P & T
They came to the condo this week on their way home from a chilly trip to the South Carolina coast. Four fifths of the next generation. Eight, six, four and one. They arrived in a van so decorated with stickers that it could have been an S&H Green Stamps book in its previous life. Driven by their momma, my oldest daughter, it was a rolling representation of twenty first century family life. Suitcases, snack food, seashells, stray shoes and socks and a seat mounted iPad Mini for inflight entertainment.
They burst into the usual smooth jazz quiet of our home with all the vigor of youth and none of the restraint of the old. They checked out each room. We discussed sleeping arrangements, the upcoming grilling of hotdogs, hamburgers, and chicken, their fun time at the beach.
And then they saw it.
Curiosity, then interest, then fascination, then obsession with this scaled down version of Everyman’s Otis lead to a twenty four hour binge of up and down, sliding the cage open then shut, pulling the little plastic emergency phone off the wall (not to worry, it didn’t work anyway), seeing the box climb up the wall to the second floor and back down to the first. The temptation to ride alone (a no-no) and to push the red Stop button in midtrip. The absolute fun of being carried upstairs and gently deposited downstairs was almost too much to bear.
Until they found the leather recliner in the living room. Another astral plane of (not up and down) back and forth, upright and flat, bonking the window behind until P & T moved the chair forward a bit. Stretching out. Watching TV. Pretending to nap. Eating jellybeans. Helping baby sister hoist herself up to shrieks of glee.
I wondered if the previous owner of the condo had enjoyed these items nearly as much as the grandchildren did, notwithstanding her physical need for the lifts.
Up and down, back and forth, climbing and pretending and directing.
Then, a Whoville voice in my right ear.
“Papa, are you an artist?!”
Now, I’ve never labored under the delusion that I’d ever be the next Hemingway, but having my first grandchild give me one of his nicknames was a little magical to me, truth be told.
Papa and Trina.
"No, honey, but Trina is," I said.
Her eyes got big and round.
It was as inevitable, of course, as the eighteenth ride upstairs in the elevator. The whole crew, adults included, sprawled across what we call the Art Room, a grandiose moniker for the spare bedroom that serves as studio, office, clothes closet for Papa and laundry room for P&T. One kid on the floor drawing dogs and cats, one sitting or standing on top of the large tablet of paper she drew squiggles on, the oldest sitting majestically in the black swivel chair behind the architect's drawing table that my wife uses when she is feeling creative. The next doing a Jackson Pollock-esque splatter painting that I thought (I'm a writer, remember, not a painter) was pretty darn good.
Trina then crafted, with great patience I might add, a small red square of white-inked handprints, adorned with the date and the names of the grands, a small moment in time memorialized, a tiny painting that one day will be pulled out of a box in one of the kid-now-adult's attics, leading to a wistful I remember that. Small handprints, a brief moment captured in red and white at P&T's.
Oh, we didn't stay indoors the whole time. A trip to the zoo was in the offing the next day, one of those wonderful days that was just cool enough and just warm enough to be enjoyable to all, including the second set of Augusta grandparents, J&T, who joined us.
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Snakes and lizards and geckos and dragons and monkeys and then fries and chicken sandwiches and nuggets for the nuggets. Maddening crowds of happy children and struggling adults and strollers and wheelchairs and icy drinks in impossibly big plastic bottles. The zoo. A little piece of heaven on earth if you are a kid (or a grandparent, for that matter).
Back home to finish watching Woody the Woodpecker, more snacks, and a snuck-in nap when my youngest granddaughter decided that she could not be consoled, but then fell asleep on my chest as I reclined in the soft, warm chair. No, not the recliner. That had long since been co-opted, remember?
Is there anything on God's green earth better than having one of your grandchildren fall asleep on your chest with your arms around them? It is one of those moments that brings together the past, the present moment and the future, all at once. It is a peaceful slice of your life that can last for five minutes, but be a part of the fabric of your soul forever from that moment on. It is a connection with your future that cannot be explained, only felt.
As always, the time to pack up and head for home comes too soon. The hustle and bustle, one more elevator ride, the transfer of a family's portable life from condo to car to house. Tired kids, but happy kids. Exhausted, wonderfully organized mommy. Grateful grandparents.
Sometimes we struggle to find peace, meaning and connection in this world.
For grandparents, we need search no further than the bright eyes, looks of wonder, unfiltered commentary and beautiful smiles of our grandchildren.
Today, happiness is grandchildren.