Children's views breathe freshness into older, familiar family scenes

Mar 16, 2017 By Betty Starks Case

You might be surprised at some of the spring signs that descend upon your world this time of year, along with the melting snow, singing birds, and sprouts of perennial life.

Emergence from a winter of snow banks places us on alert. We appreciate every contribution to our season of wonder. Like little children, who see our world as new.

Like our visitors from Missoula last week.

Like nephew Rod, his son Clint and wife Annie; like Chance, age 2, and Reece, age one month.

We hadn't met children Chance, Reece, and their mom, Annie. But Rod and Clint had been a part of our lives for all of theirs.

When Clint was a little boy, he and brother Matt visited us often at Pheasant Crest Farm, roasting wieners over a backyard fire, eager participants in fishing and snowmobile trips to the mountains.

We were privileged to play Grandpa and Grandma to them when their own lived far away.

Last week, our memories bloomed like a field of sunny daffodils with tales of Clint's childhood observations, tearing into the house at Pheasant Crest, demanding family adults join him outside, urging, "Well, hurry! It's amazing!"

He was right. The barley stubble had come alive with hundreds of colorful Canada geese arriving for an evening snack, chattering busily as they ate.

Then, after accidentally pushing a sliding van door shut on his brother, there was Clint easing into the house with the sage advice, "Never kiss a hurtin' man."

And one day, haunting Aunt Betty with the puzzling question, "Why was I named after two dead people?"

Clint, now a man with a warm personality and ready smile, laughed with us at the memories, at the table joining in the Johnny Appleseed prayer I always insist we sing because his deceased mom taught it to him.

From its beginning, this day was a special one. Rod brought along the fiddle his grandfather had played years ago at local dances, a family band to which husband Ned and I had danced as teens.

This day, with Rod on his grandad's fiddle, Clint's wife Annie our talented violinist, and Clint on his dad's banjo, a lively band grew before our eyes. And ears.

I handed little Chance a couple of stainless steel bowls, inverted on the carpet before him, along with two long-handled iced-tea spoons. The excited, laughing 2-year-old drummer performed in perfect rhythm with the other musicians.

Chance had never tried this before. But like the Canada geese his daddy saw as a child, Chance's performance was "amazing." Mom Annie grabbed her phone and recorded it. Aunt Betty struggled to dance so Chance could see that his music might enliven even a grandma figure. Uncle/Grandpa Ned cheered us on.

Everyone helped get dinner on the table, a tasty beef-vegetable meal prepared several weeks earlier by Daughter and tucked away in the freezer for just such an occasion. I had only to make a cake and Jell-o for dessert.

Chance had never eaten Jell-o before. The bright red stuff jiggled and jumped as he spooned it happily into (and around) his mouth, grinning across the table at me to be sure I caught the glory of it all.

But did tiny, soft and warm baby Reece get left out of this joyous gathering? He, in fact, assumed a position of rare honor.

Mom Annie, looking for a quiet place to nurse Reece, chose the old oak rocking chair in our bedroom, the rocker with a cherub head carved in the back, the chair that Reece's great-great-great-grandfather had bought as a gift for Reece's "triple-great" grandmother more than 120 years ago.

Somewhere in the rocker's historical body, I suspect, are embedded bits of sawdust from that carpenter grandfather's hands, flour from the hands of the grandmother who operated an early bed and breakfast called a "hotel," a bit of sand or seed from the natural world Reece's great-great-grandfather loved, a few tiny red stones his great-great-grandmother called "rubies," gems that she taught us, by her own example, to seek in others.

The treasured chair has held five generations of children.

And yet, what seemed most memorable to me that day was a reminder that the freshness of a child's view, like a breath of spring itself, continues to awaken us to the wonders of our world.

It is, indeed, "amazing."

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