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Sabbatical, 2004
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Colloquies with Grandchildren

... third vignette from the Summer vacation of August, 1999

The reason we went out to B.C. to see Chris, Andrea, and the children is not because we hadn’t seen them recently... quite the opposite!

      & Matt in a Go-Kart
Tony & Matt in a Go-Cart
They had come through Winnipeg in early July on their own vacation, and we all had a wonderful time!  I had read stories to the children, cuddled Alexa, and had taken Matthew to the Go-Cart track.

In the end, Heather and I both renewed a bond with our grandchildren that left us wanting more.

Hence the trip through the mountains in late August, which brought us to the town of Armstrong in the heart of the Okanagan valley, where Chris is Rector of the Anglican church, and Andrea is a kindergarten teacher in nearby Vernon.

Matthew's grinning face
Mat, Age 6
Vignettes for me include sword-fighting with Matthew – a dark-eyed, constantly active young man who is six and a half years old... the “swords” were lengths of Hot Wheels car track.  We charged upstairs and downstairs making an incredible ruckus, until Matt delivered me such a whack on the forehead that I still retain the bruise!

I decided we’d do “quiet” things instead.  Soon you could see us both on the couch, intently studying a “Where is Waldo?” book... you know, the series of puzzles where you have to find a tiny character hidden in a page full of equally tiny and distracting illustrations!  Matthew found lots of them, and I did too!  But we failed utterly in finding the dog with five red stripes on his tail.

Alexa is an elfin blonde three year old with no neutral emotions.  She is either on top of the world, or in abject misery.

An agricultural fair with a midway was coming to town, and for three days Alexa looked forward to it.  “I’m gonna ride a merry-go-round!” she would proclaim, constantly.

Well, the great day came.  When we entered the fairgrounds, Alexa’s eyes went wide at the enormous noise and commotion.  Once we got to the “kiddie” midway, both children immediately rushed onto a “motorcycle” ride... a series of rigid wooden bikes which travel in a leisurely circle.

But before she got on, Alexa lost her nerve.  She stood still, and began a terrified wail.  I leaned over the fence and lifted her into my arms, and all she could gasp was, “I just want a ride on the merry-go-round!”

Wouldn’t you know it but there was no merry-go-round in the entire exhibition.  We searched the adult rides and the children’s rides... we looked around the display barns.  No merry-go-round.

When she calmed down, Alexa accepted a ride on a children’s train.  She sat solemnly in the engine and watched a boy furiously ringing the engine’s bell, as the device slowly made its way around its little circle.

Matthew, meanwhile had proved himself quite beyond children’s rides, so his dad took him on an adult “tilt ‘n whirl” device.  Alexa got off her train, and I said, “Let’s go and watch Matt and Dad!” which she agreed to do.

“There they are!”  I held Alexa up and pointed, as a large blue throne containing her father and brother whirled by.

Matthew looked solemn, and was holding on with a grip of steel.  His dad, relaxed, and actually leaning his body to try to make the device whirl faster, caught sight of Alexa.  He grinned and made a crazy face at her.

Alexa was transformed.  All her fears suddenly collapsed into amazement and delight.  Here was her beloved dad, on a terrifying machine, playing the fool and having a wonderful time.  And her big brother was sitting beside him completely unscathed.

She began to laugh.  And, with every glimpse she caught of her silly dad and her solemn brother, she laughed harder.  Then she looked at me with a grin from ear-to-ear, as if to say “Isn’t this the funniest thing you’ve ever seen?”

Suddenly she insisted on riding a children’s aeroplane, then – upping the ante even more – some helicopters!  And, each time she passed me, she would make a crazy face, an exact miniature of the one her dad had made.  There was a triumphant strut in her step at the end of the day.

As we left, Heather bought some cotton candy, pronouncing that no fair is complete without the stuff.

And I will never forget the tired and happy little elf, with no idea of how to eat cotton candy, burying her face right in it, and coming up with pink eyebrows, pink sideburns, and a pink beard.

And the biggest grin the world has ever seen.

            with Grandad
Grandad’s Girl!

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