A Toolbox Full of Grandkids

Every tool in a toolbox has been uniquely designed. Size, composition and form, and even function have been carefully considered in its creation. I tend to think the Good Lord took such care when creating my seven grandkids. Yes, God works in lovely ways. The toolbox itself is a work of art. It encases seven little lives. It is the result of years of good work by good parents taking good care of good kids and harboring and corralling good habits and manners. I wonder. What kind of tool would my grandkids be?

When I need a tool, I’m usually looking to solve a problem. As I open the lid, the first thing I see is Megan. She is my carpenter’s pencil. She’s right on top. She thinks, she figures, she solves step by step: notes, cautious observations, calculated decisions, then revisions, and finally results. “Hmmmmm,” she resonates thoughtful tones. No problem if calculations don’t work the first time because my little pencil doesn’t care how many minutes, hours, days or weeks are needed to find the answer. Fretting, worrying, and contemplating kick in; it’s all part of finding answers. Problems will be calculated again and again until the absolute, perfect, final, undisputed, and most certain answer is found. Then, that tiny, positive, little smile shows up, “Hmmmm,” and I know she is satisfied with her findings. And, my little pencil … she glides like a little gel pen. She makes her way through life with style, grace and unwavering direction. Yes, my little pencil accomplishes a whole lot of stuff!

Now, right next to the pencil, and sitting in the top tray, ready to work, ready to pop into a job is my tape measure, Emily. She is ready to pop into or out of an area of discovery at a moment’s notice. Her eyes flash as she spots something to examine. Like a tape measure, her hands zip out to capture, analyze, and assess a leaf or bug, or any kind of anything. She appraises and delights in her discovery. She might extend herself fully, or she might just do her figuring in close quarters if she feels exceptionally thoughtful.

You or I might end up tripping over her when she’s fully engaged. She spreads out and reels in. Part of her is here and part of her is there. Out and in, thinking and playing, out and in, studying and drawing, out and in …. I tell her mother that Emily is really more of an amoeba: you can’t pinpoint her beginning or her ending. She’s just everywhere all the time. Her work and play areas flow and spread and seep and gush: like a tape measure … in and out ….

If I want something done now; fast, hard, furious, and NOW, I reach for my hammer, Hannah. No pain, no gain; that’s her motto. Do it, get it over with! Be done with it. OH, and don’t try to change her mind. Don’t try to reason with her. Don’t try to explain. She’s got it! She doesn’t need any tapping, tacking, or rapping. She knows you get something done by pounding through it. Black and white; no gray. Right and wrong: no melancholy ifs. Up or down, soft or hard, there’s no middle ground. Commit and just do it! I recall so many politicians, clergy, and officials with nicknames of “The Hammer” and I know Hannah is right behind them on the road to success. If she puts her mind to it, it will be done. Sometimes, I think Hannah sees everyone and everything as a nail. But like all hammers, the handle is form-fitting, and it feels just right when you engage it. Yes, if I want something done, I will get my “Hammer” to do it.

Right on top of all the other tools, lies a little cellophane-wrapped telescopic magnet that attracts the flailing nails, screws, and such odds and ends that I can’t throw away. That’s my Maggie: All wrapped up, neat, and looking like new. Not really a worker, just sort of “tool candy”. When Mom says, “Girls get dressed, we’re going out to pull weeds,” Maggie comes out in her princess ensemble: not ready to work, but she looks pretty necessary. Maggie isn’t going to attempt anything foul that might mess up her “wrapper”. She walks, talks, skips, and salsas through chores with classy delegation and abandon. She knows the important thing is to sit up here on top of the rest of the tools and look good; like she’s worth a million bucks; like she’s gonna get something done, just maybe not right now.

My toolbox is neat. I don’t like all that sawdust piling up in it. So, I keep a little brush, sort of like a paintbrush, but with soft bristles for whisking away rubbish and stuff. That’s Riley. No, not a neat-nick who’s always sweeping up dirt. Not a cleaning nut with a spotless room. No, Riley is a whisker who whisks away everything in his way. He whisks away every comment that might indicate some menial labor lies ahead. He whisks away every shoe under the couch instead of into the closet, every glass into the sink instead of into the dishwasher, every shirt under the sink instead of into the basket, and every wet toothbrush, floss string, and hairy hairbrush into one single drawer instead of into the correct basket or container. Riley is cool, smooth, and silently adept. I don’t know how he has become so proficient at whisking things into black holes. His arms are like Zambonis that come out of nowhere and smooth away everything so it looks good, but you have no idea where it might have gone. He’s a con with a heart, a slacker with drive, and a dandy with grit. But, if I am ever in a pickle and want to whisk away a mess, and have no witnesses, I get my Riley to do the job.

One of my best and most useful tools is actually anchored to the bench: my grinder. It’s constantly humming, whirring, sharpening, milling, and pitching out sparks and embers, and generally generating all kinds of flurry. That’s my Bryce. He isn’t something; he’s a process. He doesn’t take in information; he seeks and seizes it, then ignites and grinds it to pieces, then showers the rest of us with kindled tokens.
As we’re ready to mount bikes, Bryce might spark us with, “Baba, did you know the fangtooth Anaplogastar cornula has the largest teeth in the ocean? Proportionally, that is.” We answer, “No kidding?” And, as we’re putting bikes back into the garage, Bryce will detonate his brother, “Hey, Riley, LeBron is actually better than Kobe because of his offensive and defensive maneuvers.” Riley silently sweeps away the grenade.

When my grinder is grinding, he sees nothing, hears nothing, and seems to stare off into the very depths of the pit of knowledge. We find ourselves waving our hands in front of Bryce to stop the grinding (and the obvious internal blasting noises he experiences while he’s thinking) to bring him back to our world. Ever grinding, ever thinking: that’s Bryce.

Ah, my last tool. Not necessary for every job. Not necessary for most jobs. But when you need it, you need it. It’s my level. I think my little level, Olivia, could win the all around medal in any of life’s matches. With two big brothers and no sisters, she can easily transition from a rough, tough kickball opponent to a fancy, feathery princess. Why, she can play kickball in heels and tiara. She’s flexible; emotionally and physically. She’ll calm the squalls of sibling rivalry, yet squall at peak decibels for a solution. My little level tilts and attacks her brothers’ persistent pleading, then teeters the other way and serenely ignores their oppressive teasing, and finally finds equilibrium while presenting closing statements on why they should be willing to not only tolerate, but find joy in toasting a bubbleicious fairy queen in full tea-party attire.

As I watch the ever-moving bubble in my level, I see Olivia who appreciates beauty but recognizes the importance of competition; she understands battles cannot always be averted but quickly seeks harmony once engaged; she constantly waivers and floats in and out of balance as she flirts with tipping the scales in favor of either recognition or peace. I am sure one day for her, they will be synonymous.

I couldn’t do without one of my tools. Each is unique and dear. Each fills a gap where another leaves off, and sublimely, they unite as they encounter the perpetual challenges of a family. Yes, my little toolbox is in good shape.

And, how about you grandparents? Have you looked into your toolbox lately? Who do you see? From the plane side of grandparenting, I bid you goodbye.


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