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When Will I Learn?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I learned a very important lesson: always use the parents stock phrase "we’ll see" or "maybe" even when replying to your grandkids. Some of you know that I’ve been on a tortoise hunt. Jake asked me for a turtle several months ago for his birthday. My usual answer to the grandkids is "of course. Of course you can have marshmallows, of course you can have those shoes, of course I’ll find you an elusive and very expensive tortoise that will require hundreds of dollars to make sure the freaking thing lives for at least a month."

It was my fault. I slipped up. Never mind that all of the kids, grandkids included, know when to ask me for something. Wait until she’s on the computer, cooking dinner or painting and then in your sweetest voice ask for whatever you want. They know that I have no ability to multitask, and I’ll just say "sure" to whatever they ask.

"Mom, can the entire football team come over for home made pizzas and an all night video game war?"


"Mom, can I have your credit card so I can order these boots online?"


"Mom, can we have these three guinea pigs that they say are girls, but one will turn out to be a boy and we’ll have baby guinea pigs for months before you get so fed up with them and us that you give a choice : either you kids or the guinea pigs are going on craigslist, please mom, please?"


Actually I think it was after the last one we had to make it law that no one could ask me for anything unless I was looking them in the eye and repeated what they had asked for before confirming or denying the request. It’s funny how the requests dropped off after I went to the secret hidden parent’s handbook and learned the magical phrases "we’ll see" and "maybe later".

I know precious knowledge of tactical manipulation has been carefully preserved and passed from child to child and now to grandchild. It’s a conspiracy. I am an X-file. Sculley and Mulder will show up on my doorstep one day, of that I’m sure.

When I realized my blunder regarding the tortoise what could I have done? I could have said "Nana was nuttso then and I can’t get you the million dollar tortoise." I could have just said "You have a beagle that I bought for you, where the heck is she? Give her a shell." But no, one look in those little brown eyes that had began to fill with conjured up alligator tears and I knew what I had to do. I had to find the tortoise.

Now I know why my grandmother did what she did. We were back in west Texas checking on the farm one hot summer day and I saw a little blue fish that I wanted. This little blue fish was swimming in the reservoir by the windmill. He was a tiny fish, in a big, concrete rectangle filled with murky, slimy water. But I wanted it. My grandmother looked everywhere for something to catch that tiny creature with. There was no net, no bucket, nothing but a small jelly jar. She rolled up her pants to her knees, climbed over the side of the reservoir, jelly jar in hand, and began to stalk the fish. As I look back and remember I laugh thinking of her going from side to side bent over at the waist, wading in the icky water holding the jar with her perfectly manicured hands, her dangly earrings glistening in the sunshine, muttering. Now I know what she was muttering. Under her breath she was cursing herself for promising me that she would catch the fish that was destined to die within a day. It was the same muttering I was doing on my search today.

I also have realized the incredible joy you are filled with when your grandchild looks at you when you have searched for, and captured their dream. When you hand it to them and see their smile and they know that you have made their wish come true. It is the most amazing feeling in the world. That’s why, I assume, I can still see my own grandmother in the tank. Only a grandparent would do such a thing for a child. I hope that Jakob remembers this day as well. What are grandparents for after all, if it’s not to create memories for the grandchildren to cherish and to pass down?

I guess it kinda makes up for being a parent and telling the kids "No! you’ve already had a soda this year!" or "By the way, here’s a twenty, go pick up a birthday cake for your party." No I wasn’t that bad, I don’t think so anyway.


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