I am writing from my hotel room in Minneapolis, or maybe itís Bloomington. We are here for the Minnesota Newspaper Association annual convention, and the Minnesota Free Paper Association board meeting. I came up a night early, however, to stay with my grandson, Harry, and his parents, who were so gracious as to give up their bed for me and sleep on the futon. Harry is now in a big boy bed in the room that I used to stay in.
Harry is deep into sports, with help and encouragement from Angie, who is a golf pro. They love to send me videos of Harry playing basketball, hockey, and golf. He also plays soccer at school. When my kids were that age, they were just learning which shoe went on which foot. Harry showed me some of his basketball moves: the side shuffle step, shuffling to the front and back. Then he got his Harry-sized basketball from where he keeps it in his toy oven. He was going to show me how he shoots, but Cassidy decided we were too close to the china cabinet, and it was time to get going.
That night, Cassidy took me to dinner at one of our favorite places, the Strip Club. (Itís not what you think! Itís known for its steaks. Get it? New York Strip, Strip Club?) An old classmate of Cassidyís, J.D. Fratzke, is the chef there, and we had a chance to chat with him. Itís an odd feeling, as the motherÖor grandmotherÖaround these two people I remember from their high school days, but who are now all grown up. They asked about each otherís children, gave little updates, connecting in a whole new way from the old days at Winona High. It was strange to see them playing my role from back thenóproud, but concerned, parent.
The two of them mused at the wonders that each stage of childhood brings. Most touching was J.D.ís observation that from ages 5 to 8, kids ďdiscover how much they love us.Ē I have never thought of it that way before, but itís true. As Cassidy said, Harry, at three and a half, is pretty much egocentric, but as kids grow, and they get old enough to develop empathy, they see their parents as people (old people, to be sure) who have likes, dislikes, needs, wants, and feelings.
I used to think that at ten years old, a kid is at the perfect age. Heís got a real life of his own, can argue his case against your rules, can hold an interesting conversation, but will still stand for a little cuddling. After ten, itís like John used to say: living with pre-teen kids is like being in the movie ďGhostbusters.Ē When a door opens you never know whatís going to come through it. Now that Iím a grandmother, so far every age is the perfect age.
Thursday morning, they all went off to work and school, and I headed for the Galleria, to return a pair of shoes Cassidy bought me for Christmas that were too small. From there I went to Southdale, to shop for Andie, who will have her fourth birthday this weekend. Sheís been looking forward to this birthday ever since her older sisterís birthday in October. Anyone who has crossed her, which I happened to do a couple of times when she was staying over at my house, would be threatened with the dreaded prospect of being uninvited to her birthday party. When I pointed out that if I didnít come to her birthday party, that would mean there would be no present from me, she would relent. ďOK, you can come to my party, but you had better be good!Ē
Iím not much of a shopper, only going when I absolutely have to. As it was below zero outdoors, I was dressed warmly. Much too warmly to shop. I had on a camisole, shirt, wool sweater, jeans, warm socks and waterproof boots. On top of that was my coat, brand-name Big Chill, woolen mittens, and a woolen scarf. By the time I got to the childrenís store, I was working up a sweat. All the other mothers and grandmothers looked cool, calm, and collected, and I looked like a bag lady from New York City.
I did my shopping as quickly as possible, and got out of there. Too many stores make me nervous. Iím more the downtown shopper, rather than a mall maven. By the time I got to my hotel room, I felt as though I had walked five miles carrying twenty-five pound weights, which is probably close to the truth.
Now Iím on my way to some seminars on the newspaper business, a place where I will feel more comfortable.