We celebrated Matthew's 19th birthday over the weekend. He leaves for West Point next month, so I am not sure how many birthdays we will have him at home while he's in school. Consequently, our Sims birthday tradition, "What I Like About You" was especially meaningful. Until he mentioned the green tennis ball.
"What is the green tennis ball?" his friend inquired.
He just had to ask, didn't he.
Matthew cleared his throat as if he were choking back tears. "Uh, when I was in kindergarten"...he paused..."we were learning our colors, and the color of the week was green."
"And tennis balls are green," I interjected.
He shot me a look. "I told Mom I needed to take something green to school."
"He told me as we were walking out the door."
"She grabbed a tennis ball. I said, 'That's not green, that's yellow', and she said, 'It's green. It's lime green'."
Another pause. He continued his story. "We sat down for circle time, and one kid had a dollar; another kid brought in a leaf. Then my turn came, and I, I held up my tennis ball. 'That's not green,' the teacher said. Gasps could be heard all over the room as every eye turned and looked at me."
"And he was scarred for life," I said. Even though we recently Googled it, and the answer came up that tennis balls were yellowish green. In fact, it seems there is an ongoing debate about the color of tennis balls. There. That proves it. I'm innocent.
"I have forgiven you for the green tennis ball incident," Matthew said, wiping his eye.
"Thank you," I said. It is a conversation we have at least once a year.
Honestly, I hate the thought of my little five-year-old Matthew sinking into his seat as the teacher proclaimed, "That's not green." And I am certain that in his young mind every class mate did glare at him as if he had committed an unpardonable deed.
But I am afraid my kids' stories don't stop with the green tennis ball. There's the time I left Ben at church, the time I left Cory at home, and the time I showed up at the wrong game with the wrong kid on the wrong night, to name a few. But all these years later, they still give us something to laugh over. Sometimes it is my mistakes, sometimes theirs.
But always, always with the understanding that families love each other--warts, tennis balls, and all.