Their parents were out for the night. Ginny and I were the senior babysitters. Oh joy!
“Poppa Mike, I want a banana,” three-year-old Elizabeth demanded.
“I want a banana?”
I frowned at her. “Excuse me, young lady. That’s not the way to ask.”
“Poppa Mike, can I have a banana please?”
“Better! Yes you may.” I handed her a banana.
“Not that one, Poppa.”
“What’s wrong with this one?”
“I want one with a sticker.”
“Oh!” I looked at the bunch on the counter and saw one of the them had a blue sticker with the brand name on it and handed it to her. “This one?”
“Yes, Poppa!” She smiled and accepted the banana. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Elizabeth.”
Before she peeled the banana, she took the sticker off. “Here, Poppa Mike.”
“You want me to have the sticker?”
“Put it here.” she said and pointed to her forehead.
I took it and reached to put it on her head.
“No!” She stepped back. “Yours!”
“On my head?”
“You do it!” I told her. She took the sticker and stuck it on my forehead. “Make sure it’s on good.” I warned her. “We don’t want to have it fall off.” She slapped my head hard. I pretended to fall over.
“You’re silly, Poppa.”
“Of course!” I smiled and hugged her.
Later in the evening, Ginny said, “Well, let’s get these kids fed!” She clapped her hands. “Boys!” she called. “Time to eat!”
Elizabeth, put her order in, but her three brothers hadn’t come to the table yet. “Boys, put that game away and come eat,” Ginny yelled.
We listened to the stomp of six feet and a chorus of arguing over who got to play the video game next. They burst into the dining room with all the grace of a pack dogs on the scent of a rabbit.
Ginny and I refereed the meal until they finished eating (bickering) and managed to get Elizabeth to eat at least some of her meal.
I looked at Ginny. She looked at me. We sighed. “Ginny, is this what being a grandpa is all about? I don’t know if I can get through this,” I whined and turned to help with the dishes.
“Tag! You’re it, Poppa!”
I turned, saw Elizabeth running away, looked at Ginny and said, “Well, I guess I better play. She’s been begging to play tag all day.” I ran after the fleeing, giggling little girl.
I caught her in the hall. “Tag! You’re it!” I yelled and ran the other way.
The three boys joined in. It was mayhem. We ran through the house. No room was sacred. The game went from tag to a new version we called hide-and-tag.
I hid in the laundry room. I heard Seth, the oldest, approach. He was it. I held my breath. The door began to open. I threw it open and screamed. He yelled, fell backward, hit the wall, and slid to the floor. “Ha!” I yelled, and ran off with him in pursuit. He cornered me in one of the bedrooms.
I was it. I tagged Elizabeth. She caught one of her older brothers, who chased after me. I was the grandpa and the favorite target. I didn’t make it easy. I opened the door to the garage and slipped inside. On the floor was a large box. I got on my knees, pulled the box over me and waited. The thumping of their feet passed the door and back again.
Benny, he’s seven, opened the door. “He’s not in here!” He closed the door.
Josh, he’s nine, said, “It’s the only place we haven’t looked. He has to be here.”
They opened the door again.
The box moved.
They stepped back.
The box stood six feet tall and growled.
The boys screamed.
The box burst through the door after two screaming boys.
For two hours we wore a path in the carpet chasing each other.
It was time to tuck them in for the night.
The house was quiet. I hugged Ginny. The night was done. In the bathroom, I washed up, brushed my teeth, and looked in the mirror. In the middle of my forehead was the sticker from the banana. It had been there for three hours.
Did I care? No! I looked in the mirror and thought, That’s a grandpa.