Archived Sections, Columns, Grace Notes


Jean Johansson

My eight-year-old grandson Brayden and his parents moved back from California in mid-August, where they had lived for six years. They are temporarily sharing my home as they resume life in Minnesota.
One of the first questions Brayden asked upon his August arrival in Minnesota was, “When will it snow?” He was clearly disappointed by my response, contemplating the many weeks that stretched out before him until he would see snowflakes. After the first snowfall this winter, I marveled at his excitement at “playing” in ½ inch of snow, in the backyard, in the dark.
Brayden asked me to name the months in which snow is a possibility in Minnesota, and he was delighted by my response. He couldn’t understand why most people to whom he addressed this question often groaned, after which they universally expressed the wish that snow would not fall. I explained to him that the prospect of performing months of snow removal and driving on snowpacked streets tended to make adults a little cranky. He, on the other hand, recently ranked his love of snow and cold as equal to his love of the ocean. After hearing him rhapsodize about snow, what could my response possibly have been other than to commit myself to readjusting my attitude toward that form of precipitation?

A new novelty

Living with Brayden has led to some interesting discussions between the two of us. One day, after Brayden told me he had seen an artist’s rendition depicting the different stages in the development of Homo sapiens, he commented that it would be scary to see an ape turn into a person. That’s how I discovered the difficulty of giving a short, understandable explanation of evolution.

This living arrangement means I [have] the chance to see life through the eyes of a childwho had longed to be with his extended family in Minnesota.

Routine activities have taken on a new novelty. Brayden and I enjoy walking two blocks with my dog Chance to a wooden footbridge over Minnehaha Creek and engaging in the simple pleasure of throwing leaves and sticks into the water below and watching them be carried away by the current. Will they go all the way to the Mississippi River? Maybe.
One winter evening we saw a rabbit hiding by a bush in the dark, trying to disappear. Having a flashlight built into the handle of Chance’s leash is a plus for spotting things like that, or for shining on a stop sign from half a block away to watch the light flicker like a silent movie as it bounces off the reflecting letters on the sign. When the moon appeared as a little sliver in the western sky, I taught Brayden how to cup his hands below it to tell if the moon is waxing or waning. (If the bowl of light is in your right hand, the moon is waxing; if you are holding the majority of the moon’s light in your left hand, it is waning.)
My adjustment to a full house (the addition of three more people plus two guinea pigs), after several years of living by myself with my dog Chance, has had its challenges, of course. And, I know my daughter and her husband could identify difficulties they have experienced living with me. (That is hard to believe, I know.) But I appreciate having the opportunity, however briefly, to have a grandchild residing with me.
Yes, this living arrangement means I’m privy to the skirmishes that are a part of being a youngster. But that reality is mitigated by the chance to see life through the eyes of a child who had longed to be with his extended family in Minnesota. I have been provided with a wealth of refreshing reminders to appreciate the delights of life every day.

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