertime.

Sonny: “It’s like that game of telephone when you whisper, ‘My teacher went to Meijer Gardens yesterday’ to the first person and by the time the message gets to the last guy, he hears, “Han Solo loves to eat cheese.”

Ace: “Gossip is like sickness.”

Maybe it’s because a few people whom I care about have been wounded by gossip lately. Needlessly—of course. Unfairly—of course. Because people prefer to believe that where there’s smoke there’s fire than to acknowledge that forest fires are set by small sparks—of course.

Maybe it’s because, even as these particular rumors infuriate me, I wonder what feathers I have released, what feathers I have accepted from the wind without so much as a question. In some cases I don’t have to wonder very hard.

Operation “Let the Feathers Remain in the Pillows” coming right up.

Who’s in?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Election Countdown: 21 Alternatives to Angst and Fury

“There are none so blind as those who will not see.” –Jonathan Swift, 1738

“There are none so blind as those who will not see that the faults of my candidate of choice pale in comparison to those of yours, and that your political party is corruption incarnate, and that a vote for your candidate is a vote for evil, and that no valid reason—not even one—exists to support your candidate.” –Facebook (et al), 2016

Twenty-one days remain until the U.S. Presidential election. Without diminishing the importance of voting or of thoughtful discourse beforehand, these are not the only avenues of change around these parts. A recent bit of well-articulated wisdom (erroneously attributed to C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters) points out that arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people we have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control.

True.

I tell my kids not to worry about other people’s faults, but let’s face it: dwelling on others’ shortcomings is much more satisfying than confronting my own. Another bit of wisdom (rightfully attributed to C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters), notes that we can practice self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about ourselves that are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with us or worked in the same office.

What does advancing in personal virtue, character, and things we can control look like? Those who have ever lived in the same house or worked in the same office with me would probably be glad to sum up what this would look like for me specifically. Maybe I’ll gather the courage to ask them sometime, but meanwhile, here are 21 ideas that would be good companions to anyone’s political positions.

Anyone care to join me in tackling some of these?

  1. Donate food to a food pantry. Here’s a list of what is most useful.
  2. Forgive someone.
  3. Let your encouraging words and compliments outweigh your criticisms.
  4. Send a gas card to someone who travels regularly to doctor’s appointments and hospital visits.
  5. Help a foster family. (Yes, they receive reimbursement rates; no, these rates do not cover the expenses they incur.) Donate your kids’ outgrown clothes to a foster-care closet; bring the family a meal; babysit; invite the kids along with your family on an outing.
  6. Pay for an extracurricular activity for a kid who cannot afford one.
  7. Describe one positive trait of someone who is not your favorite person. Maybe describe three.
  8. Contribute to an ESL class: volunteer, provide transportation, donate books, bring supper.
  9. Be kinder than usual, one situation at a time.
  10. Be more patient than usual, one situation at a time.
  11. Give up your need to be right, one situation at a time.
  12. Be gentler than necessary, one situation at a time, even when you believe you have the right to be harsh. Especially when you believe you have the right to be harsh.
  13. Identify someone who does more than his or her share. Do something nice anonymously for that person.
  14. Write a note of appreciation to someone who is often taken for granted.
  15. Squelch gossip. Don’t start it, and don’t pass it on. Be slow to believe it. Challenge it when you hear it.
  16. Ponder a promise you’ve not yet kept. Fulfill that promise.
  17. If there’s something (recent or otherwise) for which you should apologize, do so.
  18. Rid yourself of sarcasm. (Sarcasm comes from the Greek word sarkazein, which literally means “to tear flesh like a dog.” Ouch.)
  19. Grant children the same basic dignity and respect that you grant adults.
  20. Give practical help to a single mother who chose to give birth despite challenges.
  21. Make a list of everyone who has helped you tug yourself up by your bootstraps. Include those who taught you what you have come to consider to be common knowledge and skills. Be thankful for these people. Tell them you are thankful.

Vote? Absolutely. Discuss the candidates and election process? Of course. But don’t limit yourself to those things.

“The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”  Frederick Buechner

What would you add to this list?

 

 

 

 

 

The Chicory Lady

Last month we went to Comerica Park to watch the Detroit Tigers take on the Minnesota Twins. Traffic slowed to a tangle near the stadium, allowing long looks out the window at dingy scenery. But a clump of chicory grew bravely out of a crack in the pavement against the backdrop of a cement barrier, creating a surprise spot of beauty among tattered paper cups and plastic bags and their trashy cohorts.

Chicory is my favorite wildflower. It grew with grace and vibrancy among the Queen Anne’s Lace in the ditches along the half-mile stretch of gravel road between my childhood home and my grandparents’ red house. Every year I’d try picking some, but even when plunged directly into water the chicory’s petals would close—not so much from weakness, it seemed (it can grow in cracked concrete, after all), but from stubbornness. It didn’t wilt; it folded up, not wanting to play the game of being picked. Chicory: sweet and gentle. Tough and resilient. Stubborn. Nobody’s fool.

An hour after the chicory had welcomed us on the highway, we had found our way through the park and into our seats behind the third baseline. The occupants of the row behind us wore matching blue T-shirts bearing the name of an adult day care center— several senior citizens, flanked by caregivers, out to enjoy the game. Most of them wore name tags around their necks.

Before we were completely settled in, one of the women leaned forward and started fiddling with my bag, which was under J’s seat next to mine. Perhaps it was in her way; maybe she wanted to stretch her legs and couldn’t because of the bag. “No,” she said when I inquired, folding the top of the bag over a couple of times and giving it a pat. “I just want to make sure nobody reaches in and grabs something from your bag. Steals something. That happens sometimes, you know. That’d be too bad if it happened to you.” She smiled, reassured that my bag was as it should be.

Next up: the announcer asked us to rise for a soloist’s delivery of the national anthem. We stood and listened, except for the aforementioned woman, who sang. Her friend stage-whispered to her, self-conscious: “I don’t think this is sing-along time. I think this is listen-to-the-singer time.” The woman was unmoved. “But I’m going to sing, though,” she said. And she did.

During the second inning J took Sonny, Ace, and their cousin to get their promised hotdog and soft drink. They returned bearing three hotdogs but only one soft drink; it seemed that the other two had spilled. (Don’t assume that the demise of two soft drinks was not a problem. It was. I assure you.) J got the boys seated and headed back to the concession area to redeem the soft drink situation. The woman, who had overheard the dark reports of being handed soft drinks with no tops in a tray that didn’t hold the cups securely, was concerned—concerned enough to lean over my shoulder.

“Do you need some water up there?” she asked. “It’s so, so hot. That sun is just beating right down.” I thanked her and said that we’d be fine; we had brought plenty of water with us, and besides J would return soon with replacement drinks.

“Are you sure?” she said. “It’s very hot. You could dry right up. You all need to drink something. You’ll dry up otherwise.”

That she didn’t have any water to share didn’t matter. She thought she did, and if she had, she would have shared it.

“Well, all right,” she finally conceded.

Now she pointed to Ace.  “I’m afraid that that hotdog he’s eating is just going to squirt right on out of that bun,” she said. “It’s sitting too loose. Can you poke it back in tighter? It’d be awful if he lost it. He’d hate that.” She watched closely until he stuffed the last bite safely into his mouth. Relief.

Perhaps inspired by Ace’s snack, she tried to order her own hotdog from the vendor touting refreshments in the aisle ten seats away. “Just toss it to me,” she hollered. “I’ll catch it!” The vendor believed her.

“Did you say you want ketchup with it?” he asked, reaching for a hotdog.

“No,” she said. “Said I’d catch it. Just toss it my way.”

One of the caretakers snapped off the transaction with a shake of his head and dismissive wave to the vendor, who caught on and continued up the steps.

“Hey!” the woman objected. “I’ll get you back for that. I get people back for things like that, you know!” The caretaker, not unnerved by her threats, turned his attention to urging her to put her name tag back on.

“Why?” she said. “I don’t need a name tag. I know who I am. So do you.”

“It’s in case something happens. Then someone will be able to know where you’re supposed to be.”

“I always know where I’m at,” she said.

One of our players hit a double. A tap on the shoulder. “He can really hustle his bustle, can’t he?” she said. “Look at him.” She nodded approvingly—whether at his hustle or at his bustle, I wasn’t sure—before leaning back and cheering.

At the seventh inning, when the last call for beer sales was announced, she offered to buy a beer for anyone who thought that sounded good. The caretaker: “No beer.”

“Why not? This is our last chance. I’d even buy you one.”

“You don’t have any money with you, and besides you don’t need a beer.”

Grumbling. “No beer today, I guess. Maybe next time,” she apologized to her friend. They both stood for the seventh-inning stretch and danced together to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and the little bit of “Brown-Eyed Girl” played before the game resumed.

Then she leaned forward and adjusted my bag again. “Got to be careful, honey. Someone could just reach right in and grab something. That’d be too bad.”

The eighth inning came to a close. The caretakers stood up and announced it was time to go.

Another shoulder tap. “You have such nice boys there,” she said, nodding toward my sons and nephew, who were eating cotton candy sprinkled liberally with Skittles. (Don’t ask.) “I’ve been watching them the whole game. They’re good kids. I’m so glad they’re having fun! Look at them having so much fun!” She smiled proudly.

Wise caretakers, getting while the getting was good, before the throngs clogged an easy exit. But I was sorry the group was leaving. I liked the woman who’d conversed with us, who had wanted to help us, whose vivacity had spilled into our row. She reminded me of chicory. Sweet and gentle. Tough and resilient. Stubborn. Nobody’s fool. She reminded me that those who shun kindness as indicative of weakness are not seeing straight.

I want to be like her when I am old. Sweet and gentle. Tough and resilient. Stubborn. (Sorry, Sonny and Ace.) Nobody’s fool.

Her kindnesses were small—attentiveness to our bag, concern for our drink and food, offers of humor, encouragement regarding the kids—but flowed from her naturally and relentlessly. She reminded me of a line from a book I read years ago. The book’s title and author and even the topic have long escaped me, but this bit of wisdom sticks:  “You don’t just wake up a sweet old lady.”

Clearly this lady had had practice.

Clearly being like her requires practice also. Guess it’s time to get started.

I’m going for a walk tomorrow. I hope I will see some chicory. It won’t work to pick any, but maybe I’ll take a photo. It would be a good reminder.