Oxymoron: a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in “cruel kindness,” or, “to make haste slowly”
For 18 years fascinating folks have visited Sunnybank Gardens. Today it would happen again.
Two casually dressed boys in their early teens closed the last gate, made their way to a bench near my weeping birch, pulled a small magnetized chess set out of a backpack and began playing. They made quick decisions, or, more often, thought for a while before moving a piece. I peered sleepily through the fringe of my cocoon-like hammock and watched in the still air of late afternoon.
One bespectacled youngster eventually spoke. “Barry, would you say ‘political science’ is an oxymoron? How about ‘library science’?”
Whaaat?? Jolted, I lay there, gripped by suspense. Jeez. These kids were thinking thoughts I never thought kids would think thoughts about.
I took a closer look. They were slightly built, perhaps a bit small for their ages, and certainly unusual: not many youngsters would pull out chess sets and play patiently while pondering esoteric, unrelated questions. That behavior, I thought, smiling, was more the purview of grizzled, elderly men moving pawns around faded boards on hot summer afternoons in New York City’s Central Park.
Oh, boy, I’d better dump that stereotype!
Barry, wearing jeans, a tee shirt and a solemn expression, glanced at his brother. “Well, as dad says, first define the central term.” Grinning, they recited: “Science- systematic knowledge of the physical or material world through observation and experimentation.” They high-fived, and Barry pondered, then continued.
“Political scientists are usually ideological, and reflexively responsive to favored groups. They tend to make statements based on cherry-picked, manipulated information, wishful thinking, opinion polls- and no independent research.” He shrugged. “I’d say- yes.”
“And ‘library science’?” A long pause….“Books are organized according to an alphabetic and numerical system…” More deep thought. Then he sighed. “We should research this one. Why do you ask, anyway?”
“No reason, except that I saw the coupled words yesterday, and suddenly they didn’t seem sensible.”
I must have moved, because they suddenly noticed me folded into the hammock. Barry spoke. “Hi. We toured the garden- is it yours?- and liked it lots. Especially the mirrors. Cool. Are they left out all winter?”
I rose, and went over to them, nodding. “Yep, and yep. They’re ordinary, been-outside-for-ages-mirrors, protected by overhangs.”
I looked down at their board. “Who’s winning?”
“Nobody, yet. But I usually do. Ken tends to be erratic…”
Ken chuckled. “Yeah, but you‘ll get complacent, and then I’ll capture your king. I’m patient.”
“Are you here for the Film Festival?”
Both nodded. “Our parents love this stuff. But we get squirmy in dark theatres on nice days…”
Barry interrupted. “On any day…“
"…so we’ll walk around ‘till their movie ends. We’ve been to Traverse City before, and know the layout. Some lady mentioned your garden, so we walked here.”
Ken offered a suggestion. “Put a little chess set in there. You’d be surprised how many people like to play. But then, maybe they’d stay too long…”
I laughed. “A three-piece suit had a long snooze on the big bench, once. As for a chess game, individual pieces might wander off…”
“They’d stay. Who’d find one chess piece useful?” He had a point.
Oh, I had so many questions for these intriguing boys! But just then- Briiing: my phone! Maybe it was my husband, Joe. I excused myself and ran inside to answer. Rats! Computer-Rachel again, trying to tweak my credit card. Robots never give up! Dumping the call, I ran out as they finished their game and were about to leave. Barry’d won again, but Ken had accepted it with equanimity.
I had to ask one more question.
“Hey guys, where’s home?”
“Oh, New York City. We often play chess in Central Park, ‘cause we live near it.”
I waved goodbye, and sat down on the porch steps, grinning. Ha! Central Park!
Well, old girl, you were almost right: just subtract about 60 years, and add delightful!