Operation Golf Ball Freedom

Columnist Susan Konig tells a story of how spring break leisure time can cause even the most well-behaved parents to get into mischief.

When school breaks roll around, my four kids and I are often found in our pajamas reading comic books and generally enjoying the not-having-to-get-up-early-for-school vibe. We don’t usually plan exotic trips and vacations. But I try to do something each break that will be memorable for the kids. Now, memorable might mean seeing Rango in 3-D but, most of the time, I aim higher.

Once we decided to re-enact that viral video on the Internet about making bottles of Diet Coke explode by dropping Mentos mints into them. This always puzzled me since Diet Coke and Mentos is my favorite snack and I have never exploded – at least not yet.

So my friend Julia and I gathered our kids and went out on the lawn with a two- liter bottle of Diet Coke and a roll of Mentos. The children couldn’t believe we were about to do this. They cowered at a safe distance as we unscrewed the cap and readied the mints. “Watch out,” we yelled and dropped the Mentos into the soda, running away.  A geyser of Diet Coke went up about ten feet in the air. We were splashed with carbonation as we made it to safety.

“Again, again!” The kids laughed.

But the ultimate school break adventure came just a few months ago when we gathered at my late dad’s beach house. If it was one thing my dad left behind when he passed away at the age of 80, it was golf balls. No, strangely enough,  he wasn’t a golfer. He just collected golf balls. For thirty years, he lived near a golf course and, for thirty years, he took long walks past that golf course. And if he ever left a ball just sitting there unattended, I didn’t hear about it. Every time he came across some errant ball, he picked it up and put it in his pocket (saving it for a rainy day.)

He’d get back to his house and put the ball in a basket, or a bowl, or a bucket, and eventually, there were golf balls all around the house in baskets and buckets and bowls. Some of those balls had been in my dad’s house since I was a teenager. When his grandkids came to visit, he would take them out walking and they would return delighted after going through the woods on the edge of the course and finding golf balls to add to PopPop’s collection.

We used to joke that we should return the golf balls to the wild, setting them free.

Finally, the time arrived. Julia and her daughters came to the house on school breaks every year and we decided Operation Golf Ball Freedom must take place.

With six kids and two women dressed in dark clothing – this was, after all, a stealth mission – we emptied all the golf balls into cloth bags that the children could carry and put them (the bags, not the children) in the trunk of the car. We had thought about spelling something out in golf balls on one of the tees or putting them all on one green but we didn’t want to damage the course and get in trouble. So our plan was to dump them together as quickly as possible and get the heck out of there.

We drove out at dark to the edge of the golf course where the fence met the road. We got out, swiftly and silently putting the bags down in the tall grass.

“Car!” someone yelled. A car was coming and eight people were standing by a golf course at night. It didn’t look good.

“Look!” I yelled, pointing up. “Look at all those stars!” Everyone looked up and started pointing, too. To the driver passing by, it looked as though we had pulled over to stargaze with the children. Pretty clever.

Once the car disappeared down the road, we handed a bag to every kid, spaced ourselves out a few yards away from each other along the fence and waited for the signal. “One, two, three!” Julia whispered loudly. Everyone lifted their bags and dumped golf balls over the fence into the rough, returning them from whence they had come. The circle of the golf balls’ journey was complete.

We rolled up our bags and dived back into the minivan giggling. We drove off gleefully and fell out laughing in the safety of my dad’s driveway. Operation Golf Ball Freedom was complete, a success, something we had always talked about doing and had finally done.

The next morning, before even the earliest golfers could hit the links, the groundskeepers came across our golf balls. I’m sure they scratched their heads as they scooped them up into their truck. And, unless they or some disgruntled golf club member read Patch, they will never solve “The Mystery of the Appearing Golf Balls!”


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