Our granddaughters from Illinois were here for an all-too-short visit a couple of weeks ago, and I remembered an essay I wrote about one of their previous visits:
How quickly grandmothers forget what young mothers know.
A nine year old who constantly dreams up pranks, and a very independent three year old have taken over our house for three weeks. They are our granddaughters from Illinois, away from home with their mom but without their dad, and because we don’t see them very often we are making a lot of exceptions to rules their mother, our daughter, grew up with. In the give and take and push and shove and ups and downs of life, Grandpa, their mother and I have a daily reminder of the wisdom that says children should have two parents. Sometimes the three of us are outnumbered by the two of them.
Kayla, the prankster, has a wacky sense of humor. She is a fair skinned blonde who knows dozens of jump rope rhymes, but can’t always grasp the logic of picking up a glass of milk before trying to drink out of it. She played games at my computer, and later while doing a project of my own, I reached into the computer desk drawer for a paperclip to find that she had hooked them all together in a chain. Make that three chains. Everything in the house is a toy, far more interesting than the baskets of toys in the closet for children to play with.
Courtney, who can solve any logistics problem if there’s enough furniture to climb on, leaves a path of destruction that should qualify us for federal disaster relief. All those uninteresting toys in the closet seem to be steppingstones to something more interesting that was never designed to be a toy. Courtney has big brown eyes with a Shirley Temple twinkle, blonde hair, and skin that tans rather than burns in the sun. Her favorite “blankie” is actually an envelope her mother made to cover the mattress in her crib when she was a baby. It’s multicolor polka dot flannel stitched to a blue backing on three sides. She has other more functional blankets, but she likes being able to put her feet inside this one when she sleeps. I’m picturing her as a newlywed some day, trying to explain that to a bewildered husband.
During the day the odd blanket becomes a part of her imaginative play. Her favorite joke is to put it over her head and yell, in her sweet soprano voice, “Hey, who turned out the lights?” Yesterday for a while the floor fan that cools us in the living room became an old fashioned box camera, and the blanket was the cloth over the photographer’s head. Courtney took the pictures and Kayla developed them for us all to see.
I am not beyond participation in their silliness. One stuffy, sticky night boredom drove us to paint each other’s feet with watercolors the girls found in the game closet. Not even in my most carefree childhood moments have I ever had green toenails, or red zigzags around my ankles, but now we have the pictures to prove it. Even Grandpa laughed.
Despite their age difference, the girls get along famously, and sometimes that’s a problem. They go from one chaos-creating activity to another faster that anybody can keep up with them, but I am grateful that their mother insists that they put things away when they’re finished.
In a couple of weeks they will fly back home to the normality of their usual family routine. Despite the order that will fill the vacuum, I know that the quiet will sometimes be painful. What is there now but to anticipate our trip to their house at Thanksgiving, where we know we will be romped on, and tugged over to a chair to read a book, tricked by one and twinkled at by the other?