Just how does one play this game?

Alice walks into the kitchen. Under her arm, she carries a board game called Sequence.

Alice: Want play Sweet Pants.

Being quiet

This morning. Jane and Alice are in the next room.

Alice: Be quiet!

Ooooh, I think. Jane's not going to take that. There's going to be a fight. 

Alice: Be QUIET!

Do I intervene now, or wait to see how Jane handles this?

Alice: BE! QUIET!

I can't believe Jane is taking this. Alice must have bound and gagged her.


Me: Ok, that's enough. What's going on in there?

Jane: (emerges holding her favourite doll, Cugga) We're just putting our babies to sleep.

A family story

I pulled a slim black book down from my shelves tonight and turned it to a familiar page. My great uncle wrote it a few years ago. It's the story of his life as a farmer in southwestern Ontario. Great Uncle Reid farmed alongside his brother Elbert, my grandfather. Grandpa appears quite a bit in its pages. As do their parents.

Here's the passage I read:

"Ma took a cerebral hemorrhage and died March 19, 1950. She died the day before my birthday and was buried the day after my birthday.

"At this time Ada came home and looked after Pa until he passed away February 11, 1953. Elbert and I were cutting Max Dawson's bush off into fifty-six inch bolts for pallets. The steering on Max's tractor broke and we were repairing it for him in our shop. Pa sat on a big block of wood by the fire watching us and reading a magazine, telling us some of what he was reading. We finished the tractor.

"Elbert and Max had gone home and Pa and I were going to the house side by side, when Pa just stopped and tipped over. He actually died standing up and fell. This had been one of his better days. Our mailmen, Ira Liddle, and George Bell were just pulling up to our mail box and saw him fall. They rushed over, loosened his shirt collar but he wasn't breathing at this time. We carried him in the house and called Dr. McLean. The doctor said he had died standing up."

I can hear my 93-year-old uncle saying this as I read it. It is written very much the way he speaks, the combination of long sentences followed by a short sentences. The latter more for verbal punctuation than for content.

Such a small amount of text about these important events. Especially for Ma (my great-grandmother).

I have never stood in the spot where my great-grandfather died, but I have watched it happen many times. I've seen the block of wood Pa sat on as he leafed through his magazine. I've listened as my grandfather and great-uncle, in turns, humour and find humour in the bits Pa found too interesting not to share. I have walked on the snow beside my great-grandfather and suddenly realized he has not only has fallen behind, but has fallen down. I have asked Pa over and over if he's alright, knowing full well he was dead even before Ira and George arrive from the truck they've left parked beside the mailbox. I have thought how useless it is to loosen the shirt collar of a man who is obviously not with us anymore.

In the long version of this story told to me one afternoon in my parents' kitchen, the work on the tractor is completed just after eleven o'clock. It's too early for lunch, but there's not enough time to make it back to Max's farm before Ada has the sandwiches ready in the house. The boys discuss using the tractor to finally get rid of that old oak tree they've been vowing for years to cut down. It's in the way, taking up good land.

Just as they decide that's what they'll do, Pa's enthusiasm for the job fades. He decides they should go in early for lunch. He doesn't look well.

If I remember correctly, they never did take down that tree. It was still there 23 years later when they sold the farm. There was no sentimental reason why they left it standing. The boys just never got around to cutting it down.

Dream a little dream, part two

This time, one of Erin's dreams.

"I'm sitting in a comfy chair, and I'm wrapped in our pink and green blanket. Joan [ed: our cat] jumps up on my lap. She looks me in the face, and in Alice's voice says, 'This your blanket?'"

When Mummy drives the bus, things get interesting

I have yet to hear the whole story, but I just called home from work to check in on Erin and the kids.

Erin: Can you call back in a bit? We just arrived at school.

(If you recall, we "take the bus" to get to home school)

Me: No problem. How was the bus ride?

Erin: Exciting. The driver fell asleep and Henry had to take the wheel.

Another Jane story

It is near the middle of November and it as warm and sunny as early Spring.

I sit on the front step giving the bikes their annual tuneup. Jane runs past. She's shed the sweater, hat, long-sleeve t-shirt, shoes, socks, and pants that she had on when we came outside hours earlier. Luckily, she was wearing a sun-dress under it all.

Me: Jane, you need to put your shoes and socks back on.

Jane: No.

Me: It's warm, but the ground is still cool and wet. Please put your shoes on.

Jane: OK. But you can't make me wear pants.

It is the only logical conclusion

The five-year-old boy across the street is putting on a show for us.

He does cartwheels across his lawn. He tosses rocks high into the air. He shimmies across his front deck in some sort of primitive dance.

My kids egg him on from our own front step. Henry yells catcalls. Alice screams, "Go! Go!"

Jane watches intently as this boy prances about nearly a hundred metres away. Her eyes narrow.

"I think he wants to hug me."

Thoughtful Jane

Jane and Alice were playing on the living room floor. Jane was suddenly struck by a pressing thought. She stopped and sat still for a minute before looking up at me.

"Dad, is it hard work having three kids?"

I looked at her. She's a sensitive girl, and deserved an honest answer.

"Yes," I said. "But it's fun, too."

"OK," she replied.

She turned back to her game with Alice.