After a year and a half - how long it had been since I had seen my twin grandchildren - I can finally say, with great pride in my corruptive influence as a silly grandfather, that the toddlers have joined my other three grandkids in the Cult of Poppie.
This was one of the highlights of the recent visit my wife, Sue, and I paid to our older daughter, Katie, and her family: husband Dave; older son Xavier, who is 4; and the dynamic duo, Zoe and her younger-by-25-minutes brother, Quinn, who will turn 2 next month.
The twins were only 5 months old the last time Sue and I saw them in person and had not yet fallen under my spell. But they are now full-fledged fans, along with Xavier and our oldest two grandchildren, Chloe, 8, and Lilly, 4 and a half, who are the daughters of our younger daughter, Lauren, and her husband, Guillaume.
Because all the adults in the family have been vaccinated, it was safe for Sue and me to drive to Washington, D.C., to be reunited with Katie’s clan.
After sharing hugs and kisses with Katie, we drove a few blocks to get Xavier at school. He also greeted us with hugs and kisses. It was like we picked up where we left off the last time we saw him, when he was only 2 and a half.
Even though the twins have often seen us on FaceTime, which has given me a marvelous opportunity to act stupid from a distance, they probably thought we were TV celebrities who stood only 3 inches tall. Katie warned us that Zoe, in particular, was skittish around unfamiliar people.
Those fears melted away a few minutes after we saw the kids back at Katie and Dave’s house. Following an initial reticence, Quinn - and, yes, Zoe - opened up with smiles and giggles. They especially liked my shenanigans, marveling at the fact that I could act stupid in person, too.
I continued my foolishness the next day, when we all went to a park to celebrate the birthday of one of Xavier’s friends. I chased Xavier and his pals around the playground, nearly collapsing in the broiling sun, then did kiddie lifting with Quinn and followed up by pushing Zoe on the swings.
Later, Dave and I cooled off with beer.
That frosty beverage also hit the spot the next day, when Dave and I took Xavier to Nationals Park to see the hometown Washington Nationals play their Beltway rivals, the Baltimore Orioles.
But first, Sue, Katie and I took the twins to another park for morning soccer. It was athletic competition at its finest, coordinated by coach John Jenkins, who at the beginning of the season had named Zoe the captain of the group because, he told me, “She took my hand the first day, so I said, ‘All right, she’s the captain.’ Zoe is our best player.”
All the kids - except Quinn, who was off to the side, munching on a bag of Goldfish - paid attention as Coach Jenkins asked, “Do we touch the ball with our ears?”
“No!” the little stars responded.
“Very good,” said Coach Jenkins, who turned around and told the adults, “Nobody listens to me at home.”
What followed wasn’t exactly Olympic-caliber play, but it was entertaining. At the end, Quinn finally decided to participate, kicking a ball the length of the soccer area into a goal.
“Better late than never,” Sue commented.
Chaos ensued, prompting Coach Jenkins to admit, “I see I’m losing control here.”
We subsequently went to another area of the park, where the kids cheered a couple of sanitation workers as they loaded trash into their truck.
“Poppie makes messes and these gentlemen clean them up,” I told the twins.
“I like that!” one of the guys exclaimed.
Zoe and Quinn also met Teddy, a 150-pound Great Dane.
“He’s even better than a Mediocre Dane,” I said.
The big dog barked in approval.
In the afternoon, there was the baseball game, which Xavier thoroughly enjoyed, not so much for the action on the field, where the Nats prevailed, 6-5, but for the hot dog and ice cream that Poppie bought for him. In return, Dave bought me and himself the aforementioned frosty beverages.
Katie, Xavier, Zoe, Quinn, Sue and I went to the zoo the next day. Xavier liked seeing an alligator that had just its eyes sticking up above the surface of its mossy pool and the twins enjoyed seeing a massively tusked elephant throw dirt on itself.
We also saw an otter, which prompted me to ask, “Where’s the otter one?”
A couple of fellow grandparents chortled and said, “The otter one? Very good!”
After a sea lion got my seal of approval, Xavier said, “I’m finished.”
“Me, too,” I said. “This place is a real zoo.”
The following day, Katie, the three kids, Sue and I went to West Potomac Park, where Xavier and I had a riverside picnic.
“There must be a lot of fish in the water,” I said.
“What about sharks?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but what other creatures do you think are in there?” I asked.
“Maybe crabs,” Xavier replied.
“How about worms?” I wondered.
Xavier stopped eating his cheese puffs, looked over at me and said, politely but firmly, “Worms live underground, Poppie.”
Still, I managed to worm my way into the affections of all three children. I also managed to see a good deal of Washington, including the aquatic gardens, the arboretum, the art museum and, from a distance, the Capitol.
In our week there, I also saw approximately 1,387 cicadas, five of which were still alive.
All in all, Sue and I had a wonderful visit. It was a long time coming but well worth the wait.
On the last day, we hugged and kissed Katie, Dave and the kids, who didn’t want us to go. By that time, the twins were completely converted.
“You’ll be happy to know,” Katie told me, “that Zoe and Quinn have officially joined the Cult of Poppie.”
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service and is the author of five books. Email: JerryZ111@optonline.net. Blog: jerryzezima.blogspot.com.