(It’s Flashback Sunday! That time when we roll up our sleeves and dig into the distant past for something that hasn’t been seen in many years. Sort of like literary proctologists, except without the physical discomfort or awkwardness. That said, today’s Flashback is from 2005, back before I even had a blog because I still referred to going online as “Using the Internets.” The inspiration for this column came from my then seven-year-old son, who became fascinated with putting things in his belly button. I’m just glad that particular curiosity ended there…)
In this case, it was: “No, you can’t save chewing gum in your belly button.” My son then countered with the inevitable “Why?”
“Because it’s gross,” I explained, then added for good measure: “What if it gets stuck?”
“It won’t, Dad.”
“It might — so take it out.”
A roll of the eyes, droop of the shoulders. “But why-y-y-y-y?”
“Because I said so.”
Eventually, it always comes down to that answer, which isn’t an answer at all. But for some reason it seems to do the trick. At least it used to. Apparently on this day, my son had awakened a little wiser, and with a better understanding of the difference between battles and wars.
It wasn’t long after my victory at the Battle of Bubble Gum Ridge that I noticed my son fidgeting with something.
“What are you doing, son?”
“Trying to get this marble to stay in my belly button.”
His troops had been assembled and were now flanking my border. War had been declared, and I was still looking for a musket.
“You shouldn’t do that. Your belly button isn’t made for holding marbles,” I said.
He looked up at me, launching the first of his newly acquired smart bombs. “What’s it made for?”
I was still tamping “because I said so” down my rifle barrel when the first missile struck, taking out a large chunk of my artillery and forcing a new battle plan.
“Actually, that’s how you used to eat while you were in your mom’s tummy,” I countered, and managed a momentary lull in the attack as his forces regrouped.
“How did I DO that?”
“You guys shared a tube between your stomach and hers.”
Taking advantage of the disruption, I moved my troops forward and positioned them for a final assault. “Onions, cabbage, spinach, it didn’t matter — whatever she ate, YOU ate. ”
The marble dropped from his belly button to the porch step with a thud.
In the distance, I could see his battalion backing away from the ridge.
“If you keep doing that,” I said, “we’ll have to hook it back up.”
With that, I heard the call of retreat as his troops ran from the porch, passed the dog and into the back yard.
Later that afternoon, sitting at his plastic, multi-colored picnic table, we entered into negotiations over soda and chopped olive sandwiches. We agreed that if he left his belly button alone, I wouldn’t reattach his umbilical cord.
With our truce in place, I walked away from the meeting secure in the balance of power we had established — and keenly aware of the advancements he could make by morning.
(Ned is a syndicated columnist for News Media Corporation. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439)