Note: This "Grounds for Insanity" column was published on 06/25/12 in The Goshen News. Scarcely was the ink dry on the morning edition when a faithful reader emailed, laughing, and offered her superior decorating skills to outfit my bunker. That's a friend.
“Mr. Schrock,” read the note that went up the other day. “Your children are setting off bottle rockets in the back yard. Pretty sure that wasn’t on the handwritten list I handed down earlier today. If you’d like to limber up your running legs or practice your pulpit voice, you can come right home and do both. Thanks. Signed, Me.”
Predictably, my friends laughed. And predictably, the children’s father stayed right where he was – in that oasis of peace and tranquility otherwise known as The Office.
I couldn’t blame him. Who could work with all of that going on? “You need to find a bunker,” a friend said, chuckling, “and hunker down.”
A hunker bunker, huh? By cracky, it was exactly what I needed. From the little I knew about bunkers, they were dark, they were quiet and the lock was on the inside. That would make it an invitation-only kind of deal, I thought, and began to draw up schematics.
With the advent of summer had come its attendant chaos and calamity. This included more noise, more dirt, more laundry and higher grocery bills. More of everything, actually, except sleep. With College Kid’s new job and odd schedule and with Kid Kaboom sprouting around, the sleep meter had dropped precipitously into the red, a finding that boded ill for the noisemakers and door slammers in our midst.
Speaking of doors, it was high time for the annual installation of The Revolving Door of Summer, given what was happening on The Three. We’d just hosted the hoo-ha for Kid K. Whoosh-whoosh. Now, he was leaving for foreign soil, taking all of his energy and firecracker-like spirit to the equator with the rest of the team. Whoosh-whoosh.
For 11 days, there’d be peace and quiet. Then he’d return, the Schrocks would appear for the annual Fourth of July party (yes, The Kaboom) and Boy Three, Mr. Middle School, would leave for summer camp. Whoosh, whoosh and whoosh. Meanwhile, we were left reeling, exhausted, trying to gather our wits and unravel certain mysteries that yet remained unsolved.
What, for instance, was going on in the laundry room? While the rabbits were multiplying in the back yard, the dirty towels were doing the same in the back room. For every load I washed, two more appeared. Were they using one for each limb and one for their hair? That math was real fuzzy, but it was all I could come up with to explain the
Mount Everest looming menacingly in my laundry baskets.
Then there was the food. “We need Miracle,” Little announced one night from the table where he was spooning up red Jell-O. Why, yes. We did. The Miracle Whip was gone. So was the Hellman's, the mustard, the lunch meat and the Sweet Baby Ray’s, the last of which Someone had reported seeing in passing on Someone Else's popcorn. We were, in fact, flat out of Miracle.
And that was another mystery. When College Kid showed up for the summer, he’d been ravenous. By all appearances, he’d not eaten since the first Gulf War, and he was out to make it up. Suddenly, entire cartons of eggs were vaporizing, along with anything else that wasn’t locked up, nailed down and couldn’t crawl away.
The mystery was the inexplicable effect it was having on the 18-and-under crowd; i.e., his siblings. Like malaria, it spread, and overnight the collective metabolism of the next generation shot through the roof.
“Good grief,” I muttered darkly to The Mister one day. “Those aren’t boys. They’re food furnaces cleverly disguised as boys.” We fanned ourselves, feeling faint, as the cashier chirped out a distressingly big number.
She could look cheerful, I thought. She clearly wasn’t feeding four apparent famine victims who were pillaging the pantry and raiding the fridge. In fact, she looked downright relaxed. Her children weren’t slamming doors and flushing toilets at all hours, either. That much was clear.
What was also becoming clear was the need for that Hunker Bunker. As soon as we got home, I was set to go to work, digging under cover of night if I had to. I’d stock it with essentials, such as a coffee pot, grinder and beans. Pillows and blankets. Stacks of novels. A new iPad with wi-fi so I could communicate with the outside world if the need arose. (Okay. So I could update my status and see what my friends were doing.)
The phrase “I’m heading for the Hunker Bunker” wasn’t a cliché yet, but with plenty of use, it could become one. My plan was to “give it the old college try (another cliché),” to “put my shoulder to the wheel” and make it happen.
Little was right. We did need “Miracle.” That’s what it would take to keep those guys fed without filing Chapter 13, to stay ahead of the laundry in the back room and to get a little sleep on the side. Maybe, I thought, the perky little checkout girl would know which aisle they stocked those in. Maybe.