Pop bottle caps and jackets


While I was growing up nearly every evening meal my family enjoyed was consumed around a kitchen table with all family members present. While that’s seldom the case anymore, it does seem that the kitchen is the place lots of our family conversations take place. One of those conversations happened the other night while we were milling around the kitchen as my wife fixed supper.

As if often the case, while I listened to the conversation, parts of it reminded me of times past.

My stepson was talking about taking his oldest son to WinterFest at Kings Island on one of those frigid nights this week. As I understand it, a friend of the stepson had won free tickets to WinterFest through some kind of pop bottle cap promotion, and they were making plans to go.

We were all telling the 14-year-old grandson how warm he would need to dress – while my wife was tossing toboggans, other hats, gloves and scarves in his direction. He was listening, at least somewhat, but seemed mostly amused by our words of experience.

If you have kids or grandkids, you know what I mean.

Anyway, the more he acted like we were making too much of a big deal about how cold it would be, the more I was reminded of an evening we took our sons to a Cincinnati Reds game.

It was a warm day and the boys were dressed in short sleeves. When we arrived at the ball park the sun was still shining bright and it was plenty warm. But the boys were young, and what they did not understand was that the forecast was calling for an unseasonably cool evening.

As we were getting out of the car, my wife and I grabbed our jackets, and told the boys they needed to take one along, too. They did not like that idea. I assume their thought process was telling them that it was summer, it was closer to hot than warm, and that my wife and I must be crazy. So, despite telling them repeatedly that they needed to take a jacket, they could not see the logic in our reasoning and kept telling us they would fine.

It got to the point where I was frustrated enough that I told my wife, “Fine, leave their jackets in the car. They’ll just have to suffer here in a little while. Maybe that will teach them a lesson.”

But, being a mother, my wife grabbed their jackets and we headed off to the stadium.

A few innings into the game, as the sun started to set, it was obvious that our sons were getting cold. About an inning later they started begging for their jackets.

Before long they were whining, and the more they whined the more I reminded them of our conversation in the parking lot. Being a bull-headed father, I told my wife to make them suffer a little longer. But, being a mother, she handed them their jackets.

You can be sure, though, that through the remainder of their growing up years, every time they were headed somewhere, and we told them they should probably take a jacket, and they said they didn’t need one, they were reminded of that day at the Reds game. And usually, they’d tuck their head and go grab a jacket.

Another old memory came back that same evening in the kitchen when I heard the free trip to WinterFest came via some pop bottle cap promotion. You may think this is odd, I told anyone willing to listen (I’m pretty sure they have heard most of my stories one too many times), but once upon a time I collected pop bottle caps. I did not collect rare ones, or odd-looking ones, or anything like that. I collected groups – at least 11 or 12 of each – that were identical.

In my mid-childhood years I was fascinated with football plays and drawing them up. So, I would collect my pop bottle caps into groups of 11, sort them into different teams, then line them up like players on a football field. Then I’d pretend they were playing a game, moving them around according to my preconceived plays.

Having to move 22 bottle caps around each time to simulate one play took some time. Long enough that I’d usually get bored with the whole process after a few plays. But I kept the caps for quite a while, and when there was no one around to play with, or I wanted some time to myself, I would get them out and start my own little game.

I have never thought of it until now, but maybe that’s why I keep bottle caps, as spare pieces, in my decades-old backgammon board to this day.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or [email protected].


Jeff Gilliland

Staff columnist

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