Connections: Summer’s Tally

This was the summer of grandchildren — and that’s where happiness lies

It’s the day after Labor Day, perfect for tallying up what was best and what will be most missed about summer. That’s certainly true for me, because I went around saying this summer wasn’t anything much, at least for me. But the night of Labor Day changed all that. This was the summer of grandchildren — and that’s where happiness lies.

It’s fair to say, without remorse, that three of my grandchildren have more or less aged out of everyday activities with grandma. But I was lucky enough to spend goodly lengths of happy times with four of them, who were often at my house this summer, and that deserves a big hooray. It wasn’t any particular thing we did together that brought the smiles but simply watching and listening.  

They did many of the conventional things kids do. They went to day camps and had play dates. They tossed balls around and flew small plastic planes. They hit softballs and kicked soccer balls on the front lawn. They did a jigsaw puzzle or two. Two of the four fulfilled a characterization bestowed by my husband as the running Rattrays, which means they ran throughout the house, back and forth, for no reason we could ascertain except they prefer to run. 

They played hide and seek. (I laughed out loud when one or another tried to squeeze into closets that had no standing room.) They did artwork. They took pictures with new cameras. They used iPads to play video games. One also had fun photographing another and then changing the result by imposing different eyes, lips, and hair.  

They played pencil-and-paper games of some mysterious sort. There were board games, too, but more often the games were, you might say, home-brewed. Word games, for example. We all indulged in a game called What. All you do is hang out with everyone and try not to use the word “what.” You’re out if you do, and it isn’t as easy as you might think. They picked beach plums, and I helped stem them.

One of these four spent the better part of an afternoon baking and icing a birthday cake, which was wonderful to both watch and enjoy. One of the grandchildren even sat down to watch the “PBS NewsHour” with my husband and me, sharing concern about the people in Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey. 

It’s often said that if you are lucky, like I am, you have little responsibility for bringing up your grandchildren but can instead offer some of the most important things in life: caring attention and love. You can also help them understand their heritage.

On the night of Labor Day, four of the grandchildren took over the playroom in my house, which goes back to the 1930s. It has a tiny stage, curtains and all, but it had been quite a while since the kids had the time or inclination to put on a show.

This night, they went full out. They found and got dressed in old costumes that had been put away in dresser drawers or closets and forgotten. They made tickets and numbered the seats. And then they opened the curtains on a variety show. The eldest was a riotous M.C. while the others presented individual and joint acts that were loud, rowdy (spilling off the stage at times), and hilariously appropriate to their personalities and talents. It was a great way to end what was a good summer, after all.