Ben there, done that


The air bag light came on in my vehicle the other day. This would be because there is a hole in my dash. A tiny pin hole in the vinyl (pleather?) the size of, oh say, a soccer cleat has been torn in the dashboard of my car.

Who does that happen to? No one. That’s who. I am certain I am the only woman in all of North America whose children managed to wear out the dashboard of her car. This is why we can’t have anything nice.


Recently I was enjoying my morning coffee in the living room and made the mistake of looking up. There on our living room ceiling was a blob of some sort. A large cerulean splotch on the beautiful, pressed paper ceiling of our living room.

I’m always nattering on about how I like a “modern splash of color” amid older architecture but frankly, this blue doesn’t match anything in the room. It is, however, the exact shade of a small blue orb last seen in my son’s hand and referred to as “ammo.”


At this I recall earlier, when my son said “mom turn that knob on my tank, I need to run this air out.” I did, to a burst of staccato air as his paintball gun emptied the lines of what we thought was harmless, invisible air. Apparently there was more than air in there.

For all those thinking the obvious “paint over it,” let me refer you to the “two-tone papered ceiling” mentioned above. It’s not that easy. It’s not one flat color. There are intricate details, tiny brushes and custom color involved. It could be YEARS until I get around to fixing that.

At this point I’m thinking a friend’s suggestion to shoot it again with a white paintball might not be such a bad idea. This is why paintball offers all that protective gear. It’s not because you’ll shoot your eye out, but for when your mama catches you.

The truth, however, it was an accident and one so unlikely, outlandish and purely, well, funny, that I couldn’t help but forgive even if forgetting is going to be nearly impossible. My ceiling, after all, is blue.


I think I can attribute a lot of my relaxed attitude to Ben. We are not sure who “Ben” is. What we do know is that Ben left his mark, literally: on a windowsill, on a door frame, on a porch post of this old house.

Whether it was a short-lived youthful obsession with carving or a long, drawn out plan, Ben carved his name in the wood, at various points in this old house. I wonder sometimes what it was that Ben loved more, his house, his name, or the penknife he clearly possessed.

I think about Ben when I find his handiwork while cleaning or painting (that is to say not often). I wonder who or where Ben is today. I wonder if he’s still around. He could, after all, be somebody’s great grandfather. He could be long gone.

I wonder if this place was a permanent part of him that he carried through life or someplace he was just passing through. I’ll never know but I do know this: Ben was here.


Blue paint isn’t nearly as permanent as a carving but I still like to think we’ve left our mark on this house too. When my children and their friends pound up the stairs, stomp across the wood floors and run their hands, carelessly and casually, over 100-year-old woodwork, I wonder how many “Bens” who came before them did the exact same thing?

I have to smile when I recall how they kids wore out the dash on my car. After a soccer game one of them will, inevitably, hop in, flop back in the seat, prop their feet on the dash and tell me all about the game. How they felt, how they played, how they hope things will turn out.

It takes a lot of “Mom I gotta tell you!” to wear through a dashboard. I’ve become a tiny bit proud of that hole.

Perhaps someday I’ll have a pristine car, an unmarked house, and a lot of nice “things.” Knowing me, I’ll never appreciate it. I’m just the type to miss the scratches and scuff marks of family life. “Perfect” makes me nervous, and somewhat sad.

Maybe we can’t have anything nice but we do have some amazing memories. Someday we’ll look back on these days and laugh, and sometimes we’ll just look up.


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.



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