The Secretary of Health and Human Services at our house and I were invited to enjoy a few days of babysitting. As card-carrying grandparents, the task was appealing — the only challenge being having to deal with a 10-minute attention span.
The weather, so long delayed, finally gave us 70 degrees of nature’s finest. That increased the options for entertainment several times over. We ran from thing to thing — actually, our 4-year-old charge ran while we shuffled along behind — including dashing over to the neighbor’s backyard trampoline and jumping up and down 100 times while the grandparents counted. Then, without needing to catch a breath, he broke out the bread to feed the birds. And then finally, when we needed to take a break, he loaded a CD movie and got it to play after those of us with three generations worth of figuring things out, couldn’t get it done. “You guys need to have patience,” the 4-year-old said, as he proudly sat back to watch the first scenes.
But the highlight of the weekend was our fishing trip. To go on a pretend fishing trip, all you need are a few back steps or a few front steps attached to your house. Then sit on one of them. The 4-year-old ran around the yard and picked up enough twigs and sticks to create a fire, which was pretend because we didn’t have any real matches.
Then he ran around and found three sticks about a yard long each, one for each grandparent and one for himself.
“Let’s fish,” he said, taking his place between us.
We sat there for about 15 seconds until he said, “Grandpa, how come you haven’t caught any fish yet?”
I wanted to say, “Who do you think I am, Babe Winkelman?” but instead I said, “I don’t know. I guess they’re not biting today.”
Not to be denied, he sat there for another 10 seconds, then hollered, “I think I got one,” and pulled on his stick. Sure enough, if you closed your eyes just a bit, you could see that he had a nice pretend walleye. He wrestled with it for a few seconds, and then pulled it up above the imaginary dock. Then turned to his grandma and said, “Here, grandma, take it off the hook, and then you cook it.”
So grandma took the pretend fish off the line, rolled it in some imaginary breadcrumbs, tossed on a little imaginary salt and pepper for taste and put it over the imaginary fire.
Not surprisingly, it was ready to eat in about 15 seconds. I have to say, grandma is a good cook. I’ve had worse tasting walleye than that one.
After we each had a bite, we went back to fishing. After another 15 seconds, he asked, “Grandpa, how come you haven’t caught any.”
I said, “They aren’t biting over here.”
Then I added, “It looks like they’re just biting where you are.” So then I put my stick, er, rod, in front of him, and suddenly I could feel the pull. I could have sworn that stick bent almost to the water, and when I pulled back, it was all I could do to keep from losing that monster. I rocked back and forth and hollered, “It must be a whopper.”
Finally, after almost being pulled off the dock, er, porch, I reeled it in. The 4-year-old asked, “What kind of fish is it?” and I replied, “It’s a tuna.”
Then we had the most extraordinary day of fishing any three anglers have ever had. He caught a shark, and I caught a sturgeon. Then he caught a frog and I caught a sunny. Grandma kept busy rolling them in the imaginary bread crumbs, adding a dash of imaginary salt and pepper, and cooking them to perfection over the imaginary flames.
We all took imaginary bites until we were almost stuffed.
Then he caught a minnow, but we told him to throw it back so it could grow up like the big boys. And then finally, I pulled up an old overshoe. Grandma said, “You mean boot; not everyone may know what an ‘overshoe’ is.”
And the 4-year-old said, eyes wide, “Are you going to eat that thing?”
And I said, “No, it’s all dirty and yucky. It’s probably been under the water since some 4-year-old threw them away 2 zillion and two years ago. And besides, the rubber skin doesn’t cook very well. It’s kind of hard to chew.”
Well, that did give the 4-year-old something to chew on for a while, but after 10 seconds, it was time to change the subject, so he asked what kind of bait we were using. He was using worms, and grandma used a minnow, but I said I preferred leeches.
He said, “What are those?”
And then grandma inteervened, saying, “Those are nasty. He doesn’t use blood-sucking leeches?”
Now, how would grandma know that? She couldn’t see into my imaginary bait bucket.
But, God’s honest truth, that’s how our afternoon went on the first “real” spring day of the year.
While we basked in the warm breezes coming across the river on which the 4-year-old lives, we watched a couple of real Canadian honkers and a few mallards eat the bread we had thrown down by the water. We caught any kind of imaginary fish that we wanted to catch. And we pretended that the possibilities of this new season are endless, just as they should be for any 4-year-old.
Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Peach. Reach him at (320) 352-6569 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.