I’ll get to see all six of my grandchildren this Thanksgiving. I think back to my feelings about my grandparents when I was their age and shudder. Grandparents moaned and groaned when they pushed themselves out of their chairs and talked about dull things like politics or relatives I didn’t know. In my estimation, they were boooor-ing. This year, I hope to avoid the label “boring.” I imagine one possibility.
With the smells of roasted turkey, sage stuffing, and wild rice permeating the air, my granddaughters, in their early twenties, will offer to help me set the table. Back when they were little, we connected by fairy hunting in the garden, imagining magical worlds. Now I’ll ask the younger, who carries a stack of heavy plates to the dining room table, about her Communications degree, track season, workout program, and whether she thinks she’ll return to live with us next summer to be a pilot for the boats.
After she answers, I’ll tell her that when I was about her age, I was picking out the dinnerware she’s placing on the table because I was engaged to be married. I’ll ask the older granddaughter about her upcoming Physical Therapy internship and make comments about my teaching internship. “Wait a minute,” one of my granddaughters will say. “You were teaching at 21, married at 22, and had Aunt Heather when you were 25?”
My four grandsons will breeze in talking enthusiastically about Minecraft, which, I’m sad to say, baffles me. I’ll give them each a task. While the nine-year-old pours ice water, I’ll ask him about his upcoming robotic class. I’ll try not to allow my eyes to glaze over at terms like algorithm, functions, and designing. “I used to enjoy designing, too,” I’ll say. “I would design secret forts in the woods and if kids wanted to join my club, they had to endure an initiation.”
“Yes. They had to sit on a pricker plant.”
He’ll exchange a Grammy-sure-is-weird glance with his nine-year-old cousin.
I try again with my eldest, football-playing, animal-loving grandson. “So how did your 4-H pig project go, Jay? Did Popcorn gain enough weight to enter the fair?”
“No.” He’ll sadly shake his head as he places silverware around each plate. “She would only eat if someone stood alongside her.”
“Really, how odd? I once had a close encounter with runaway pigs. They’d broken down the schoolyard fence, and they joined us for recess. They weren’t very good at playing football, though.”
I’ll get him to smile, but then he’ll tilt his head. “You had pigs next door to your school?”
“We did. It was a country school surrounded by farms. My friends and I walked together in the morning and hiked back home for lunch every day. Except for Fridays. Fridays were special. Our teacher cooked hotdogs on the small stove. And we got chocolate milk. We loved Fridays.”
My last hope is my six-year-old grandson, who is placing napkins alongside plates. “So, are you still having fun playing soccer at recess?”
“I played kickball, but I wasn’t very good at it. I really loved tetherball. I wanted to be the first one on the court, so I would fly out the schoolhouse door. We also used to play hide-and-seek. My school only had three classrooms, but we had a huge playground. There was this great hiding spot, we called it the cubby hole. It was attached to the building, had three walls, and was creepy and dark. I was hiding there once when I noticed a black-and-white critter in the corner. When it raised its tail—”
“Oh, no,” my grandson might squeal.
“Yep, I high-tailed it out of there.”
“High-tailed it out of there?” He’ll laugh. “That’s funny, Grammy.” He’ll stare at me a second too long. “You’re weird. Do you know that, Grammy?”
Weird. Hmm, that’s kind of close to special. It’s much better than boring. I’ll take it!
“Hey, after dinner, will you play flashlight tag with us again?” he’ll ask.
“Yeah,” another grandchild will add, “that was fun. And can we do that thing with the broom and the “how low can you go” music?”
“The limbo. Sure!”
“And what about our night walk where we try to call in the owls?”
The youngest, who has never done this, will question us. After we explain, he’ll say, “Make owl noises and try to get them to answer us back?” He’ll shake his head. “Weird. When can we go?”
The family will settle in around the Thanksgiving table, each of us with varied interests and different life paths. We’ll join hands, forming a circle, and we’ll give thanks for this food, for our freedoms, for our friends and . . . for family. As weird as that family might be.