In the walk-in closet, in the home we have lived in for more than 40 years, I stumbled over a small, red, wooden rocking chair. It’s been there for more than 20 years, but today I noticed it. My grandson sat in it and rocked when he was 3 or 4 years old, but finally outgrew it when his bottom would no longer fit between the armrests.
Next to it, on the floor, was an old plastic bowl, nearly overflowing with toy animals. I knelt on the floor and picked them up, one by one, trying to remember the days we visited Moody Gardens and ended every visit with a trip to the gift shop, where we would buy one toy animal for the collection. Here were lions and tigers, a leopard, several elephants, a ram, a goat, one of almost every animal, we thought at the time.
When we got home we would get out the collection, sit on the floor, and arrange them into groups. Then we would get out the wooden blocks and build corrals and houses and other places in which to put the animals as we made up stories about them. It was a magical time of connection between a young boy and his aging grandfather. He spent about half of his early life with us, his grandmother going to pick him up on Thursday evening, we returning him to Houston on Sunday night, in time to get ready for school the next day.
I put the toy animals back into the bowl and steadied my old legs before attempting to rise. I thought how strange it was to remember so vividly those days. I’m sure our experiences together were duplicated by many a grandfather and grandson, but ours seemed so special and, of course, it was, for us, just as it is for others.
Now he is a grown man, dark hair sprouting from his face, no longer hanging out with girls but dating grown women, living his own life in a semester abroad in Argentina, perfecting his spoken Spanish, encountering wonders of responsibility and independence. And I am overflowing with happy memories of our years together, grateful for the beauty and power of memory.