Thursday, March 24, 2005

 

In Which we are about to have a Grand old time...

As I write this, my parents are getting ready to drive from the wilds of New Hampshire to the Magazine Mansion. My son and daughter are beyond excited. They can hardly contain themselves. In fact, they can't contain themselves. They are driving Her Lovely Self up the wall and through the ceiling. But it's always been like this: Tell them Papa and Grandma are driving in from the wilderness and it's as though we just announced the Second Coming. Only the Heavenly Host are bringing free French fries and presents for No Reason.

It's a bit of a cliche, I know, but the man and woman who raised me and the man and woman who regularly drive cross-country to see their grandchildren have absolutely NOTHING in common...except that they happen to be the same people. I seem to recall my parents being pretty strict and unforgiving, especially as regards matters of sass and childish exploits such as, oh, buttering the dog or setting the swimming pool on fire. The same behavior in my kids is regarded with benevolent laughter and predictions of genius ("Look at how he applied the butter to the dog's rear-end. All the strokes flow the same way! He's like Da Vinci!")

I can't blame them. Not because my kids are perfect (good God!) but because this fits with my sense of how grandparents should be. When we're kids we should all be lucky enough to have adults in our lives who think we're fucking brilliant, who dote on us, who hide tiny dolls and Hot Wheels cars under our pillows every night, and who apparently never tire of telling the story of How Daddy Crapped In His Footed Pajamas When He Was 4 (always a crowd-pleaser).

Today, I got the traditional pre-arrival talk from Her Lovely Self about how this time we were going to Curb My Parents' Worst Excesses. No more toys hidden under pillows or in dinner napkins. No more cash payments for bringing someone a drink of water. The list goes on, and it's rather a long one.

What's amusing is that this talk comes from the same woman who worships the ground my parents walk on. Before I shambled into her life, my wife dated a couple of serious, near-thing boyfriends, both of whom had nightmare mothers who thought nobody--certainly not Her Lovely Self--was good enough for their boy.

My mom does not suffer from this affliction. Quite the opposite.

Oh, I know she's proud of me and all, but that still doesn't stop her from occasionally wondering aloud how I managed to coerce my wife into being my wife. Nor announcing archly how the men in our family have never failed to improve themselves genetically with each succeeding marriage. Not to put too fine a point on it, my mom is good for my wife's self-esteem (less so for mine).

She may adore my mom, but Her lovely Self is the high priestess who lights the incense at the holy altar of the sacred temple of Dad. She bakes fresh apple pie for him. She stocks his favorite ice cream (Breyer's Vanilla Bean) and his favorite soft drink (do you have any idea how hard it is to find a case of Tab this side of 1978?). She essentially butters him like my son butters the dog.

There were no daughters in our family, so my dad has absolutely no resistance to my wife's sincere but virulent strain of charm. And in five extended visits over the past 7 years at two different houses, she has charmed my dad into remodeling two bathrooms (one with vaulted ceiling and Jacuzzi), laying down 2,000 square feet of new oak flooring, building a massive jungle gym--including swings and a climbing wall--from scratch, upgrading heating and electrical systems to industrial standards, and building a home office out of a part of the basement (okay, that last one was for me. BUT I HELPED! And I bought the old man the first La-Z-Boy recliner of his life as a thank-you gift. C'mon, that's as good as pie. ISN'T IT? WELL?!?).

So, despite my assuring him that it is actually okay to visit and not do anything resembling labor, still he comes with a truckload of tools and putters around the house every morning. He wants to do this. And now my daughter is old enough to supervise his work, which gives both her and the old man enormous pleasure. Last fall, when he was putting down the new hardwood floor in the kitchen, my little girl was agog. "Papa built a whole new house!" she kept exclaiming (revealing a penchant for hyperbole that could not possibly be inherited). She sat for hours, watching him nail down floorboards, talking to him in a voice of praise normally reserved for the dog, telling him he was the Bestest, Smartest Papa Ever. And then, just when you or I would be slipping into diabetic coma from such obvious saccharine manipulation, she would take her game to whole other level. She would come over and wrap her little arms around my dad's grizzled neck and deliver a big wet kiss on his cheek and say, "That's a smackeroni and squeeze for you!" I think she's angling to have him build her a life-sized doll house in the back yard.

So it's going to be a couple of weeks of excessive spoiling and mutual flattery. For my family, anyway.

And what do I get out of these visits, you ask?

Why, hopefully the same thing you'll get over the next few weeks: a few good laughs and a few great stories.

More as it happens...

Yours,
From Somewhere on the Masthead



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Comments:
What a delightful post! Every single character in this story is described with incredible perception and attention to detail. I can totally relate too.
 
Too funny. Another awe inspiring post, as usual. The real reason why parents put all the hard work into raising a family is so they can reap the rewards of spoiling their grandchildren.
 
I'm glad you got that one out there. Funny and touching.
 
Oh, "smackeroni and squeeze", I'm going to teach that to my nieces, I love it!

Nice story, it's great to have grandparents like that.

Don't tell your kids about what happens when you feed crayons to the dog... not that I ever did that, oh no, not me.
 
Oh if I hadn't been sitting in the public library reading this post... I would most definately be rotflmao! I loved this post and I have to agree with Safiyyah, What a delightful post! So glad I found my way here!
 
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