[Po-KIPP-see– a city in upper state New York... one and a half hours from my home on Long Island.]
I knew the assignment wouldn’t be easy when I volunteered to take care of my three grandchildren; eight, six and three in Poughkeepsie, while their parents flew to Texas to buy a house....but how hard could it be? Didn’t we raise four children? Was it such a hard job? I didn’t think so, but then this was different. I didn’t count on the fact that I had little power of my own to call on and that the older boy would invoke his absent father’s rules to suit his own purpose. Nor did I count on a 21 inch blizzard to cancel school putting the two oldest boys in close proximity to each other’s throats. Fortunately, the three year old granddaughter was recently trained but it took two days for me to figure out that her softly spoken one word, “havtustoyet” was a directive that meant, “I have to use the toilet.” It took a wet bed for the boys to translate the meaning of that one word. Whatever happened to that other word.....“tinkle”?
Their parents left on Tuesday with rules in place for me regarding what to pack in the lunch boxes; when and what snacks they could have; what and how much TV they could watch, the inspection of teeth and my re brushing of all three sets; baths and head washing EVERY NIGHT and all toys and clothes pricked up before bedtime. On Wednesday, I threw out my daughter-in-law’s rules and made up ten of my own – (Me and Moses).
1. There will be no fighting or bickering.
2. Eat what is put before you without complaining.
3. If you think you don’t like a food, at least try it.
4. Be kind and loving to one another with no pushing or shoving at the bus stop.
5. No snacking 2 hours before meals.
6. Learn the Children’s Prayer and say it at bedtime.
7. Tell the truth at all times.
8. Brush your teeth without adult aid.
9. No sneaking food from the closet.
10. Be grateful you are not “Home Alone”.
The last screw was going in when the boy standing next to me shook his can of yellow dried up Play Dough, with the loose lid and millions of pieces went all over the rug. (How many more days did I have to go???) Friday came and that meant a swimming lesson for #2 grandson at 6:30 pm... A great opportunity to eat out. But....
“I don’t want Burger King, I want McDonalds”.
“I don’t want McDonalds”, I want Burger King.”
“What about Chinese?” I said, trying to find a middle ground. They weren’t sure where such a restaurant was so we made up another one of Grandma’s Rules...”Everyone has to agree with the place I pick out or we don’t eat. Is that clear?”
Thank Goodness Colonel Sanders decided to build one of his KFC’s about two miles from the heated pool at the YMCA... It was our most pleasant meal. Coming home was another story as we exited the restaurant onto a different street. “Which way do I turn?” I asked aloud. “Right”, said the swimmer.” “Left” said his older brother. (Were they just being contrary again?) The right turn was made but it only took a minute to discover that it should have been left. Mile after mile we traveled looking for a break in the metal median strip but none appeared. Suddenly there was a chorus from the back seat. “Grandma, don’t go over the Mid-Hudson Bridge..it’s $2.50”. “Well, I have no intention of doing THAT.”, I replied trying to keep panic from my voice. When the first exit appeared I took it, only to find out that I was indeed headed for the Bridge but from a different direction. The kids groaned and yelled “We’ll never get home.” At any moment I expected to hear the “h” word from little Casey.
At the toll plaza we found a kind collector who listened to....“I’m driving my son’s van for the first time; I’m hopelessly lost and I have my three young grandkids in the car...Can you help me?” He called the police for directions and for a brief moment I though we were going to have a police escort which would have been quite exciting for all of us to remember. Instead, I was given good directions which enabled us to pull into the right driveway twenty minutes later.
Sometime Friday night the predicted snow began to fall and the TV warning of a blizzard looked real. It continued snowing all day and the children were delighted to sleigh ride and make a snowman. If they squabbled over whose sled it was, I didn’t have to hear it! They were outside.
Sunday morning came with bright sunshine and a temperature of 2 degrees below zero. A kind neighbor brought over some sugary cereal that the kids experienced for the first time. Their usual breakfast consisted of a sugarless kind - round balls that resembled Styrofoam. Naturally, with all that snow, school was canceled on Monday but by then I had only one more “X” left on the calendar and my trip home was closer.
Unfortunately, the airline carrying their parents back from TX and their maternal grandmother coming from IN, was each delayed by six hours but eventually I was headed back home to Long Island. Driving in the dark, I didn’t have to hear...”Derek hit me with the shovel”...”Kyle put that stick away”....”No, I don’t want to...” “Leave the hall light on”....”No, put the hall light out.”...”Can I have a snack?... “Derek shoved me at the bus stop.”...“Why can’t I eat in the family room...Daddy does”...”I don’t HAVE any homework.” etc. etc.
“Ahhhh...peace.... just listen to that car stereo music.... how sweet it is.
.. written in 1992 or thereabouts.
copyright 2012, June T. Bassemir
June Tuthill Bassemir is the widowed mother of four and grandmother of 10. An artist and writer, she volunteers as a docent in a 1765 farm house. June loves old cars and antiques, and has also enjoyed furniture stripping and rug hooking. "I used to say I was a stripper and hooker.but with so many trips around the sun, no one raises an eyebrow anymore. They only laugh." June has given up furniture stripping, but is still an avid rug hooker.