I used to think my grandkids were excited to see me when I walked through their back door for one of my daytrip visits. It is with great humility that I acknowledge the real reason they welcome my arrival: they want to finish my Coke.
Since it is a three-hour drive to their house, I have gotten into the habit of stopping at a McDonald's about an hour from my destination and picking up a large Coke to provide company and solace the rest of the way. I should have been suspicious last time when, strangely and inexplicably, my straw took on the flavor of the chicken nuggets the kids had eaten for lunch. "Who's been drinking my Coke?" I asked in my best Mama Bear style. That time, Sooby looked especially guilty.
What followed was a ritual I have come to think of as The Dispensing of the Ice. This involves removing the lid from the cup, digging out cubes of ice one at a time, putting them on the upside-down lid, and letting the kids take turns picking them off and eating them. Yesterday, even Bootsie got in the action. "Bite!" she demanded over and over, and, well, who could resist that?
When the ritual is properly elongated, it consumes about the first ten minutes of my visit. Of course, by the time we are through, there are ice cubes melting on the floor and between the cushions of the sofa. All I can say is, thank goodness you can depend on water to evaporate.
Yesterday, The Dispensing of the Ice was the opening act for Dinosaur Day. I had taken along a couple dinosaur stories, a dinosaur pinball game, and a box of dominoes that, instead of the usual numbered dots, feature various species of the terrible lizard family. In no time the kids' vocabulary had expanded to include the likes of stegosaurus, triceratops, and tyrannosaurus rex. Then, while Pooh and I were engrossed in an especially competitive round of dinosaur pinball (he had just scored an elasmosaurus for 100 points), Sooby disappeared.
She came back with her arms and face covered in white strips that looked like tape. Upon closer inspection, they proved to be rectangular white adhesive labels from among her mama's school supplies. Yes, Sooby had transformed herself into a set of dinosaur bones. She curled up her lips to bare her teeth (which we learned might be as much as six inches long), and there was no question that time had moved backward and a T-rex had landed in our midst.
A cup of ice. A sheet of labels. These are the simplest of things. And yet, somehow, they are the stuff that forges bonds and cements relationships.
The ice melts and the adhesive finally wears off. But the world of a child's imagination is vast, and the cold, sticky sweetness of a day like this lasts forever.