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             A few childhood stories.

These are bits of childhood stories, mainly in the ages 3 to 5 range.
        As a child, I had several wind-up toys with a mainspring and no regulator.  These ran very fast when fully wound up, then slower, and slower, and finally stopped.  Observing the behavior of children around me, parents, grandparents, and my one surviving great-grandmother Mary Spear (who I remember only as a nearly immobile figure in a darkened room in a nursing home), I concluded that people had a mainspring too, and were born with it fully wound up; they started running very fast, then ran slower as parents, even slower as grandparents, and, at the great-grandparent stage, finally stopped.  I haven't met anyone else who confesses to having had precisely this view, but wanted to collect a few more conceptions I recall from my daughter and nieces.
        My daughter Jilana Ordman, at that age, would tell me how she was going to take care of me "when I get to be big and you get to be little."  At the same age, she had a few other misunderstandings.  Once, in Henniker, NH, I recall her scratching a mosquito bite.  I put some anti-itch ointment on it.  She got quite angry: "That was fun.  Don't take it away.  Give me back my mosquito bite."  When a finger or whatever hurt (mildly, not a real injury), I'd sometimes tease by offering to unscrew the affected part and put it in the freezer until it got better.  This image usually evoked enough laughter to cause the hurt to be forgotten.  I think it wasn't until Jilana was 8 or so that she banged a finger badly enough to say, "You know, this really hurts.  This time I really wish you could just take it and put it in the freezer."  I went and got an ice pack and put it on the finger.  She said, "Hey.  It really works.  And all that time I thought that freezing it was just a joke."
         When my niece Katrin was just starting to talk, I asked her what she' d like to be when she grew up.  Apparently the question was brand new to her, and she asked what it meant.  "What do you want to be when you get big?"  "How big?"  "As big as you want."  She now thought this over at some length, and then answered.  "A fire truck".  Well, it was probably the biggest thing she could think of.
          My grandmother Elizabeth Sisson, 'Gaga', gave her great-granddaughters Jilana and Katrin toy frogs (floppy cloth, filled with something); Katrin's was blue and Jilana's pink.  Jilana's became a very favorite toy - almost in the security-blanket category.  It always came with us on our visits and got rides on all available airport conveyor belts.  (I think Jilana thought the conveyor belts were there just to give rides to the frog, and she couldn't understand why anyone would want to put a suitcase on one.  Suitcases were no where near as much fun as pink frogs.)
       Some time after, in a conversation, Katrin announced "I wish I were Jilana".  "Why?" we asked.  "Do you like Jilana's house better than yours?"  Long thought.  "No, I like my house better.  But I still wish I were Jilana instead of Katrin."  "Do you like Jilana's daddy's car better?"  Long thought.  "No, I like my daddy's car better.  But I still wish I were Jilana insrtead of Katrin."  We went through several more options, testing our adult insecurities, before we had sense to just ask the open-ended "Why do you wish you were Jilana?"  "Well, if I was Jilana, my frog would be pink instead of blue."

       I married late into Eunice's household; her son Tom was only about five years younger than me and already married.  So there was no need for her kids to really accept me into the family and the acceptance I received was phenomenal.  A few brief stories:

       Around 1986, Tom's wife Sandy Niles and their kids (then Holly and Jenny, ages about 5 and 3) had spent the morning with Sandy's parents, who were rather elderly and where the girls had to be quiet and well-behaved.  They came over to our place for the afternoon, and the kids let off steam.  Holly was playing with the doll house, but Jenny had me on the floor and was (almost) jumping upo and down on me.  Sitting on my tummy, she sat up to her full height and announced delightedly, "You aren't ‘nother Grampie.  You're ‘nother Daddy".  I regarded this as a real compliment, both to me and to Tom.  Sandy thought the remark over and added, "You know, I was born late enough in my parents' lives that I didn't have any really functioning grandparents.  I just realized that out of this deal, my kids not only get a grandfather young enough that they can really play with him, but with any luck at all"  (counting on fingers) "their children will have a functioning  great-grandfather."

       Bill Stetson, Eunice's number two son, married a girl Karen enough younger that her father Greg was the first opposite father-in-law I had who was my age.  Unfortunately, he died suddenly soon after Bill and Karen's first son was born; their second son was named after him.  Karen felt the loss of her father intensely, and as the first of her three boys learned to talk, she approached me about a problem.  "Would you mind if I taught the boys to call you Chip, instead of Grampa?"  No,  I wouldn't mind at all.  And so it was for several years.  But some years later, a few families were sitting in Bill and Karen's front yard: parents and grandparents sitting in lawn chairs as the kids attempted to play baseball.  One of Karen's boys (perhaps the youngest, Jacob) detached from the kids and came over to Karen.  "Mom, I just found out that Chip is Gabe's Grampa.  Can he be our Grampa too?"  Karent turned to me.  "Chip, you are now Grampa."  I feel honored.

       Our relationship with Bill and Karen is good enough that I can tell a story on Bill.  Eunice and I were in Kids R Us in Manchester, New Hampshire, shopping for Christmas presents for Bill and Karen's three boys.  Not being sure what was needed, Eunice called Bill from a pay phone to ask questions.  As they talked, her change ran out; Bill said he'd call back.  But the pay phone had no ringer.  A few minutes later, the store manager paged "Telephone Call for Mrs.  Ordman".  She went to the manager's desk; it was Bill, and he described which presents would work.  Eunice left me to finish up gathering things at Kids R Us while she went next door to Toys R Us.
      A few minutes later I was at the checkout counter with our purchases.  More clerks than usual seemed to be around, but I didn't notice it much.  However, when I took out cash to pay for the purchases, their faces fell.  "Oh", said one, "we were hoping you'd use a credit card."  "Ok, " I said, taking out a credit card, "but why?"  "We wanted to find out your name."  "Ok, but why?"
    "Well, a few minutes ago, I got that phone call at the manager's desk and paged your wife. This man called, and he said, ‘Would you please page my mom?'  I said, ‘Sure, what's your mom's name?'  He said, ‘She's Mrs.  Stetson.  No, wait a minute, she's Mrs.  Niles.  No, wait a minute,' and then he must have hollered at his wife in another room, but it sounded real loud, ‘Honey, what's my mom's name?'."

(C) Edward Ordman 2001

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