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Quality family time just isn’t what it used to be

December 16, 2018

I was visiting my grandchildren recently; they would be considered millennials by today’s definition. Actually, I spent quite a bit of time with them. Over a three-day period, I saw one grandchild for about 20 minutes, which I understand from other grandparents is a lot of time. I know, I know, like I’ve said before, we are very close.

I can’t imagine where he had been the night before, but if I held my breath I could actually squeeze by his car, which was parked between the driveway and the house. Well it wasn’t so much as parked as somehow landed, with the front wheels hanging over the driveway incline that led to a grove of trees. It was kind of like those aircraft carriers where the plane is held back from dropping into the ocean. There are some things, though, best unanswered.  

The other grandchild I noticed was a continuous blur, running in and out, being picked up, answering a cellphone that was attached to her ear and leaving lots of Post-Its as to her destination. This was a little more quality time, as I could get a few words in before a horn blasted outside and the sound of a door slamming was left behind.

I wasn’t so much as visiting as playing traffic warden for the weekend. A babysitting gig.

Of course, there were the mandatory ill-behaved but loveable enormous dogs, who consider themselves lap animals, so that at any given moment a gigantic nose is placed in your face, with one paw holding you down in the easy chair. The only task the kids were supposed to take care of was feeding these beasts, I mean, adorable canines.

Apparently, the mere question makes everyone disappear faster than you can pull the plug on a piece of burning toast. I don’t have animals anymore, so I don’t know what causes this sudden exit either. Maybe it’s the backbreaking chore of putting a cup of food into a dish on the floor. Yeah, that’s a real killer. The question of has anyone fed the dog is never answered.

It was a quick weekend, and eventually it was time to leave the chaos of phones ringing, bells beeping, doors wide open, dogs barking, Chinese delivery men, and dozens of kids opening and shutting the refrigerator.

However, when I stepped onto the back porch to go to my car, I saw something that took me back years. It was an abandoned swing set in the back yard.

Two separate swings hung down silently from the middle of a wooden crossbeam that stretched the length of the structure. The swing set looked lonely and vulnerable perched between majestic trees of oak and evergreens. No one came to play anymore; you could tell this even though you didn’t live here.

But the old gal stood her ground, refusing to cede any territory and be hauled away as if she no longer mattered. Every now and then the breeze would rustle, pushing the swing forward ever so slightly and then slowly exhale to bring the seat back in line. A few leftover leaves drifted down, like ballerinas twisting and spinning gracefully. If the old gal could talk, she would no doubt regale you with tales of young children full of games and songs.

I often think that is what is missing in our society, a return to basics, the simple things, the imagination and dream inventors. Sometimes, you do have to stop what you are doing and look around.

OK, now who hung a pair of panty hose from my car antenna? Thank heaven playing pranks hasn’t gone out of style. Check it out, another slice of life.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.