Our house is full this week, with our son and his family visiting us from Texas. Our grandson's bright and bubbly laughter is a welcome intrusion in these normally quiet spaces.
They have been visiting us annually each summer for the past four years, and there are certain things that must be done during each visit to Grammy and Papa’s house - things like a trip to the “bread store” in downtown Northville and walking the dogs to get the daily mail. There are certain toys that must be in their accustomed spaces - the parking garage on one corner of the coffee table, a stack of books on the other. In just four short summers we have already established traditions and rituals that he remembers and counts on.
But each year things change. He grows physically and emotionally. His interests and desires change along with his height and shoe size. Now he eats Panda Puffs for breakfast instead of toast or scrambled eggs. He dashes into new places with increased confidence and enthusiasm instead of hanging onto Mommy’s hand. He plays less with toy cars and more with the drawing app on his iPad. He reads books on his own sometimes, instead of always curling up in someone’s lap.
I observe this all with great delight. He is a remarkable child in many ways, and I say this not as a proud grandmother (though I am that of course) but simply as a person who is interested in human behavior. Connor has a rare equanimity - he takes life as it comes and is nearly always enthusiastic about it. He rarely complains, rarely asks for anything, and simply enjoys each little moment. His current obsessions are music (specifically the piano and harp) and the instrument panels of the family cars. He listens to the Handel Harp Concerto, and Scarlatti Piano Sonatas, standing with his ear close to the Bose speakers near my dining room table and humming along.
When I think back, I recall my son having similar characteristics at age four. Happy, outgoing, regaling anyone who would listen with never-ending tales of imaginary friends and stuffed animals prone to disastrous behaviors. But, as I told my daughter-in-law the other day, Brian changed a lot when he started regular school - he became less confident, more withdrawn, fairly consistently unhappy. Looking back, I feel like the world broke him a little bit, sort of like a wild horse gets broken to the saddle, with repetitive tugging on the reins of his imagination and creativity.
Truth is, the world breaks us all a little bit. Sometimes our efforts are not appreciated, leaving us feeling incompetent; sometimes they are taken for granted, making us angry. Sometimes people we love disappoint us, and we’re hurt. Sometimes, they leave us forever, and we’re bereft. I would give everything I own to insure Connor keeps his beautiful, happy, inquisitive nature. But no matter how hard I try, something (or someone) will someday break him, at least a little bit.
Which is why I am reveling in this summer’s full house. This morning, my son’s two best friends are here, ensconced in the basement with board games and donuts, their boisterous laughter a familiar sound from similar get-togethers during their high school days. Connor is humming a tune as he eats lunch. Molly sits at his feet, waiting expectantly for a morsel to fall on the floor. Later we will go to a picnic, and then for an evening walk with the hope of seeing deer wandering in a friend’s neighborhood.
This is a full life for me, the kind of full life I want for Connor. I don’t ask the world to give him any more than this for the rest of his long, long days.
I just ask it go gently with him, and leave him as unbroken as possible.