For those of us who have experienced the world of playgrounds and now can only yearn for those moments of youthful unbridled joy from so long ago, we remember the game.
It was called king of the hill, one mostly for boys, because it’s sort of roughhouse in nature. All you really needed was a hardened mound of dirt, which most playgrounds of my youth seemed to have, and a bunch of boys with a desire to remain on top of that little hill as long as possible before someone knocked the king off. In warmer, more carefree summer times, when the landing was water rather than terra firma, even the girls played, say, out at Long Quarry, when the game became king of the raft.
Well, in a metaphorical sense, for grandparents who are bursting with stories of their kids’ kids, let me tell you that the game is alive and well. Gather at the same table two or three sets of grandparents, and the grandkid stories start flying. The recipe for each tale of their prodigies is the same — equal parts cuteness and an unmatched precociousness not seen since the TV days of Doogie Howser. Of course, every grandparent’s grandchild is preternaturally intellectually gifted!
Recently, my last two Knights of Columbus customers at the end of a bar shift were Jim and Diane Lee, who happen to be grandparents of, you guessed it, amazing children, three of them as of this writing. While, no doubt, each are equally adored, the real star of their stories that night, stories that they knew I would listen to because I’m in the old grandparent fraternity, was the eldest grandkid, Allison, and son-in-law Brandon Buehler’s son, Logan, who’s had about three years to get this thing called life figured out.
The stories of Logan, whom I immediately when seeing him for the first time dubbed “the long boy,” because the early indications are that he’s going to be a tall one, started flying, and Diane and Jim told them with such exuberance that they were finishing each other’s sentences.
There was a story of Logan’s insistence he be allowed to start the “vroom-vroom,” this young fella’s onomatopoeic word for a car. Kids, long before they know that onomatopoeia is a literary device whereby a word is spelled to imitate a sound effect (think boom!), often adopt this mode of communication. Logan’s word for the car takes me back to a wonderful time when my little girl Katie used to scold me when I made the occasional un-signaled turn, “Daddy, you forgot to put your tick-tacker on!”
Another of Jim and Diane’s shared stories involved Logan’s deciding during a recent shoe-shopping trip to the mall with Grandma and Grandpa that he have his winter coat on, fully zipped, despite the day’s 95-plus degree reading.
Yet another, which based upon Jim’s excitement, was Grandpa’s favorite. It involved Logan’s apparent first experience with getting something caught in his teeth. Jim recreated for me his little buddy’s facial expression, his extraction attempts and, his moment of success while standing in the middle of the shoe department at Penney’s when he thrust a finger ceiling-ward with the offending food particle and identified it by proclaiming to all within shouting distance, “Taco burrito!”
Diane’s favorite Loganism involves his current refusal at this manly stage of life to allow anyone to hold his hand when walking outside, say across the mall parking lot, which necessitates whoever is the adult in charge to latch on to the back of his collar. It appears in an effort to move the cute-kid meter all the way over to the red zone, Logan marches resolutely toward his destination, often the vroom-vroom, holding his own hand in front of his chest.
After all, men of any age, really like to do things for themselves. Want to know why we never ask anyone in a grocery where a product is as we wander up and down aisle after aisle scrutinizing the shelves until we find what we’re looking for? Just watch Logan hold his own hand!
As I listened to Diane’s and Jim’s stories, I couldn’t help but think of my own little gumdrops, Caroline, who’ll be 3 in November, and Abigail, who’ll begin to measure birthdays in years rather than months for the very first time in a little more than a week.
For each of Jim’s and Diane’s dueling stories, I thought of one of my own, starring my son-in-law Hans and Katie’s cuties. I thought of Caroline’s current habit when asked a question of poking her little finger into her cheek and folding her other arm underneath as she ponders in exaggerated fashion such an age-old conundrum as the ultimate kid question, “Milk or juice?”
And, I thought of Abigail, several weeks ago, when she used her one lone tooth, front and center on the bottom gum, with malicious intent and of her mother’s exasperation when she told me that when Caroline got a little too close to her sister’s face, that lone tooth became a weapon with deadly accuracy when she used it to bite sissy on the chin.
In Katie’s words, “Dad, I thought Caroline was fibbing to get attention until I looked at her chin and saw that little Chiclet indentation!” Pretty good use of just a single chopper, don’t you think?
But, resisting that call to be king of the hill that evening, I kept my stories to myself as I emptied my ice bins, allowing Jim and Diane to remain on top of Grandbaby Hill.
After all, no matter our ages, we all need to take turns, right?