The end of summer was always a tough time for the Family.
On top of everyone’s sadness from the waning sunlight and warmth, there was the annual stress of Son and Daughter’s return to school, as well as the question of what to do for her birthday party. Fortunately, recent events nationally did not interfere this year.
“What do you think we should do for her and her friends this time?” Mother asked her husband over breakfast on the holiday weekend.
“I don’t know,” he said. “What do 9-year-old girls like these days? Chuck E. Cheese? Bowling? A swim party, if it’s still warm enough?”
“Those are what we did the last three years,” she reminded him. “Don’t you even remember being there?”
Father didn’t say anything. Of course, he didn’t remember. He hated little girls’ birthday parties. Whatever they ended up doing, he made sure a TV set was nearby to watch a game, or else he followed one on his phone.
Then he had an idea — a brilliant idea, he thought, considering school was also starting.
“We could always take her and her friends to a shooting range.”
Mother froze at the kitchen sink. Most of the American families she knew didn’t let their daughters start using guns until at least their 10th birthdays, and some even waited until their teen years.
She worried what the other moms at the PTA might think about their kids getting e-vites at age 9 to a party at Arthur’s Ammo & Assault Rifle Emporium. She also was perturbed to see the conversation perk up 7-year-old Son’s ears in front of the TV, where he was momentarily distracted from watching “Cops.”
“I just don’t know, dear,” she said after the thoughtful pause. “It already seems like the kids grow up so fast, and a gun party just might be pushing it more than I want — or what she wants.”
“Pshaw, let’s ask her,” he responded. “The kids love this sort of thing and ought to be prepared for how to handle themselves. You don’t think they talk about it all the time, what with all the nuts committing school shootings all over the country every year? Trust me, Daughter and her friends know why schools are adding metal detectors.”
Conveniently, Daughter came bouncing down the steps at that very minute, with ponytail flopping in the air as she danced to a song on her iPod from the “Frozen” soundtrack. She only seemed cuter every day, Father thought, as he asked her, “Hon, what about you and your friends doing some target practice for your birthday this year?”
“Maybe — will they have Uzis?”
“Yeah, probably — those and everything else.”
Just then Son came running in. “I wanna gun party for my birthday! If she’s allowed to have one, I can have one! She’s only two years older and doesn’t know nearly as much about them as me! I played with one at Jason’s house already.”
Mother stared at him. “You played with a gun at Jason’s?”
“Well, not played. … Just held it,” Son stammered, quickly realizing his mistake. “And it was OK, because his brother was there with us, and he’s old — like 12 maybe.”
Mother looked at Father, who shrugged his shoulders in one of those “Hey, whaddya gonna do?” gestures for which he was famous.
“Look,” he said. “The more they learn now about how to handle firearms the right way, the safer it’ll be for them and everyone else when they have their own.”
Daughter looked disappointed by that. “Oh, so you’re not buying me an assault rifle for my birthday? We’d only go and practice with them?”
“That’s right, sweetpea. Assault rifles are very expensive. I was in my 20s before I bought one, and you might have to wait that long, too. But if you get good grades …”
She brightened. “If do well in school and help out at home a lot, you might get me one sooner?”
“We’ll see,” Father said with a smile, giving her a hug. “But first, let’s see how things go at the firing range. I want your ninth birthday party to be the best one ever.”
“And,” Mother chided him, “maybe you’ll actually participate this time instead of finding some TV on which to watch sports.”
He shrugged his shoulders once more, but with one issue solved, the end of summer no longer seemed to trouble the Family.
Gary Rotstein: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255.