Boomerang Flip-flop

Not just footwear.
Not just innocent footwear.

I have discovered a secret skill that is either inherent, or taught, to all mothers. It appears, seemingly by accident, with the first child. The ability increases exponentially with practice and appears much earlier with the second and subsequent children. The first time comes as an epiphany born of fatigue and frustration. At about the time a toddler starts to gain confidence and speed on their feet, they also begin to get into mischief. Mothers are constantly jumping, diving, and grabbing falling items. Fathers don’t think or react quickly enough and are therefore useless when Junior is perched naked on the kitchen counter with Grandma’s crystal vase.

The first time is generally a scenario such as this: Mom is in the kitchen simultaneously making lunches, washing dishes, and writing emails to get a jump start on the work day. Dad is fully reclined in front of the tv with his finger in his nose, and little Sally is just about to shove a butter knife into a wall outlet. Out of her rear-facing camera, mom instantly identifies the potential disaster and realizes she can’t get to little Sally in time to avert tragedy. She searches about as the knife advances in slow-motion toward certain injury. Failing to find anything within reach, mom jerks her flip flop off her foot and flings it at the curious child. It careens off little Sally’s head, startling her and causing her to drop the knife. The flip flop returns on an elliptical path to the hands of a very surprised mother. Dad is still parked in front of the television, knuckle deep into the right nostril.

For two days mom ponders the event. She holds the flip flop in her hands with a little half smile…could it work again? Suddenly she spies Fido trying to nose through the garbage can. Without conscious thought, her arm whips out releasing the flop…the dog yelps and flees the room…then the frightening footwear completes its arc, landing back in her outstretched hand. She blows across the top of the shoe, as if it is a gun barrel, while giggling hysterically. There’s a new sheriff in town!

Over the next few days the children learn that being faster than their mother no longer works. She wields the foam sandal like Krull, unleashing the flying fury at the slightest offense. WHOOSH. THUNK. WHUP WHUP WHUP. No one is safe; the neighbor kids walk quietly and respectfully within a two block radius, the mailman observes all traffic laws and places the mail carefully in the receptacle, even the dad thinks twice before scratching his privates in public. She soon develops her skill to the point where either left or right hand, or both, can engage a target. It goes a little bit like a Dr. Seuss rhyme:

Left shoe, right shoe
Flying at you.
Right shoe, left shoe
There are two.
Left shoe, right shoe
Mom’s fast, too!
Right shoe, left shoe
The kids are blue.

The only relief for the offenders is winter. There are several months of the year that flip flops are impractical and downright uncomfortable…kind of like Santa Claus wearing a speedo. Moms, however, have very long memories. They may be distantly related to elephants. All winter transgressions are generally paid for tenfold as soon as sandal season returns. Thinly disguised affronts are the vehicle for the “spring catch-up” period. “That shirt doesn’t match those pants!” WHOOSH. THUNK. WHUP WHUP WHUP. (Father cries out, exits stage left to find appropriate attire.)

My mother experimented a little before discovering the flight aerodynamics of the flip flop. We laughed when she fired a fuzzy slipper in our direction, chortled when a spatula clattered against the wall, and flat out rolled-on-the-ground-clutching-our-sides when she launched a cereal box at us (I think she may have caught the little one that time…we never saw her again). Eventually, however, she discovered the secret of the sandal and could effectively engage two moving targets without interrupting a conversation.

My wife is a fairly experienced and conscientious mother. She is also the “bad guy”…according to her. I disagree; she is just in charge of all discipline and unpleasant tasks involving our children. I handle things like playing catch, learning to ride a bike, and sharing the wisdom of my experiences. WHOOSH. THUNK. WHUP WHUP WHUP WHUP. I just took a thong to the noggin for using man-description. This is the fine art of correctly describing something, but giving it a meaning that reflects positively on yourself…she’s the bad guy. The only sad part of that whole exchange is that she had to wrestle me down to get my flip flop. She was wearing hooker boots…seriously that’s what they’re called. Throwing one of those at a spouse or child will result in a felony. (Wearing them is only a misdemeanor…unless it’s the only thing you have on.)

My wife’s flip flops from last summer had to be retired. The “spring catch-up” period did them in. Flops were flying from one end of the house to the other. I swear at one point I saw a sandal fly out of an upstairs window, clip the offending child mid-bounce on the trampoline, whack the dog (who definitely looked guilty), and return through the same window. It was certainly impressive. For Mother’s Day this year, I decided to make her whole once again. I got her not one, but two, pairs of flip flops. Our kids were not brought in on this gift to avoid any possible sabotage. I did, however, find the softest foam available. (I may be simple, but I’m not stupid!) Her demeanor improved appreciably upon donning the preemptive strike utensils. She placed the spare pair in a shoulder holster for quick access. It’s quite intimidating.

As this blog comes to a close…I sit reclined in front of the tv. The solitude is occasionally broken by the distant wail of a child or yelp of a dog that has received “attitude adjustment”. As I contemplate that Idaho doesn’t suck…I suddenly feel a tingle deep in my right nostril. I plunge an exploratory finger into the opening…WHOOSH. THUNK. WHUP WHUP WHUP WHUP.


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