Edd Merritt, contributing editor

Edd Merritt

Makin’ the best of every virtue and vice.
Worth every damn bit of sacrifice
To get a cheeseburger in paradise
To be a cheeseburger in paradise
I’m just a cheeseburger in paradise.
 ~ Jimmy Buffett, “Cheeseburger in Paradise”

Did you ever wonder how kids pick out their likes and dislikes? No, I mean real likes and dislikes, things that become central to their lives, things that they often can equate with momentous occasions.

Well, cheeseburgers in paradise may not be high on the list for either set of grandsons, but rock ‘n roll and rocks from the around our house seem to have hit the charts. And as the proud grandparents boast, “We had had something to do with both choices.”

Let’s begin with the house rocks since they are regular items in our Vermont yard. Our driveway, for one spot, is full of rocks.

I used to think they were just things I had to rake and smooth after heavy rains or things I had to shovel out of the lawn after snow plowing. While that’s still true, they also became the focus of Teddy and Archie’s attention when I scooped a batch of them into the back of my pickup truck and sent the kids outside with brooms and shovels to empty the truck bucket. This move followed an ongoing argument between the brothers that progressed into a fight inside the house, and Grammy and I figured some fresh air might help clear the atmosphere. Little did we know it would produce an inspection of their shoveling loads, as well as the frontyard rock wall that outlines the garden and every other rock outcropping around us. Geodes, we discovered, happened to be Teddy’s gold standard.

He proudly announced that, “Squid, I’m sure we can find geodes in Vermont, and they are the most important rocks on the planet.” Hhmm! I immediately realized that my knowledge of geodes was quite limited, and I had better raise it a notch or two before getting into a discussion with Teddy. The earnest look on his face told me everything I needed to know about the intensity of his geode focus.

According to Webster, a geode is “a globular stone having a cavity lined with inward growing crystals or layers of silica.” As I was sitting with Teddy’s parents sipping coffee, he and Archie pointed to a rock item on our bookshelf, announcing, “There’s one, a GEODE!”  Searching our stone wall (finding rocks with fossils didn’t deter them) and the rest of the yard for possible geodes kept them active and left piles of rocks behind the truck, interspersed with rakes and improvised pounding instruments. Sometimes they raked the rocks out and dumped them back into the truck, searching each batch for geodes. When they left for Chicago, they said they would return shortly because they knew there were geodes yet to uncover.

There is a part two to this story. Not long ago we received a video of Teddy making a presentation to his school classmates on, of all things, geodes. He had received a supply of them from geode heaven, and with the same earnest expression that he showed at our house he described what they were and where they came from as a part of a class project. Showing the last one in his collection he pointed out its silica and inner crystals, but as he focused on its outer layer he thought that part of it resembled cow poop more than anything. The class did not laugh. Then again, what do suburban kids know about barn animals?

Let’s leap now from rocks to rock ‘n roll because that’s where the grandparents’ attachment to the other set of grandsons led.

The twins are eleven, and when we asked their parents what they might want for Christmas last year we were told that a set of drums for one and a keyboard for the other would fit their hankerings.

So we chipped in. Rory got his drum set, which was set up in the basement, and Ben got his keyboard, placed upstairs. That way the parents didn’t have to listen to each testing his new instrument in the same room at the same time – the result being cacophony rather than music.

Well, the testing period has ended, and a band has formed. My daughter-in-law found a music teacher to help them follow in the footsteps of Bill Haley and the Comets. Knowing that the first—and most important—thing is to come up with a name for your group, the boys and two other classmates decided on “Belly Flop.” So the floppers hit the music room with Ben on keyboards, Rory on drums, a guitarist and a singer, and in short measure they loosed their first tune to the world on iPhones.

In the same way their cousins showed a serious interest in rocks, Belly Flop was equally serious about their single song. So serious, in fact, that we hear there is another in the offing as soon as the band members can get fingers, toes and lips to follow the melody.

We also understand that when enough songs are written to fill a CD and the discs hit stores and internet, Providence’s Hope Street will be renamed Belly Flop Lane (you know, that place “beneath the blue and urban skies”).