"Ah ... yes, mom?" replied a sheepish looking Eric.
"Just where, young man, are your shoes and socks?" asked his mom.
"Ma-oom, none of us have them on. When you came in to the pool area to tell us it was time to eat, we all quickly changed and only decided to put our pants and shirts on. Then Collin had us place our wet suits and towels into this huge dryer. Then we all came in here to get this awesome food," answered the 10 year old boy.
"Did you all change at the same time?" asked his incredulous mother.
"Yes, mom, we did. We're all boys, mom ... and we all have the same equipment, so we all just got our things out of our lockers, see we each have a key around our ankles, and we took off our suits and put on our clothes. No big deal, Mom!"
The adults were listening to the conversation with mild interest but when they heard Eric tell his mom that all the boys had the 'same equipment' they all began to chuckle and then began to laugh out loud.
"Wha ... what did I do? What did I ... I say? ... Mom, tell me! Did I do something or did I ... did I say something I wasn't supposed to? Mom, tell me ... please," a now fearful 10 year old who was almost crying, thinking he did something he shouldn't have.
"No, Eric, there isn't anything for you to be concerned about," said Mr. Ken coming to his rescue as he walked over to the stairs. "It wasn't so much what you said; young man, but in the innocence in what you said. We adults tend to think in absolutes or in boxes that keeps things in perspective and in doing so; we tend to forget the innocence of our own youth.
"Eric, please forgive me, but when you said you all have the 'same equipment' we all had to burst out laughing. It isn't something that we would expect to come out of the mouth of a ten year old. If you had said something like 'same stuff' or maybe even 'what all boys have' we wouldn't have batted an eye. ... Eric, come over here, please. (Eric came over to Mr. Ken and was pulled in close to him and who ruffled his hair and gave him a quick hug as he continued) You did good and I'm sorry you are the bane of our simple minds and joke. I'm sure one of the older lads will explain it to you later, when we adults aren't around. OK?"
Collin figured that maybe he'd use the time to show the kids around the place and get them away from the awkwardness of the moment. When he suggested he'd do that while they let their food settle, Mr. Ken had another idea.
"Boys, do you have any idea of why all the adults are here, today?" inquired Mr. Ken.
With the exceptions of Collin and Ryan, none of the lads had a clue and seeing that none of then had, Mr. Ken asked them to all take a seat. He explained that he was planning on building some stores nearby and he wanted their input as to what they would like to see close by.
"But why us?" asked Brad. "We're just kids. And besides, adults never ask us younger kids anything that important."
After hearing a few chuckles, Ken said, "You're Brad, right?" In getting a nod in reply, he continued, "Well, Brad, these stores could be the very ones you might go into to buy stuff for something you are working on for school. Or, maybe you want to buy a birthday present or maybe, when you get older, maybe for your girlfriend or mom. You see, Brad, and you other boys, I was made aware that this area is lacking in having nearby stores in which people can buy stuff they now have to drive many miles to get. And you've all seen how long it takes to go there and get back.
"What if ... some of those same stores or smaller ones were closer? Wouldn't you want to go there first? You see how much easier it would be for everyone? OK, I'd like you to tell me what you would like to see. It doesn't matter. And by the way, there are no wrong answers. When I put together my plan to build something, I'll know what types of stores I should go after. Ok, who'll be first?"
"I'd like to have a skateboard place where I can get my board repaired or buy parts and stuff," offered Jeffery Eabert.
"Yeah, that would be neat. Mr. Ken, what about a hobby place? You know for plastic models and trains and race cars. You know, stuff like that," pitched Oscar Davis.
"We need a bike store and bad!" insisted Brad. "If one was closer, maybe I could walk there for my parts. It's hard getting someone to take you to the Mall."
"Mr. Ken," asked Conner, one of the older lads and Ryan's friend.
"Yes, Conner, what would you like to see? Don't tell me it is an ice cream store. I was wondering which one of you would say that. Collin and Ryan already hit me up on that one."
After some laughing died out, Conner announced he wanted to see a Hardware Store.
"A hardwood store is a brilliant idea, Conner. I never even thought of that and neither has anyone else. What made you think of that, if I may ask?"
"Well, Mr. Ken, whenever I need stuff to use in working in our yard at home or when I take care of other people's yards and stuff, I have to wait for someone to take me to Wal-Mart or Sear's or some other place that sells what I need. If we had an Acme/Ace Store nearby or a You-Do-It store down at the crossroads, where you turn to go out to the main roads, it would be close enough that I could go there myself. And, when I have my driver's license in a few months, I could drive there and my parents wouldn't be scared of me being out in heavy traffic."
"Thank you, Conner, I love that idea. Mary Anne, please make sure to write that one down. I like that!"
The adults and younger lads talked for another 30 minutes when one of the lads asked if they could go back swimming. The kids were gone in a flash when Ken told them there was nothing keeping them there.
As they walked back to the changing room, Eric asked, "Collin how rich is Mr. Ken? I mean I know he has got to be rich in order to own this place, but can he afford to build all those things? Is he really that rich?"
Ryan answered for Collin, "Eric, Mr. Ken has tons of money. I don't know exactly how much, but from what I know he owns, he can really afford to do what he is planning. The problem is it could take up until next Christmas before anything is built. There are so many hurdles he has to go through, but I bet he gets it done as fast as he can. What do you think, Collin?"
"I agree with Ryan. I've only lived here three months and Ryan has known him for almost three years. Ryan watched them build this place and had loads of pictures and videos he's taken. Now come on, let's all get our suits and into the water before they change their minds like adults tend to do."
The boys began taking their shirts off as they walked to the pool's laundry room to get their towels and swim suits. When they got their suits, they all stripped off their pants right there and put on their suits. They all were laughing as Danny began to explaining to Eric his statement about them all having the same equipment. Then, some of the mid-school boys showed the younger ones how many hairs they had at the tops of their 'equipment'. That gave everyone a good laugh.
Then Todd pointed out how hairy Danny was and all the kids looked. All the younger boys, the 10 and 12 year olds, got an eye full that day but they also got a bit of an education. What those younger lads all learned was that they would all grow 'down there' and each would develop at their own pace. At the end of the day none of them were embarrassed to be naked in front of the others no matter what their age. They had all bonded as friends and none of them would ever forget that day, ever.
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