It's one of those ubiquitous questions most enthusiastic grandparents ask.
"Can I tell you about my grandkids?"
Well, I don't have any grandkids, or any kids, for that matter, even though it sobers me to realize I'm probably now old enough for not only the latter, but the former as well. So I'm gonna have to tell you about my neighbors' kids instead. And specifically, their precocious, blond-haired son, who just turned the wise old age of seven last week.
Yes, seven. His extreme youth is vital to this story.
This is the kid who, two summers ago, when he was five, corrected me by saying a cicada's shell is called an "exoskeleton." I can still remember the look on his face, as if he was thinking, "You're an adult. You should know this." Which I did, but I didn't think HE did!
I keep telling that story to other neighbors who may not have yet heard it, and it always gets a good laugh. Last fall, he overheard me.
"Are you telling that story again?!" I couldn't tell if he was embarrassed, or trying to figure out if I was infringing upon some copyright he might hold on that anecdote. Seriously - I wouldn't doubt he knows something about intellectual property rights.
Just before Christmas, a section of the wood part of the fence separating our two backyards had blown over - again - in high winds, and I was trying to fix it, cheaply, by myself. And he was watching me, supervising the whole operation from his treehouse right next to the fence, even offering me the use of his "contraptions," if they'd help.
"I've got a ton of 'em," he explained of his contraptions.
At one point, things weren't working the way I'd expected them to, and I hung my head in a moment of frustration. "Oh, dear..." I sighed to myself.
"Yes," my wise little neighbor offered sympathetically, "sometimes that's all you can say."
Then last evening, at dusk, I took advantage of our unseasonably pleasant weather to go outside and putter about the backyard for a few minutes. Up in his treehouse, my next door neighbor saw me, and greeted me.
"What are you doing?" he asked, watching me do nothing in particular.
"Oh, just goofing off," I replied. "It's what I do best."
Without missing a beat, he affirmed: "Well, if it's what you do best, it's what you should be doing!"
I started laughing so hard at his uncanny sophistry, I had to come inside for fear he would assume I was making fun of him.
Quite to the contrary! I'm telling you - with a neighbor like him, I don't need grandkids, do I?!