Don Fried — Playwright & Author

Ender Helps Out

Posted on: December 17, 2008

The spring before last, my wife Rhonda decided that we had to buy the grandchildren, aged 3 ½ and 2, a playground set.

I started out looking for swings and a slide, but was quickly outvoted by Rhonda, my son and daughter-in-law, my other son and his fiancé, the lady at the cash register at Wal-Mart and, as far as I know, most of the rest of the population of Austin. This had to be the Taj Mahal of playground sets: three stories with a roof, two swings, a trapeze, two slides (one enclosed and in the shape of a corkscrew), and a climbing wall.

I placed the order online and two weeks later than scheduled (“What do you mean it’s on a loading dock in Des Moines? What the hell good does it do me on a loading dock in Des Moines?”) about 20 tons of building material and parts were dumped on my son and daughter-in-law’s driveway.

I flew in two days later to help assemble the set. By that time the frame of a skyscraper was rearing its head toward the sky, and my son, Eric was screwing planks onto the floor of the third story.

3 ½ year-old Ender, who is one of the most active children the world has ever seen, was helping! Picture the physicists’ latest vision of the movement of an electron. It doesn’t move from one place to another, it simply disappears and appears instantaneously somewhere else. Continuously. That’s Ender.

For the next 3 days while we worked, Ender was up and down the steps of the structure – note that for the first two days there was no railing on the 2nd and 3rd stories, but my son told me not to worry so much. On most trips, Ender brought us random handfuls of metal parts from the 60 or so plastic bags in the driveway.

“No, Ender,” Eric would say, “we don’t need those now. Put them down over by the tree.” And Ender would descend, vaporize, and reappear moments later with another handful of parts.

Eventually the 20 tons of material dwindled to the last 4 or so and – Surprise! – some of the parts we needed weren’t there.

“I can’t understand it,” said Eric. “All the bags were there when we started.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I exploded. “For the past 3 days Ender’s been bringing us parts and you’ve been sending him away with them. What makes you think that those parts made it to where you expected them to go  and aren’t under some other tree? Or in the creek? Or in the toilet?

Eric just shrugged his shoulders. I guess being the father of 2 toddlers raises your tolerance level for chaos.

So we made an inventory of what we were missing and headed off to Home Depot. Of course Ender came along to help. We made our way to the hardware department and Eric and I were beginning to make our way down the list when Ender appeared with a double handful of screws and bolts and nuts and spacers and ….

“Put them back, Ender,” said Eric and went back to working on the parts list.  I followed Ender, who by this time had picked up an escort of two store clerks who were trying to prevent massive permanent disruption to the operations of the store.

“I don’t know how much you guys make an hour,” I said to them, “but I’ll only charge you half that to keep him out of the store. That’s a great deal for Home Depot, because he can do more damage in 10 minutes than you guys are going to be able to fix in an entire day.

I didn’t succeed in closing the deal, because at that point Eric finished collecting what we needed, and I had to help him wrestle Ender out of the store.

By the way, Eric is 6’1”, 210 pounds of solid muscle, and a black belt in Kung Fu. Without me, he never would have stood a chance.

5 Responses to "Ender Helps Out"

And yet… Rhonda can handle all of the little ones all by herself! Aren’t we women amazing??? Thats why you love us soooo much! LOL!

I flew into Austin today. Ask Rhonda now how she feels about handling Ender on his own, much less all the kids at once!

Let us not forget that Don is prone to hyperbole. But I will admit that Ender does get up to mischief beyond the capability of mere adults to anticipate. He knows no fear – and no boundaries. And he’s the best little negotiator in the world. He’s currently in the hospital and has the staff taking him to the “teen” lounge to play foosball (and beat the older kids) even though he’s only 5.

I object! I didn’t have anything to do with the purchase of the Taj Mahal of playground sets. And when mom asks me for suggestions on something else to buy them that’s equally ostentatious, I remind her that they have plenty of toys, and suggest she just bury the money in little pockets of mud in the backyard for them to dig up and discover.

But to be fair, those children use the hell out of that thing.

This is a riot — and VERY true!

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