The din from the garden seemed louder than usual. I could make out the voices of our three boys. Then, there were the two lads from next door, of course. But there were also joyful screams and squeals that I could not assign to any of our usual garden guests. Spraying and splashing from the hose implied full-fledged exuberance.
I sat at the desk in my dimmed office. It was already warm but not yet oppressively hot. Summer term was drawing to its end, requiring me to mark a pile of student’s project reports. I tried to atone for my sinful staying indoors by thoroughly paying justice to my student’s achievements. Blocking out the sounds of youthful joy, I focused on disentangling the commingled thoughts and arguments presented in the report before me. In my meticulous minute handwriting, I pointed out blatant blunders, fatal fallacies and obvious omissions, always commenting in kind words of fatherly encouragement, hoping to add a pinch of motivation to my judgement.
A sudden silence in the garden startled me. I knew that some scheming and planning must be going on. I chose not to worry but to benefit from a short period of silence and get on with my work. A few minutes later the banging of our front door ended the quiet interlude. I braced myself at the running of bare feet on the tiled stairs.
The door burst open, and the eldest stormed into my office. Water dripped from his bright yellow trunks onto the parquet floor. His tanned, triangular torso glistened with a moist mixture of sunscreen and sweat. Cheeks and ears were red from excitement and exercise, and his brown eyes beamed enthusiastically. His blonde, bushy hair was dishevelled from an afternoon full of wild play and pleasure. I could not stop wondering how big he already was.
“Dad, where is the old tent?” he asked wheezily. Before I could answer, he continued, “the Miller boys from down the street stay overnight. They are part of the gang, now. Their mother already said yes. And they need a place to sleep.”
“It must be in the loft above the garden shed”, I answered. “I might be done here in half an hour”, I said, vaguely gesturing towards the papers on my desk. But before I could finish my sentence, the boy already turned around and started for the door.
“Thanks, dad”, he yelled, “we know how to pitch a tent by ourselves.” And out he was.
I caught myself glaring at the empty door opening for a while. Then, I sighed wistfully and turned back to the project reports.