It’s been a lousy day and it rained all the way home. It’s nine thirty at night. I am tense, hungry, and grouchy. Getting wet, I walk to the front of the house for the mail and the soaked newspaper that was there since this morning. I toss the paper in the garbage as I fumble through the stack of bills.
With bent back and furrowed brow I enter the back door…. And there she stands, her back to the kitchen table. Her head is tilted down, chin on chest, with her eyes looking up at me coyly. Spudgie Face. Her thick, honey-blond hair frames her square face and mischievous grin, finger to lips. The cares of the day melt off me like ice as in her tiny voice she says, “Pop, Pop, don’t scruffel me.” Scruffel is what she calls it when I tickle her with the growth of my late day chin. “Oh,” I say, “I am going to scruffel you!” And we begin our game. Dropping the bills forgotten on the chair, I chase her screaming and laughing through the loop of doors and archways, from kitchen to dining room, from dining to living room, and return to the kitchen. After two full loops, I let her get a bit of distance and reverse and squat by the dinning room entrance. She squeals as she runs into my arms, left wrapped around her legs, right entrapping her arms and hugging her close. I lift. Chin pinned to her chest and turning her head side to side, she blocks my face, armed with stubble from getting in close. With joint belly laughs, she lets me get in a tickle or two. “No more scruffels today Pop, Pop.” “Okay,” I say, as I set her down. “When can I scruffel you?” “Tomorrow. You can scruffel me tomorrow.”
Yea ... scruffel. It’s not in anyone’s dictionary but mine and the Spudgie Face…. But that’s okay. It is my favorite word.