Some small things really matter

The voice comes from the back seat.

“Do you have a nose, Ada?”

“Yes, I do, right here,” I reply, pointing.

“Would you like some pucker paint?”

“No, I don’t wear pucker paint.”

Does mommy wear pucker paint?”

“Yes she does.”


It’s Veterans Day, a holiday, and mommy is working.  So my best friend (and granddaughter) has dropped by for a visit. Her name is Devon. Though she was a bit of a surprise when she showed up a little more than two years ago, she’s as much a part of the rhythm of our lives these days as my morning cup of coffee. And she’s a lot more meaningful.

Life often sorts into little routines, patterns that make us comfortable. When our two daughters were about Devon’s age, we lived in Needham, Mass., on a street called Bird’s Hill.  Each weekend day, I’d walk the girls down the hill, turning three times around the telephone pole midway down the block. At the bottom, we’d visit the corner store. Each girl picked out a piece of candy, and we’d walk back up, turning three times around the telephone pole before continuing up to our red front door.

When Devon stops by for the day, Kathy and I have settled into a routine with her, too.  First she climbs on a chair and helps Kathy whip eggs for scrambling. After breakfast, we head to the nearby conservation land to walk Murphy, our golden retriever.  Devon picks up sticks. Murphy eats them.  From there, we usually go to a nearby farm stand, where Devon checks out the chickens, the pig, the parrot and the llama. Nap, lunch and a visit to the playground follow.

The place where we park to walk the dog has been paving its lot, and today Devon finds that a bit disconcerting.  She tells me all about  it as we walk on the trail.

“The loader picks up the dirt and dumps it into the truck,” she says.

“Yes it does,” I say.

Then she tells me again. And again. And three or four more times.

“That’s a big truck,” she says, as we head back to the car.  “It’s scared of me.”

So scared that I pick her up and give the truck a wide berth as we walk back to the car.

For most of my life, I’ve tended to juggle more things at once  at work than I can reasonably handle well. This fall, I seem to have fallen into that pattern again. But this time, my passion lies elsewhere.

“We should all have grandchildren first so we’d do a better job of raising our children,” a colleague at Kathy’s school told her recently.  She’s right.  It starts with time. To pick up sticks.  To play imaginary games. To listen.

Kathy and I changed Devon’s routine again  today, visiting L.L. Bean instead of the farm stand. Devon liked the escalator. We  rode it up and down three times.  It wasn’t scared of her at all.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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