19: An Idyll of Idleness

19: An Idyll of Idleness

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


An Idyll of Idleness

Children will not remember you for the material things you provided, but for the feeling that you cherished them.

~Richard L. Evans

We had so many plans. We would take our visitors to the movies, to the park, to a toy store, to a place where they could play miniature golf.

We would also try to schedule a visit to the science museum and maybe the aquarium, too.

We would cram all of this into the two-day visit of our youngest grandchildren who had cleared their own incredibly busy calendars for some Grandma-Grandpa time.

Seven-year-old Emily and six-year-old Carly arrived toting suitcases into which they had stuffed what seemed to be all their earthly belongings. Coloring books and crayons, electronic gizmos, toys of all sorts and descriptions. In other words, loads of “stuff.”

Along with marveling at the accumulation of excess baggage, I also noticed that these two tiny girls looked exhausted. Downright spent.

Small wonder. Like so many modern kids, they have activities that seem off the charts. What were we thinking?

I took my husband aside, and in a hurried kitchen conference, we decided to make a drastic change in those carefully outlined plans. We would scrap them all.

We would do… nothing. Absolutely nothing. At least it would be a novelty.

And if our grandchildren balked — if they viewed the formless two days as cruel and unusual punishment — we’d make up for it the next time.

Step One: everyone into pajamas. Yes, pajamas. So what if it was four in the afternoon — and broad daylight? It would set the mood.

Initially, Emily and Carly exchanged knowing glances, the “Boy, they’re crazy!” looks. And who could blame them? Our usual visits were dizzyingly active, and this was clearly at the opposite pole.

But soon enough, the suitcases had been emptied, and pajamas were the uniform of the moment. For Grandma and Grandpa too. It felt downright decadent.

“So what do we do now?” Emily, always the pragmatist, demanded to know. And she soon found out.

We sat around in the family room, dug out a deck of ancient cards and played Go Fish! Never mind who won.

Then we made a great big meatloaf, with our granddaughters beating egg whites until they were like shaving cream — their great-grandmother’s secret for a delicious loaf. I loved watching them as they took turns mixing the ingredients in the biggest bowl we own, and then concocting a ketchup sauce to pour on top of the whole lopsided loaf.

Dinner took an hour instead of our usual fifteen minutes. That was because we sat around the kitchen table and told silly stories, with Grandpa illustrating them with cartoons. I didn’t rush to clean up because I’ve finally learned that the dishes can wait — but kids sometimes can’t. It’s a lesson I wished I’d learned with my own daughters.

Our “glamorous” evening consisted of watching the Dr. Doolittle video that our grandchildren had seen at least three times, but still loved, and then eating popsicles at the kitchen table.

Bedtime, sometimes a struggle, wasn’t this time. Our visitors were happy, sleepy and delighted to hear me tell the story of Cinderella, hamming it up of course, just like we used to do before life’s complictions got in the way.

We spent the next day playing a fierce game of Frisbee in the yard, having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches outside under a tree, and taking two walks. We also colored, finished a multi-part crossword puzzle, and polished off a pepperoni pizza.

We laughed a lot, sang a few nonsense songs, and watched the girls’ favorite Nickelodeon shows.

When it was time to return our overnight visitors to their parents, they honestly didn’t want to leave. “Do we have to?” Carly asked woefully. Our idyll of idleness had clearly been the perfect early summer balm that this tired little girl needed.

Of course, we assured Carly and Emily that we’d definitely do absolutely nothing again soon.

And I think they understood, perhaps for the first time, that doing nothing is actually… quite something.

~Sally Friedman


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