My four-year-old granddaughter Hattie Mae came running to me, crying and claiming an injustice: her six-year-old brother Tekoa had taken her Barbie doll. When questioned, Tekoa denied any wrongdoing.
Glancing between the two of them, it was easy to judge that neither of them were going to give in. Neither they nor the problem were going to go away until it was settled. While they argued, I tried to decide how to handle this situation. After a few minutes, a solution came to me—maybe not a resolution to the issue, but perhaps at the least, a distraction from the dispute.
I motioned for the children to sit on the stools at the kitchen island and announced that this was serious business, and we would need to go to court in order to have peace returned to the house.
“Take your seats,” I ordered.
The plaintiff and defendant crawled into their places as I called out, “Court is in session! Order in the court!”
They looked at each other. Tekoa shrugged.
“That means, please be quiet and respectful,” I clarified.
I addressed the plaintiff. “What are you accusing the defendant of?” The look on her face prompted me to rephrase my question. “What did he do to you?”
“He stole my Barbie,” she sniffed. “I put her in her ice cream truck, and he took her out before she could drive away!”
I called a witness. “The court calls Mom to the stand.” My daughter Kelly turned away from the sink full of breakfast dishes and a sideboard full of lunch items, dried her hands on the kitchen towel, and joined the court proceedings.
I asked her to place her hand on her child’s head and repeat after me. “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help your child’s head?”
She placed her hand on Hattie’s head and said, “I do.”
Hattie’s eyes played tennis between us, as she wondered what her head had to do with all this.
I held the evidence before the witness, “Is this indeed Hattie’s Barbie doll?”
“It is,” she swore.
“Thank you for your testimony. You may go back to making lunch.” I excused her.
I called Tekoa, the accused, to the stand. “What do you have to say in your defense?” I asked him.
He brought up a point by raising his finger in front of his face and asking, “What is a ‘defense’?”
The courtroom erupted in laughter.
I had to pound my potato-masher gavel on the countertop to bring things under control. “Silence in the courtroom!” I demanded.
“But, Grandmother, you were laughing, too!” Hattie said. I ignored her.
“Tekoa, did you take your sister’s Barbie doll away from her?”
“I did not,” he smirked. I gave him the Grandmother look over my bifocals.
“I didn’t! I didn’t!” he stubbornly swore (but that smirk!), to which I answered, “Just because you say something with conviction, doesn’t make it true.”
It was time for a verdict (because it was time for lunch).
“By the powers vested in me as Grandmother and experienced judge of mischievous grins and lying eyes, the court finds you, Tekoa, guilty as charged!” I banged the potato masher on the bar in front of him, and he jumped liked a startled frog. “And I sentence you to . . .” His eyes widened . . .
“Fifteen Grandmother kisses.”
The punishment was too much for him to bear. He hopped off his counter stool and ran down the hall howling, “No! Arggghhhh! Never!!”
“On each cheek!” I hollered at his fleeing backside. I heard the click of the latch on his bedroom door as he locked himself in solitary confinement.
Hattie, sensing the drama had passed, shrugged, picked up her Barbie doll from the evidence counter, slid from her stool, and quietly humming to herself with a happy little skip, exited the courtroom.