In honor of Mother’s Day last week, I have decided to cut my adult daughters some slack. Instead of groaning about the myriad odd little things they do to keep me on my toes, make sure I don’t die of boredom, and reinforce my desire to run off to Tahiti, I have decided to write about some of the other little things they have brought into my life–my grandchildren–and what they have taught me.

One thing I’ve learned about lessons is that the best ones are generally disguised as something else. Take “Hello, Possum,” for instance. This is a simple little game I invented when my first grandchild was  eighteen months old. I’d pick her up, wrap her chubby legs as far around my waist as they would go, get a good grip on her back with one arm, cradle her head in my other hand, and bend over at the waist until she was hanging upside down. “Hello, possum,” I’d say, and she would giggle in delight. I’d stand up, swinging her against my chest in the process, and we’d start all over again. It was our own private game; nobody was as good at playing Possum as G.G. Indeed, no one was allowed to try.

That first grandchild has been joined by five others, and all five have been treated to “Hello, Possum,” all with the same giggling delight and pleas IMG_0988to “do it again, do it again.” Several months ago, the youngest had her very first game, and though, at one year old, she didn’t have the words yet, I could see them in her eyes–“do it again, do it again!” And so, of course, I did. Perhaps that’s why my back hurt so badly the next day.

I realize I can’t always do it again, or ever again, with most of my grandchildren. That first chubby-legged granddaughter is now a long-limbed beauty of nearly thirteen, and her two brothers are built like miniature smokestacks, heavy boned and sturdy. The next-oldest granddaughter is seven and has legs like a racehorse. The last time we played “Hello, Possum,” her head missed scraping the floor by a quarter of an inch, and I fear her Possum days will soon be over. Her younger sister, at age five, ought to have a few more Possum years ahead of her, but she already outweighs her sister by a good ten pounds, and I suspect my back will insist on a premature termination of our favorite game.

I remember playing “Shoot the Bear” with my grandmother. We’d sit cross-legged on the bed (evidently she valued her back more than I value mine), and one of us would be the bear, the other the Indian. The bear would hold an embroidery hoop–the “bear’s cave”–close to her face, and the Indian would pull back on an imaginary bow and shoot the bear with an imaginary arrow. We’d switch roles and play it over and over, until the Indian ran out of arrows or the bear decided it was time to hibernate or Truth or Consequences came on TV.

Of course, the lesson learned here is that one should think hard about the consequences of any action and remember to factor in the cost of Aleve, Bio-Freeze, and chiropractor appointments. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t give up the Possum game for anything.  Perhaps one day a grandchild will write about playing “Hello, Possum” with G.G., and that will be well worth a few backaches. What do you think?

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And, sometimes, when grandkids get too big to be possums, they turn into Bunnies Gone Bad.