The day 4-year-old Jeff and I spent together was indeed a rare one. We had finished running some errands when he told me he was hungry. His mother had already told me the name of his favorite restaurant which was not on my personal list of four star establishments.
It’s not that I never eat fast food. Even though I have never in my life had a Big Mac attack, I do occasionally drive through and take the food home. But what’s a grandma to do? Spoil the grandkids of course.
We went into the restaurant, and he ordered his meal. It soon became apparent the cuisine was not his major interest as he headed for the activity center — an amazing amalgam of large, brightly colored, convoluted tubes.
Thinking I was fighting a losing battle, I cautioned, “First you eat, then you play.” Reluctantly he agreed, but he sat where he could watch the other kids playing as he munched.
With half of the meal down he looked at me hopefully and said, “Now?”
I nodded my head and he took off to find a playmate. I watched him closely for a while and things seemed to be going pretty well, so I began to work on my crossword puzzle. Next thing I knew Jeffrey was back. “That orange kid hit me!”
I looked in the direction he pointed and saw a jumbled mass of little boys tumbling out of the mouth of the tubes. The last one out was the smallest of the group. He hit the floor, bounced up, assumed a karate stance and began kickboxing at anyone close to him. He had on an orange shirt.
“Well, sit down and finish your lunch, and maybe he’ll go home,” I counseled.”
Jeff sat down, ate a few more French fries, and announced, “I think I’ll play some more.”
Again he approached the tubes. Again I watched for a while, and then returned to the puzzle.
“He did it again!” Jeff was back.
“Well, go tell his mother.” I took the easy way out.
Jeff approached the mother. “Your kid hit me. It wasn’t a dream. He really did it.”
The young mom looked over at the tubes just as there was another ruckus. She walked over to the noise, extracted the little boy by his orange arm, and announced, “Time out for you!” as she sat him on a chair. He was not a happy camper, but he sat there.
Then I heard a sing-song “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.”
“Jeffrey get over here and finish your lunch,” I ordered. He did.
Within a few minutes both boys were back in the tubes along with a toddler who was not really steady on his feet yet. I heard a “Roar!” followed by Jeffrey reporting “They roared at me!”
Roaring seemed harmless enough, “Go roar back at them,” I suggested.
Within seconds I heard a humongous “ROAR!” from the tubes followed immediately by terrified screams from the toddler.
The mommy went quickly to the tubes and called the little one’s name, assuring him it was OK and he should come to her, but he was too scared to move. He just screamed. Just when it looked like the mommy was going to have to climb up after him, he managed to find his way out and into her arms. He was followed by an abashed Jeff who looked on in amazement at what he had wrought.
When the toddler began to quiet down I ordered Jeff to go tell him he was sorry. Manfully Jeff approached the toddler who was safe in his mommy’s arms. “I’m sorry,” Jeff offered. The little one looked down at Jeff and began to scream again.
The mommy told Jeff and the toddler it was OK, and again quieted the little one.
Jeff returned to me and told me, “I really am sorry.” And he really was.
Finally he went back to the tube. I went back to the puzzle, until I saw the toddler approaching the tube again. But then I heard a soft “Meow” coming from the tube. There sat Jeff, a gentle pussy cat, meowing away as the toddler ran to him laughing.
Author’s Note: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate on April 25, 2001.
Kathleen Floyd is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her column Back Around the House II. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.