Friday, April 20, 2007
A pirate and a princess
Flying out to the Pacific Northwest last week and spending time with son, Joe, and DIL (daughter-in-law), Katie, and their growing family was such a gift. I am so blessed here with daughter, Jenn, and clan but miss the long-distance connection too.
It had been fifteen months since last making the trip which involves two planes to Seattle and then either a two-plus hour car trip to a Victorian seaport town on the Olympic Peninsula or a ferry from Seattle and then an hour’s car trip to the kids’ house. This time Joe and Katie were in Seattle for the day and picked me up at the airport.
Stepping into the family van was as if time had not really passed at all except, of course, for the new member of the family sitting in her baby car seat. Ben and Olivia were firmly anchored in back of me and Ben was almost jumping out of his socks to pick up where we had left off.
“Babci, look at my new sneakers. Babci, I have a story to tell you.”
It seems that story telling runs in the family.
While Olivia slept, Ben recited a Chinese epic that he had heard in kindergarten. His mom, Katie, in the front seat had to be called on as a prompter when he occasionally missed a point or two about the dragon or the Mandarin magic. Finally, the never-ending story reached a conclusion and with that, my only grandson nodded off. We arrived home and dutiful parents carried the kids to bed. It was a long day for all of us. Ben was totally spent from his exciting recitation in the car. His imagination knows no bounds – dinosaurs, super heroes, Scooby Doo (one of his dad’s favorites too at that age), and, of course, pirates.
I contributed to the pirates by a tale I started telling on prior visits, the saga of Captain Gruffy Face and Razatazz. I created these two quirky pirates and Ben eagerly listened at bedtime whenever I visited. We would lie side by side and I would spin a story. Then, about two years ago, I drew some pictures, had them framed and sent to Ben for his birthday. Little did I know that the epic adventures of my misfit pirates were waiting to be rekindled with this visit.
Not only had Ben remembered every nuance and arc from the original story, he was ready for them to set sail once again at bedtime. And now little Olivia was just as thrilled to share in the pirates’ adventures. It was time to add a little romance and introduce Petunia and Princess Elena. (Every female heroine has to be named ‘Princess Elena’ according to Olivia. It’s her princess du jour.) Both kids shared a huge air bed in Ben’s room while I slept in Olivia’s bedroom for the week and this added to the fun.
Each night they would put on their jammies, brush their teeth and plop in bed, waiting for me to join them and continue the mighty tale. Ben would literally bounce up in glee as I added a villain or two and Olivia would giggle. It was such a joy to sit on the end of their bed and watch their reactions. The story has become one long soap opera and is very interactive. After the girlfriends, I was told to get them married and let some babies come. We added puppies and kittens and quite a few cannons to the Captain’s ship, enough to have him destroy evil Googly Eye’s boat and save the town. If I strayed in a direction they didn’t want to go, brother and sister would see fit to edit and direct the nightly production.
Having grandchildren has moved me in new directions. I never thought that stories I spun over a year ago would be so well remembered and then take on new life with my visit to Ben, the pirate, and Olivia, the princess.
I left with the promise that I would keep the story going and send them new chapters in the mail. Ben wants me to place a wax seal (of authenticity?!) on the back of the envelope. I will have to create a plot and character list just to stay on track. My pirate and my princess seem to keep all the details in their heads and will hold me to the task!
What is so endearing and rewarding is the fact that these silly made-up words from a grandmother’s mouth seem so special to the little ones who listen.
Perhaps that’s really the essence of becoming a grandparent, mutual admiration and remembrance – worth even more than a pirate’s treasure.