Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pa Choo-Choo

My parents and my in-laws visited us for 10 days around LL's birthday. I already recounted how the weekend didn't go quite as planned, but I didn't want to skip the fact that most of the visit went wonderfully, fantastically, joyfully well (debilitating fevers and emergency ambulance rides notwithstanding).

My parents and my grandfather and my uncle arrived first. It had been three months since they saw LL, and he was a bit shy and reserved during that visit. He had been a little cautious, a little quiet, a little hesitant to let anybody hold him. This time around, it was like we had suddenly presented him with four of the best playmates he had ever met. LL previously knew how to say "Mama", "Daddy", and the name of exactly one of his friends. He didn't have names for anybody else, including Rosie and Natasha, whom he sees for many hours every single week. Yet he had given obvious names to all four of the visiting relatives within an hour of their arrival. (Grandma was "Baba", Grandpa and Great-Grandpa were both initially "Pa", though he offered better distinguishing names later, and he called my uncle by his first name.) He insisted that all four of them accompany him everywhere. (It made for a very crowded bedroom during diaper changes, because everybody had to be within eyesight or LL complained and called out for whoever was missing.) When we went for a walk, LL anxiously kept everybody close, and if anyone fell behind, LL would run back to the straggler, take his hand, and drag him forward to join the group. We have a "no shoes" rule in our house, and each time people arrived, LL helped them to take off their shoes, then helpfully brought the correct shoes to each person when they were ready to leave.

The most awesome part of all of this was LL's interaction with my grandfather. My grandfather is 88 years old. He adores children, but he's just not able to play with them as actively as he used to. (He is, I think, fairly active for an 88-year-old -- he lives independently, works a part-time job, and flies cross-country to visit me and LL a few times a year -- but he's also, you know, 88 years old.) He has four (soon to be five!) great-grandchildren, but since he's usually with my parents when he visits them, he kind of gets treated as a backup to my parents, who are the grandparents, the main attraction. He has complained to me in the past that he doesn't think that my nieces and nephews like playing with him, and it makes him sad to feel left out of the fun.

Anyway, in addition to a traditional birthday gift for LL, my grandfather also brought two smaller gifts that he gave to LL as soon as he arrived. The first was a little foam baseball that he got for free at a baseball game. The second was a train book, because he knows that LL loves trains. ("Train book" is a little misleading -- my grandfather brought a 150-page catalog of high-end hobbyist collectible model trains that he picked up at a collector's convention.) (Note that my grandfather does not collect trains, he just happened to notice the convention going on so he stopped to pick up a free catalog for LL.) When LL saw the train book, he went wild for it. He took my grandfather's hand, dragged him to the couch, made him sit down, climbed up onto the couch next to him, and demanded that my grandfather "read" the book to him. Together, they read through all 150 pages of that catalog. On each page, LL would point to each train and yell, "Choo-choo! More choo-choos! More choo-choos!" and then my grandfather would try to say something descriptive about what they were looking at. ("That's a coal car, circa 1940. That one is a passenger car. Oooh, that train car is red! Look, there's a caboose!") For 150 pages.

When they finished the catalog, LL got the little foam baseball and played catch with my grandfather for a good hour. He let other people play a bit, but if any of the rest of us held onto the ball for too long, LL would run over and retrieve it from us, saying "No, Pa Choo-Choo's ball!" ("Pa Choo-Choo" should not be confused with my father, who became known as "Pa Itsy-Bitsy", because apparently he does an awesome Itsy Bitsy Spider.) My grandfather was in total heaven.

I should also note that the morning after everyone had arrived, LL woke up at 4:00am, and when I went to see what he needed, he told me that he wanted to sit in his rocking chair with Pa Choo-Choo. I told him that Pa Choo-Choo was sleeping, because it was nighttime, but he would be back in the morning. With that explanation, LL consented to sit in his chair with me, but only until Pa Choo-Choo arrived. And indeed, LL sat in my lap from 4:00am on, dozing off occasionally, but waking up regularly to ask if Pa Choo-Choo was there yet. And when Pa Choo-Choo finally arrived, LL ran to him, took off his shoes, dragged him to the couch, sat him down, handed him both the train catalog and the baseball, sat down next to him, and they read the entire 150-page catalog again.

Over the course of their visit, LL developed similar special games with each of the visiting relatives. Everybody felt bathed in LL's attention, nobody felt left out. We were a little nervous that he would ignore S's parents once they arrived several days later, but he immediately latched onto them with the same ferocity.

We went to the zoo, we went to a toddler amusement park, we went to the park, we played in the yard. S and I even went to work on several days while LL stayed with whichever grandparents were around at the time, so he got lots of time with grandparents and without Mom and Dad as well.

We're back into our normal daily routine now, and LL is still asking about when his grandparents will be back. Poor kid doesn't quite understand that the next time he sees them will be in January, when they all plan to visit after Kermit is born. We'll do plenty of computer video chats between now and then, but I'm a little nervous to see how he handles not being the center of their world. But for now, I'm just so thrilled that I have photos and videos of LL adoringly playing with older relatives, especially with Pa Choo-Choo.

1 comment:

  1. Aww, what a very sweet boy! And how sweet of Pa Choo-Choo to read that entire catalog- twice!

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