The Good Life: From Pitter Patter To ‘Ow! That Hurt!’
Christmastime reintroduced us to the pitter-patter of little feet.
Great-granddaughter Aurora provided the pitter and the patter in zip-ah-de-doo-dah fashion. My extended family birthday spreadsheet tells me that Aurora is 2.37 years old.
She and her parents were overnight guests on the eve of our Bonavita extended family get-together. This year, 26 attended. Another 10 could not make it.
The get-together was just my side of the family. On Christmas Day itself, another nine of us on my wife’s side gathered at the New Jersey home of her older son.
The spreadsheet is expanding. Three more great-grandchildren are due before spring. Weddings later in the year will bring more names. Inevitably, those unions will lead to more births.
The spreadsheet showcases some bittersweet coincidences. The anniversary of my father’s death is also the birthday of my oldest grandson’s wife. My birthday coincides with the birthday of a brother-in-law and with the anniversary of the death of one of my grandchildren.
Somber entries evoke somber moments – for just a minute or two.
Then … Pitter-patter, patter-pitter, da-dum, da-DUM! Aurora moves in bursts, black hair streaming behind her bobbing head, gleefully flinging her compact pajama-clad body onto her bed.
The sound brightens the entire house as surely as the morning sun lightens its east-facing rooms.
Longfellow got it pretty nearly perfect in his “The Children’s Hour:”
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.
I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.
For me, though, the biggest smile-producer was not Aurora’s bubbly cheerfulness or her zooming. I grinned widely at the one or two times when Aurora, normally placid and agreeable to whatever is happening around her, was told that she had to quit doing something or that she could not start to do something.
Her eyebrows merged.
In our family, that is a multigenerational sight. Her father, Nick, my oldest grandchild, scrunched his forehead into one eyebrow whenever he said, “I don’t want to; you can’t MAKE me!” — and he said that a lot. Aurora’s grandfather, Chris, my oldest child, scrunched into that one-eyebrow grimace whenever he lived down to his nickname, “Chief Thundercloud.”
It is good when God allows someone to live long enough to see a grandchild be as much of a pain in the butt to his Dad as the Dad was to me.
It is even better; it is Nirvana to see a great-grandchild send both her father and grandfather into a sputtering standoff that prompts me to chortle, “You deserve that! Now, it is your turn!”
Daughters-in-law don’t quite see the humor. My advice to them? Leave the room. Let Dads handle the Dad-clones.
This year, there was a significant age gap between Aurora and her Uncle Max, the next-to-youngest grandchild in attendance.
Max is 11. His feet no longer pitter. They don’t even patter. Max is in sixth grade. Sixth-grade boys clomp.
Grandchildren who could have bridged the age gap, Cody, age 7, and Emily, age 4, stayed in Virginia this year with my younger daughter and her husband. I think pitter-pattering ends for most children at somewhere between those ages. But I won’t know for sure until early April, when we are scheduled to visit those youngsters and their parents. I shall bring a hearing assistant device to detect the sound patterns.
It takes some years after pitter pattering stops before I start to get a stiff neck when I am around grandchildren and, for that matter, nephews.
I am the shortest uncle and, at 5 feet, 7 inches, the shortest grandfather. I was the shortest even when, a decade or so ago before spinal compression took hold, I stood at 5 feet eight inches tall.
Teenage grandsons, especially those between about 13 and 16, delight in walking right up to me, actually intruding into my comfort zone, looming over me, and grinning smugly when I need to tip my head up to look them in their eyes. They love it when they grow taller than I am. Sometimes, they even brag about it.
I am usually forbearing and patient. Only rarely do I step onto toes or kick a shin to force the taller-than-I grandchild to stoop to my level or lower.
“Oh! Did I do that?” I will exclaim, ever so sorrowfully.
Gee. It seems like just yesterday that you were the one producing the pitter-patter of little feet.
Just rub that sore spot. It should not hurt for too long – unless you mock me again.
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.