Winter afternoons in our house are very peaceful. Fireplace glowing, recliner back, feet up, reading while listening to classical music on Vermont Public (whatever that is!), watching the snow pile up outside the window. It is in fact easy to get TOO comfortable.
That is why, of course, grandchildren were invented. When they arrive, it’s like a SWAT team has tossed a box full of flash-bang grenades into the house and burst in the door yelling commands through bullhorns.
It’s not that our grandchildren are deliberately disruptive. They just have different priorities. If they arrive in the late afternoon or evening for an overnight visit, the first casualty is the TV news hour, as the channel is flipped to something less boring than advertisements for laxatives or prescription cures for plaque psoriasis. The audio dialog changes abruptly at a critical moment from: “Discontinue use if you notice a lump or swelling in your . . .” to “Kwazii! Sound the OCTONAUT ALERT! Whoo-op! Whoo-op! Whoo-op!” Everything I know about snot sea cucumbers and slime eels I learned from Captain Barnacles.
The dining room instantly becomes an art studio and the table is strewn with images of flying unicorns and machines of war in galaxies far, far away. And the coffee table becomes a gaming table for board games (which provide endless opportunities for playful banter: “You moved too many spaces” “Did NOT!” “Did TOO!” “Did NOT!” “CHEATER!”). There is no longer a place to put up your feet because the foot stool has been repurposed into a pedestal for the latest stuffed animal. And the granddog has taken your spot in the recliner.
In fact, there is barely any room to walk because the entire contents of the back bedroom closet has been relocated to the living room floor, and to carelessly stroll about in bare feet is to risk a foot injury from stepping on a Hot Wheels car, a Holstein from the Playmobil farm, or, most painful of all, a stray Lego block.
And although it may seem you are in the way in your very own house, it is not as if you are not wanted. No! Far from it. Your presence is more essential than ever:
“She’s in the shower.”
“I need Grammie!”
“Well, she can’t help you right now, she’s taking a shower. Can I help you?”
“I need to go POOP!”
(Me silently): “Yikes!”
If you throw in the granddog, the demolition of peace and quiet is amplified tenfold. Our granddog is a magnificent physical specimen who can, and often does, sprint the entire length of the house and back in 0.50 second for no apparent reason. And if there is a squirrel sighting, he can dance along a windowsill like a ballerina en pointe without disturbing the bric-a-brac that’s already there. Still, if you remember the band of musicians on the Muppet Show, he has the crazed, wild-eyed, open-jawed personality of the drummer – the one with the spiked collar and a chain for a leash named “AN-I-MAL!”
Just a few days ago, as granddog was leaping gazelle-like over furniture, he sprang into the recliner and then put his forepaws up on the headrest. His momentum was such that the chair reclined and began to tip over backwards. It became an NFL Slo-Mo replay. Outstretched like a wide receiver catching a pass in the end zone, he rode the chair over as it crashed into the tall ceramic vase that held the huge fern that normally resides on the screen porch in summer. The vase instantly became a pile of jagged shards as he nimbly leapt sideways off the chair unscathed.
If you want to increase your enjoyment during a grandkid visit, consider confining them — kids and dog — in a small space such as the back seat of an SUV.
Granddaughter: “Grammie! H___ used both cup holders in the armrest. I have nowhere to put my cup.”
Grammie: “H____, can you please make space for your sister’s cup?”
Grandson (whining): “But then I won’t be able to eat my carrot sticks.”
Granddaughter: “Eww! I HATE carrots!”
Grandson: “No you don’t! You love carrots.”
Granddaughter: “Do NOT!”
Grandson: “Do TOO!”
The cross-rebuttals go on for several more minutes before Judge Grammie makes a ruling from the bench. In the meantime, granddog has positioned himself with his hindquarters in the back seat, where his wagging tail equitably whacks each kid in the face; his front feet on the center console; and his head between me and Grammie, where he proceeds to pant in my face with a breath that indicates he has somehow located and consumed a decaying mackerel.
According to Grammie, all this is the fun of hosting our grandchildren. And I suppose she’s right, because after the teeth are brushed and the story book read, and they sink down to sleep beneath their comforters, the sea of commotion becomes calm, just like before they arrived, and peace settles back into the house, at least until morning. Why, you can even sit in your recliner again — if you can convince granddog to vacate it.