How would you like to be gone a few weeks and return to find that someone had rearranged your prized possessions? Your bookshelf is ransacked. Your leisure-time activities are scattered around the room, as though a robber just turned the place upside down looking for the family silver. And adding insult to more insult, a cute little blond’s hands are full of the evidence.
I imagine our 4-year-old grandson, Jasper, might experience a twinge of that feeling when he comes to visit, and finds our 1 1/2-year-old great-grandson Roman in the toy room. Roman’s busy at the ball-roller thingy that makes enough noise it’s guaranteed to drive anyone over the age of 6 stark raving insane. Or the Fisher-Price zoo train, which at least has a volume control.
Sure, he knows those are “Grandma’s house toys,” meant to be shared, but still, he first played with a lot of those Fisher-Price activities he’s outgrown, before Roman came along. And yes, there are the Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, race sets and puzzles kept up out of Roman’s reach, but the whole place was Jasper’s kingdom once, and now there’s another prince on the scene. To make matters worse, Roman gets to be there two days a week with both his Gammy (our daughter) and GiGi (me). Jasper only gets an auntie and a grandma, and fewer visits. You don’t just hop over for the afternoon when you live in Seattle.
It’s bound to sting a little, but Jasper handles it well. The boys are separated by enough age that he can enjoy being the grownup kid who can do more things than the baby — more fun things, even. It must be hard to take when Roman thinks he owns the property rights for sitting on GiGi’s lap to look at pictures on the computer, but he manages. As Roman grows by leaps and bounds, he’s even fun to play with sometimes.
Before Jasper’s arrival, Roman’s grandma, Roman and I went to the grocery store, where she bought him an Elmo balloon. Back in the car, I said, “Oh, I should have gotten one for Jasper.”
Roman gave me a long, level look and clutched Elmo to his chest. “Romy’s boon,” he explained, just in case I’d forgotten. I went back in and got a different style for Jasper.
Later that day, after the boys were a little bit re-acquainted, they played a game that consisted of Roman bopping Jasper lightly on the chest with his balloon, and Jasper exclaiming “Ouch!” with each bop. Suddenly Roman’s face became very sad. He dropped his balloon, stepped closer to Jasper, chest to chest, and said, “I sorry.”
Jasper looked at his little cousin with a quizzical expression, obviously thinking, “Get a grip, kid. It’s just a game!” Then he instinctively did the right thing: He reached out and hugged Roman, and they went back to their carefree game of bopping balloons.
Jasper was probably secretly happy that our main activity was just for “big kids.” Halloween was only a few days away, so he and I did Halloween crafts. Our daughter came in while I was snipping ghost eyes and mouths from felt and Jasper was using stickers to make a Halloween design on tag board. Surveying the mess, Luanne said, “Jasper, it’s a good thing you came to visit so Grandma could get a craft fix. Otherwise she’d look pretty silly, doing this all by herself.”
We made ghosts out of glue-stiffened cheesecloth shaped over balloons, and fastened on the felt to give them appropriate ghostly expressions. Well, most of them were appropriate, anyhow. I can’t remember whether it was Jasper’s dad or his grandpa who was responsible for the sexy-lips ghost. Probably one suggested it and the other made a hearty second. The ghosts were great, no matter the expression.
Then we made Rice Krispie jack-o-lanterns and cats. At least that was the plan. But the mixture didn’t stick together. After a lot of tongue-biting to keep from saying un-grandmotherly words, we decided to let the glop sit in the cool garage until morning, and try again.
It didn’t help. Next morning the glop still refused to cooperate. We finally mashed it (with a great deal of vengeful enjoyment) into pans and made decorated glop. My pan became a garden with gumdrop vegetables: red tomatoes, orange carrots, green cabbages, etc. Jasper’s creativity out-spaced Grandma’s. He had a licorice stick beanstalk with a marshmallow cloud stuck on top of it, surrounded by marshmallow ghosts and gumdrop jack-o-lanterns. We smashed up any disasters, re-smeared our hands with butter, and tried again. Sure, we ended up with butter to our elbows, gumdrop fragments stuck in our teeth, and a kitchen that looked like an explosion at the candy factory, but it was fun.
Although Roman could probably have squashed glop like a pro, he’s too young for crafts. Maybe next year. Even if, for the sake of harmony, we have to make a Lincoln Log wall down the middle of the kitchen table to separate their projects.
• Donna Scofield is a freelance writer whose articles, columns and short fiction stores have appeared in numerous national and regional magazines. The longtime Yakima resident is retired after working as a secretary and office manager in Yakima School District elementary schools. She has raised two sons and two daughters. Her email is RDDLScofield@aol.com.