Note: The Jake Chronicles always takes place within the timeline of the Blake World. This entry is after Hard Target and before Playing for Keeps.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and the adults on the ranch have been running around like crazy getting each other presents for the last month. Grandma and Grandpa usually babysit all the kids so the adults can have their special date nights. Grandma cooks us whatever we want and we get to stay up late. Mom and I are having one of our special hang out days today, while Dad spends time with Connor, Colby and Kenzie.
Dad said he wanted to give Mom something extra special, so we’ll see what he comes up with this year. Mom always tells him she doesn’t want anything but he doesn’t listen to her. He said having no gift for the woman you love on Valentine’s Day, even if she says she doesn’t want one, is like going onto a football field without any protective padding. It’s a very bad idea.
We got an early start because Mom had to go to the jewelers and pick up Dad’s gift. She got him football shaped diamond cuff links.
“OK, Jake. We are done with the errands. Where would you like to go?” Morgan said as she slid into the driver’s seat.
“The Fun Zone. They have lots of cool things to do like laser tag, rock climbing, bumper cars and indoor sky diving.”
“Isn’t that the place where your classmate Henry had his birthday party?”
“Yeah. He got sick in the sky diving tunnel and puked everywhere. It was awesome.” Jake laughed.
“Lucky for me I just got a clean bill of health.” Morgan put on her sunglasses and started the car. “The Fun Zone it is.”
As soon as we got there, Mom bought all access passes, which meant we could do whatever we wanted. We played laser tag first. The other teams thought we would be easy targets but Mom is a lot quicker than she looks. She dropped and rolled on the floor and hid behind pillars all the while knocking out the competition. We won twice and signed up for a third time, even though the attendant gave us a strange look like we were cheating somehow. Mom says never underestimate the underdog. But Mr. Carmichael, the Regency specialist who was guarding us today, was in the room with us. He was some kind of expert military guy before he joined Aunt Sam’s security company.
Next we rode the bumper cars. I’m tall enough to ride now, Mom was a little sad about that. She says I’ll be taller than her by my next birthday. Some dude, who was there with his kid, smiled at her and tried to make small talk when she was getting in her car. Not cool, that’s my mom. When the buzzer rang and the cars were powered up, Mom started chasing me in her car. She’s pretty good. We were having a great time until that dude came driving up next to Mom. He was smiling again and tried to say something but I rammed him. Mom gave me a look but after I hit him the third time I think he got the message.
After the bumper cars, we went over to the rock wall. The guy helped us put on the gear and we started to climb. Mom was having a tough time but I took it slow and helped her out. She thought it was the perfect time to talk about stuff.
“I think it’s time we get you some new clothes. What do you say we go shopping next weekend?”
“OK. Can I get a new pair of cleats? I want a pair like Riley’s for running drills.”
“Sure, we can go to the athletic store at Mackenzie Square. So, what’s new in school?”
“We got a new turtle named Gerald.”
“Your class is becoming quite the petting zoo.” Morgan panted as she gripped the wall. “How is Harry the rabbit recovering from that hangover after spending the weekend with the Winterbournes?”
“He can finally hop in a straight line again.” Jake secured his foot on the hold. “We should get one of these walls for the ranch.”
“It would stop your brothers from trying to climb the side of the house.” Morgan stopped to take a break. “You received some mail the other day. It was a Valentine’s Day card from Gabby.”
“I know.” Jake shrugged. “How did you know it was a card?”
“It’s big, came in a pink envelope nd Valentine’s Day is this week. It’s called simple deductive reasoning.”
“I thought it was nice that she mailed you one. People don’t mail things anymore.”
“The Internet is way faster.” He shrugged. “Aunt Nina probably made her do it.”
“Yeah, the Internet is faster and I doubt Aunt Nina made her do it.” She nodded. “But sending a card is a more personal touch. It shows the person put effort into it and wanted you to see it and feel it.”
“If you say so.” He continued to climb.
“Would you like to send her one back?”
“Nah. That’s OK.”
Here we go. Mom is always trying to get me to be nice to Gabby. I thought I was rid of her forever when we moved back to Texas. But Uncle Patton and Aunt Nina had to move here too. Emerson is OK, he’s part of my tree house club but Gabby’s always doing something to get on my nerves.
“Tell you what.” Morgan stopped again and looked at him. “If I make it to the top first, you send back a nice card to Gabby or give it to her when they visit next weekend. It doesn’t have to be sappy but it would be nice to return the sentiment and it’s the polite thing to do.”
“What if I get to the top first?”
Morgan put her finger to her lips. “You can have ice cream for dinner.”
I hated taking that sucker’s bet from Mom because I knew she would lose. So I took my time and gave her some room. Being nice to Gabby wasn’t really that hard, besides, I knew Mom just wanted me to be nice to others. Dad said that kindness is in short supply in the world today and one person can make a difference with a kind word or a smile. Anyone can be a jerk but it took a real effort to be a half way decent human being. I looked down to see where mom was and she was gone. I looked up and she was waiting at the top for me. I smell a rat.
“Mom, how did you get up there so fast?” Jake asked.
“Funny thing, I must have gotten a second wind.” She smiled and held up her hands. “We can pick out a card on the way home.”
“Didn’t you buy a box of cards for me to take to school?”
“Yes but they were kind of impersonal.”
“If everyone has the same card from you, it’s not special.” Morgan replied.
“OK, but we’re getting something with a race car or a cat on it. And I want to mail it to her.”
“I promise it will be so understated she’s going to think you hardly cared at all.”
“Good. I don’t want her getting the wrong idea.” Jake huffed.
“What do you want to do next?”
“Indoor sky diving?” He pointed to the big glass tube that had a few people in it.
“You know son, if humans were meant to fly we would be been born with wings.” She cringed.
“But it looks like fun.”
“Since you’re being a good sport about the card, I guess so.”
Once we propelled back down the wall, we went over to the wind tunnel. Mom had to sign a form before we could get a jumpsuit, helmet and goggles. The instructor gave us a training session and then we were ready to go. It was amazing floating around in the air. Mom only screamed a few times then she got used to it. We were having so much fun I didn’t want to stop but it was time for lunch. We went to the café and got hot dogs, burgers, fries and drinks. Mom wanted to pay but I insisted. I have a ton of babysitting money. Besides Dad says a lady should never have to pay for her own meal, it’s just good manners. Whatever that means.
“You were pretty good in there.”
“Uncle Tyler says he’s going to take me sky diving one day.” He bit into his hot dog.
“As long as it’s here and not from a real plane, go for it.” Morgan sipped her drink.
“I bet Kenzie would like flying around.”
“I bet she would too. Your sister is one adventurous kid. She’s much braver than I was at her age. I think it helps that you boys don’t shut her out.”
“She’s not so bad.” Jake shrugged.
“Even when she gets up in the middle of the night and comes to you for water from her favorite cup?”
“Sometimes I give her a silly straw, she likes blowing bubbles.”
“Well, I appreciate you taking the time with her. I know your brothers and cousins depend on you to do things for them too.” Morgan looked at him for a minute. “Do the other kids drive you crazy?”
“Uncle J.J. says it’s to be expected but it’s a big brother’s job to take care of them.”
“I know it’s tough being the oldest. Uncle Robert and Uncle J.J. are classic older brothers. They’re always so serious and authoritative, they just can’t turn it off. I just want to make sure you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself. Those are good qualities but you can have some fun too.”
“Uncle Tyler said not to worry about it, Uncle J.J. got a lot of—” Jake looked up at his mother smiled, “friends with that brooding thing.”
That’s not exactly what Uncle Tyler said but I didn’t want Mom to choke on her hamburger. She loves Uncle Tyler but she said take anything he says about women with a grain of salt and that it was a miracle that he got Aunt Michelle.
“Well, you have a long time before you have to think about any of that stuff.” Morgan bit her lip.
“Don’t worry mom, I won’t grow up too fast. Uncle C.J. says there’s way too much fun to have while I’m still a kid.”
“Uncle C.J. is a wise man. You listen to him.” She patted his hand.
Uncle C.J. also said that I had dimples like Dad and that was like catnip to the ladies and not to worry, it would all make sense in a few years when my hormones woke up. Whatever that means.
Mom and I continued to talk about the family while we finished our meals. Dad says spending time with mom is important in ways I don’t understand yet. When it was time to leave, she signaled to Mr. Carmichael and the other Regency guy that we were ready.
“Did you have a good time?” Morgan put her arm around Jake’s shoulders as they exited the Fun Zone.
“Yes. I can’t wait to come back.”
“Yes, we have a laser tag title to defend.” She laughed. “But we can also do other things too. Just the two of us. So what do you want to do next time?”
“Um, how about zip lining?” Jake smile.
“Nice try.” She ruffled his hair with her hand. “I don’t think you’re old enough for that yet. And when you are able to do it, that’s going to be a Dad thing.”
We went to a few stores to pick up some things. The card for Gabby had a dog on it that looked like Rowdy and it said Have a Woofing Good Valentine’s Day. I could live with that. It says I care but I still want her to stay away from me.
By the time we got home Dad was cooking dinner so I went to check on my siblings. After dinner we played games until bedtime. I was almost ready for bed when I remembered Kenzie was probably going to ask for the water, so I went downstairs to get it. Dad was in the kitchen making a sandwich. Mom says he eats a lot like he’s still playing football.
“Hey Dad.” Jake said as he walked into the kitchen. “You’re eating again?”
“Hey Jr., it’s just a little late night snack. What are you doing up so late?”
“Kenzie’s going to wake me up and ask me to get her some water. So I thought I’d come and get it now.”
“Good thinking.” Seth smiled. “Want some of my sandwich?”
“OK.” Jake hopped up on the stool by the island counter.
“How was your date with Mom?”
“Dad.” Jake rolled his eyes.
Seth cut the turkey, roast beef and cheese sandwich with the works in half and handed it to him. “You want a cold one to go with that?”
“In your dreams buddy. Root beer.” Seth opened the fridge and retrieved the beverage.
“So, how was your outing with Mom?”
“We had a blast. Mom climbed a rock wall and everything.”
“Oh yeah?” Seth raised an eyebrow.
“She made a bet about getting to the top so I would get Gabby a card.”
“Oh.” Seth smiled. “She did mention you got a card in the mail.”
“We got something at the store. It’s nicer than the ones Mom gives me to hand out in school but not nicer than the one you helped me pick out for Mom.”
“I know it doesn’t seem like it now but it was a nice thing to do.” Seth bit into his sandwich. “What lesson did you learn?”
Jake looked up as if he were trying to remember. “Never underestimate Mom.”
“Right.” Seth winked. “She’s small but she’s stronger than she looks.”
“Like Grandma Teri-Lyn?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen your Grandma uproot a tree with her bare hands.”
Jake laughed. “What did you get Mom for Valentine’s Day?”
“I got her a nice pair of earrings, a new laptop since the keys on her old one got sticky from her spilling juice on it last week and a nice shawl to wear when she gets cold.”
“I still think she would have liked a necklace made of all our baby teeth.” Jake bit into a pickle.
“That would have been nice but she can wear the earrings with anything.” Seth swigged his soda. “Did you wrap her present yet?”
I got her a silver bracelet. “No. I was going to do that in the morning.”
“OK. I’ll keep her busy and you can get to it after breakfast.”
“Do you think she’ll like it?”
“You picked it out and bought it for her with your own money. She’s going to love it.” Seth took another bite out of his sandwich.
“Are you taking her to that fancy restaurant at Mackenzie Square?”
“No, she said she wanted to stay home, so we’re going to hangout here. I thought I’d throw a few steaks on the grill, then cuddle up on the couch and watch movies. But we’re still going to dress up.” Seth dabbed his mouth with a napkin.
“That’s seems like an awful lot of trouble to go to for one day.”
“But it’s a very special day. The holiday has become rather commercial but the original point was to show someone you’re thinking about them and that they matter to you. We get to show each other that we care with trinkets, chocolates and thoughtful notes. It creates a connection with another person.”
“So is that why you give those candy heart boxes to my Grandmas and Great Grandma Reed?”
“Yep.” Seth nodded. “They are all very special to me. So you see, sending a card back to Gabby is just a way of saying she matters to you. It doesn’t have to mean something romantic. It says you consider her a friend.”
“Oh.” Jake perked up. “That’s not so bad.”
“Believe me son, enjoy the simplicity while it lasts. It gets a lot more complicated.” Seth shook his head.
“You mean like you and Ms. Penny when you were young?” Jake gave him a sly grin.
Seth cleared his throat. “I’ll tell you about that in about five years. Let’s just say if it weren’t for Ms. Penny, I never would have met your Mom.”
“Ask me again in five years.” Seth smiled.
“I’ll do that Dad.”
Dad and I stayed up for a little while longer and talked some more. He laughed when I told him about all the things Mom and I did today. He said she was the most courageous woman he knew. We cleaned up the kitchen and walked through the house one last time before we headed upstairs. I put Kenzie’s water and cup on my dresser and got back into bed. He was right. It did feel good knowing everyone I loved was safe and in their beds.
I hope the grown ups have fun tomorrow. I just hope I don’t get another brother or sister in nine months. Mom says every time dad wants to cuddle, I get a new sibling.
Hope you enjoyed Jake’s latest adventure with his parents!
In case you missed it, check out Tree House Follies with Uncle Jared, Kangaroo Court with Uncle Channing, Phone Follies with Uncle Tyler, Big Brothers Club Meeting with Uncle J.J., Music Lesson with Uncle Tate, Running Interference with Uncle Robert, Field Trip with Uncle Bubba, Babysitting Avery & Wyatt, Present Hunting with the Gang and New Year’s Eve on the Ranch!
Until next time,
Copyright © 2017 Rhonda Laurel. All Rights Reserved.
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