Published with Allen Publishing, May 2011 (click HERE for the link)

Published on, May 2011 (click HERE for the link)

“That is one expensive skateboard!” remarked a chatty sales associate as he rang up our purchases.  I had tried to persuade my thirteen-year-old son to buy a less expensive one, but he refused to be talked out of buying the most expensive skateboard in the store.  It was his money.

When we got home the kids immediately took to the street to test the new wheels. 

Less than five minutes later, my son came crashing through the door.  “My skateboard just went in the gutter!!!”

“You mean the skateboard you just spent all of your money on?  The one that you have owned for exactly fifteen minutes?  THAT is the skateboard that is at the bottom of the gutter?”

I wasn’t using my inside voice.

My son looked around frantically, grabbed a broom, and we all ran down the street.

The drainage openings for the gutter on our street are about four feet wide and less than a foot tall.   We could see the skateboard sitting at the bottom, but the angle was impossible – no one could reach it, not even the broom which was plenty long but entirely too straight. 

My five kids and I stood staring into the gutter trying to figure out what to do.

Teenagers are experts at thinking outside of the box.  My fifteen-year-old daughter suggested that perhaps her eight-year-old sister might be able to fit her skinny little body into the opening.  The very idea!  What kind of a mom would let that happen?

I inspected the gutter carefully and found it to be clean and dry.  Plus we were running out of time.  And my younger daughter was actually excited to try.  So I relented, and watched as my son held my daughter’s ankles and slowly lowered her, head first, into the gutter.
With some twisting and bending, she reached the skateboard.  But as soon as she grabbed it, I heard a sound that sounded a whole lot like the sprinklers about to spray.  Regrettably, I was right.  In the very lawn we were standing, the sprinklers turned on.  We were getting very wet very quickly.
Slightly panicky, I worried that by son would lose his grip.  Slightly more panicky, my daughter yelled that she couldn’t pull the skateboard up. So my teenage daughter lay on the curb next to her, reached down to grab the skateboard and maneuvered it up and out of the gutter.
The precious skateboard had been safely retrieved.

Which was great.  But my daughter’s head and most of her body were still deep in the gutter, getting wetter by the second.  While I was ordering my son to pull her up carefully so he wouldn’t scrape her stomach and reminding my daughter to turn her head so it wouldn’t get stuck, a man ran over from across the street and gallantly stepped on the closest sprinkler head to stop the flow of water.

I should have thought of that.

We all watched my daughter emerge victoriously from the gutter – unscathed except for her long hair, which had seen significantly better days.

Our neighbor was all smiles and amazement. “I’ve lived here a long time and have seen lots of things go into that gutter, but I’ve never seen anybody actually go in after them like you just did.  That is AWESOME!”

As we were walking back towards our house, my son turned to his sister and said, “Thanks.  I owe you one.  Let me know next time you need something.”

These words came from the mouth of a boy who has recently been treating his younger sister as little more than an annoyance.  I have lost plenty of sleep over this, trying to figure out how to get my kids to be nice to each other for heaven’s sake.

In retrospect, it may not have been the best idea to let my son feed my daughter headfirst into the gutter.  But I wonder if any other situation on the planet would have compelled him to say those kind words to his sister, words that her tender eight-year-old heart needed to hear.

As a mother, I’ve learned that precious gifts often come in unexpected packages.  If it happens to be a skateboard stuck in a gutter, I’ll take it.  I’m not picky that way.