Scoopid Knows Best

My niece, Kate, is five. She’s the youngest of my sister’s four children and also the youngest of my parents’ nine grandchildren. Kate often makes me think of this nursery rhyme:

“There was a little girl who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead;
When she was good, she was very, very good,
And when she was bad she was horrid.”

Not that Kate is ever bad, much less horrid. But she does have that little curl in the center of her forehead, and on top of that, her curls are red, which I think helps a little bit to explain why Kate never has and never will take crap off of anyone.

The other person in our family like that is my dad, who was the pastor of a very large church for more than 30 years.

During the early days of the church, someone hung a cartoon on the door to his office. It depicted a man with his behind missing and looking as if it had literally been chewed off. The caption read, “Nothing serious, just a little chat with the boss.” Everyone who passed through the office laughed about it, and that cartoon hung on his door for years. No one — and I mean no one — ever had the nerve to cross the man.

My brother, sister, and I certainly never had the nerve to dispute him. We three children gave them nine grandchildren, and the first eight never had the nerve to talk back to him.

But then came Kate.

When Kate was three, the whole family managed to spend Spring Break together in St. Augustine, Florida. And for the first time since my sister had four children in less than three years, the whole family went to a nice restaurant together. We had a lovely meal. The children behaved, the adults shared a couple of bottles of J. Lohr Cabernet, and we ate steamed oysters while watching the sunset over the Intercoastal Waterway.

After dinner, as we made our way to the parking lot, Kate’s brother, Joe, picked up a stick and started swinging it at two of his cousins. Dad saw what was happening and moved to grab the stick from Joe, ordering in his sternest “chat-with-the-boss” voice, “Joe, don’t you do it!” And as we have done our whole lives, my sister, brother, and I stopped to watch him take care of the matter.

But Kate was having none of it. She saw him heading for her brother and apparently did not like the look on his face. She reached down and grabbed two handfuls of the parking lot sand and threw them at him. Then this fiery little curly-headed, red-haired powerhouse yelled at the top of her lungs, “You shut up, you scoopid!”

Dad stopped, surprised to hear Kate screaming at him.  And then my mom, all ninety-five pounds and five feet of her, threw herself in between the two of them and yelled at my dad, “You’re bullying a little kid. You go get in the car right now!

And he did.

That is not the man I grew up with. Or at least, it’s not how I perceived the man as I was growing up in his house.

This man was stopped by two furious females with a combined weight of 117 pounds. I was stunned. And so were my brother, his wife, my sister, her husband, and most of his grandchildren.

What happened? Is the Type-A personality permanently gone, washed away with retirement like the sandcastles we build on the beach? Or has he simply mellowed, maybe as a result of trading the coffee for cabernet?

Or did he finally, after all these years, have a little chat with someone who hadn’t gotten the memo that he was supposed to be the boss?

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