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Monday, March 17, 2008

She Enthuses

Can there be anyone more enthusiastic than an eleven-year-old girl who has discovered the pleasures of life? Can there be anyone more pleased than a seventy-one-year-old grandmother whom her granddaughter represents as the brightest hope for the future?

We saw her daily, her grandfather and I, for the first nine years of her life, when she lived close by and we represented her workaday home care. Her mother would drive her over to our home early in the morning, and we would take things from there.

Before she could walk we would haul her for hour-long walks in the ravine close to our house, fitting her nicely into a backpack that I would hoist onto my back and we'd explore the wooded ravine. Then we'd come home in time for an eight o'clock breakfast.

When she was nine her mother moved to a location rather more remote from us and that ended our daily togetherness. Now, when we want to see her and her mother we take an hour-long drive to where their home is, on the edge of the Canadian shield, a natural setting beautiful beyond compare.

On special occasions like March break, or during the summer months when school is out, she comes along for three-day mid-week stay-overs. Last summer she brought along a girlfriend who stayed over with her. We all enjoyed our closeness together.

Earlier this month we picked her up at her mother's place of employment in downtown Ottawa, then brought her back with us, had breakfast together, and began a three-day course of grandparent-granddaughter integration. Nothing exciting.

We asked, was she interested in seeing a film at a theatre? No thanks. How about one of the museums, galleries, you name it...? Thanks, but maybe not. She was happy and satisfied to share our normal daytime activities with us.

We'd ordered a set of books for her through, and she was happy with those, and prepared to spend her spare time reading. Not once did the television set get clicked on. We did view a film with her one evening, an old film we'd once bought and seen ourselves about 40 years earlier, "Jason and the Argonauts".

I thought the technical features of the clashing rocks, the giant mechanical monsters, the golden fleece-protected hydra, its skeletal offspring might frighten her. She laughed through the production, thought the sight of the Greek gods looking down on the mortals below Mount Olympus cool stuff.

She helped me to make the yeast dough for doughnuts, took one large knob of fresh dough and played "catch" with it while we finished off the doughnuts by dipping them into melted chocolate. We baked chocolate chip cookies and almond bread slices. She's inordinately concerned with food.

No sooner were we through with breakfast - and for her a hefty one consisting of a sectioned orange or grapefruit, banana, scrambled eggs, (she enjoys doing her own eggs, then slathering them with tomato catsup) toast, Nutella - than she'd brightly ask, what's for lunch.

We had our daily ravine walks, with her and our two little dogs. We took her to Winners to select some clothing, but she managed to find only two tops of interest to her, refusing to look any further. She's not particularly acquisitive. Although she did love the huge pink fluffy rabbit we'd bought to surprise her with, and which she clutched in bed beside her at night.

We went along to a large area bookstore another afternoon, because she was going through the books we'd got for her so quickly we felt she could use some refills. She found two books she wanted, "Holes", and "Indigo Blue", and I made a few additional selections for teen-age girls, for her.

Her grandfather tried to interest her in classic books by Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Vern, Charles G.D. Roberts, but she wouldn't bite. We don't really care, as long as she's reading, as long as she has the book bug in her, and she does.

She's back home again with her mother. She usually telephones us after four in the afternoon, when she gets home from school. And we talk, and discuss the plots of the latest books she's reading, and what's happened at school, and her admiration for one of her classmates who adores books and reads much faster than she does herself.

She's only eleven, but already possessed of common sense, a surprising amount of wisdom for a child. She's observant, has an inbred sense of right and wrong, of justice. But then, that was pointed out to us about her many years ago, by one of her teachers. It's what enables her to get along so well with others.

What more could loving grandparents ask for in a grandchild?



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