Mom called up from the bottom of the stairs, and she wasn’t using her “Do you want to lick the spoon?” voice: “DAN!!”

My bath towel was in the hamper, I’d left my muddy shoes outside, and my report card wouldn’t be coming for another week. I wasn’t sure why mom was using “The Voice.” I set aside the comic book I’d been reading, rolled off the bed and went to the top of the stairs. “Yeah, mom?”


This wasn’t good. Did I leave my bike in the driveway? Sure, I went into the neighbor’s garden to retrieve my baseball, but it’s not like I stepped on a zucchini or something …

The walk down the stairs took about two days, and mom was waiting in the living room when I got there. She waved a dish towel at the top of the doorframe: “What is that?”

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“Uh … ketchup?”

“How did it get there?”

It wasn’t the first time we’d had this conversation, but it was the first time we’d had it when mom had steam coming out of her ears.

“Uh … I guess maybe I jumped up and touched the top of the door.”

“And what is THAT?” she said, waving the towel at the top of the doorframe on the other side of the room.

I stepped closer for a better look. Jelly … strawberry, maybe grape. I didn’t remember doing that one.

“Uh …”

“Why do you keep doing that when I tell you not to?”

“I don’t know …” I mumbled contritely. But the honest answer was “Because I can.” A year ago I couldn’t get CLOSE to touching the top of the doorway, even with a running start. But mom said I was “growing like a weed” and now … well, the ketchup spoke for itself.

Mom apparently didn’t share the pride I felt in my accomplishment.

“I’m done cleaning this up,” she said. “YOU do it! Maybe then you’ll stop!”

She pulled a chair away from the dining room table and placed it in the doorway, then she handed me a damp dish cloth.

“When you’re finished cleaning this one, move the chair and do the other one.” She turned and left the room, walking under the Smuckers smudge. Grape. I remember now …

I climbed onto the chair and scrubbed at the ketchup. Close up, I could clearly make out two fingerprints.

That might have been my best jump ever.

In the newspaper I saw a picture of a basketball player named Wilt Chamberlain. I’ll bet his mom never yelled at him.

If I keep growing, a year from now I might be able to touch the ceiling.

I’ll just have to remember to wash my hands first.

Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.