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Another Day in the Country

Contributing writer

In all the years of their childhood, my girls stayed for a week with their grandparents in Oregon — without me! At the end of that jaunt, my girls said, “Don’t you ever leave us here again!”

My mother said, “Never again! I don’t know how you do it!”

At the time, I thought, “What’s such a big deal about taking care of two fairly well-behaved little girls, ages 5 and 10?”

It seemed a relative snap to me; but to Mom it was exhausting.

Mom and Dad were the kind of grandparents who planned ahead. When we’d come to visit, they would have an agenda of things to do that they thought two girls and their mother would like. We’d take a hayride behind the tractor. We’d play croquet. We might make homemade root beer (although that took several days to cure). We’d make homemade ice cream. We might have a water fight with measuring cups and a tub full of water — the rules were that the biggest people got the smallest cup and when the tub was empty, the game was over.

It was all fun, while it lasted; but any reader knows that most of these things could happen in just one day. Then what?

That’s the trouble Mom had with a weeklong visit — then what? Her idea of keeping the girls busy was to send them on errands.

“Would you run out to the fruit room and bring me a jar of peaches?” “Would you go get some thread for me from the sewing basket?” “Would you get the clipper from the drawer in the bathroom?”

“Mom,” my youngest announced when I came to collect them, “Grandma constantly ran us on errands!”

Would you believe it, now I’m the grandma and this week I’ve been baby-sitting my grandson while his mother has fencing camp. This is not the kind of fencing that we do in Ramona — it’s a swordplay-sporting event with swords that aren’t really sharp and you get points for just touching your opponent.

The first morning of my grandmotherly duties seemed to last forever. First of all, Dagfinnr (that’s my grandson) wasn’t used to waking up in the morning without his mother within earshot. Second, I was definitely a novice at being with a new-age 4- year-old. Parents do things different than we did 40 years ago. And, third, I’m out of practice.

After six hours of one-on-one, I was definitely ready for a break.

“How does my daughter do this non-stop?” I wondered.

We’d played the eraser game non-stop. Erasers aren’t what they used to be either. Now they are toys and I’m telling you intricate, take-apart kinds of toys; and the only resemblance to an eraser is the material in which they are made. Evidently, they’re the hot thing for kids to collect and Dagfinnr has a little tissue box full of them — everything from hotdogs (which come apart) to cows and hamsters who do the same.

We made a pond in a flowerpot dish and the eraser fish swam and had dilemmas from which they had to be rescued by the fire truck and a guy in a Volkswagen with a surfboard on top. The surfboard came in handy in the pond.

We played the same games, with different rescue themes hour after hour. We’d take a break for snacks and be back beside our flowerpot within minutes to do Round No. 49.

“I’m definitely identifying more and more with my Mom,” I mumbled to myself.

Later in the day, after my daughter came home, I was still playing with Dagfinnr. He was loving to ride his scooter bike down the driveway and I said, “You know, Dagfinnr, your Mom used to ride a bike like that down this very driveway.”

“She did?” he said, trying to get his mind around the concept of his Mom being little.

“Someday, Baba,” he said, “I’ll let my kids ride their bikes down this road.”

Forty years ago, if someone had asked, “Can you imagine that someday your little 4-year-old Jana will have a 4-year-old of her own and you’ll be sitting here watching him wheel off down the driveway,” I couldn’t have done it!

In my 30s, I had trouble just imagining being 70, let alone all the add-ons.

When I had a small child, I couldn’t even stretch my mind far enough to imagine this child grown let alone with a child of her own. I was so busy trying to be a good parent, make a living, do things right, stay married, and survive from one day to the next, that dreaming 40 years into the future was impossible.

And here I stand, exhausted, but living the dream that I didn’t even have the energy to imagine. And Dagfinnr, with his little boy exuberance and wanting to please has reminded me that just as quickly as my little girl turned into his mother, he will in turn be the adult with a child of his own — no, try, 10 kids!

I wonder, will my daughter be exhausted taking care of her grandchildren, too? Will she wonder, as I do, if she’s covering all the bases, doing it right? Will she feel this added responsibility on her shoulders, like me, keeping them safe from any harm until their parents return?

The biggest question of all is, “Will these great-grandchildren of mine yearn, for some inexplicable reason, to spend another day in the country?”

Last modified July 21, 2011

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