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There was no school Thursday or Friday and I was going to stay with my granddaughters in Iowa. I called my daughter, Sydney, telling her I wouldn’t get there until around seven and she should go ahead and feed the girls. “They want to wait until Papa gets here to eat.” She advised. I said okay and kicked the cruise control up a few miles per hour.
After a full day at work, with household chores still left to be done, Sydney leaned against the kitchen counter, looking beat. “This pasta dish doesn’t take long to make, but I’m just so tired.” She said, “I wish we could just go get a pizza or something instead of cooking tonight.”
“I’m in the mood for pizza.” I offered, “Where do you want to go? My treat.” We went to a place called Your Pie, for individual pizzas baked in a brick oven. Before going to dinner, I gave each of the girls a cookie from a big bag of ginger cracks I made and brought from home. There were about four dozen cookies in the clear plastic bag with a white twist tie. Sydney packed a dozen or so, to take to her co-workers the next day. I told her she could freeze most of them to keep for later.
In the morning, Sydney called downstairs, “Dad? I’m leaving for work. Evelyn is up, Addison is still sleeping. I’ll see you tonight.” I didn’t get to bed until late, but pulled my tired self out from under the warm blankets and trudged my way up the stairs. Evelyn, almost three-years-old, was sitting at the table with a bowl of Cap’N Crunch, Crunch Berries and a partially eaten cookie in each hand. She spoke with a soft voice, “Papa can you get me some milk?” I closed the bag of cookies, setting them back on the counter, poured milk on her cereal and sat down to have breakfast with her. It wasn’t long before Addison joined us.
“What would you like for breakfast?” I asked the sleepy child who seemed disinterested in the variety of cold cereals. Addie looked at Evelyn, then at me and said she wanted cookies. How could I say no since her sister was already eating some? “You can have one after you eat your cereal.”
Addie reasoned, “Ev is eating cookies and she didn’t finish her cereal yet.” I remembered when Sydney was a little girl, she would debate adults by using logic and reasoning - Addison is the same way.
“That’s because Ev got up before me. If you want cookies with your cereal, you have to get up before me.” I poured a bowl of Fruit Loops for Addison and said, “Evelyn, put the cookie down until after you finish your cereal.” I served them fresh strawberries and blueberries, too, because it seemed like an adult thing to do.
Addison had asked if we could make an apple pie during my visit. We made a shopping list and went to the store. Fareway was only a few blocks away; I swear it took longer to get the kids in and out of their car seats, than it would have taken to walk to the store.
I went to the living room where the girls were watching a Disney movie and asked if they wanted to help make the pie. “No, not right now.” They answered, without turning away from the screen. I didn’t want them watching TV all day so I got two dining room chairs, placing them a few feet in front of the black iron railing that goes around the stairwell to the basement. I stretched a blanket from the chair backs, over the railing and another smaller blanket over each end.
Addison jumped up, excited, “Ev! A fort!” Both girls came running, abandoning the television for something more fun. They began moving their kiddie chairs and other treasures into the shelter. I crawled in with them to share the fort. “Papa! You can’t be in here. This fort is for girls only.” Banished from the compound, I went to the place where men belong - the kitchen, to make the pie.
It got pretty quiet in the living room – too quiet. “Knock-knock.” I announced myself at the closed blanket leading inside. I was instructed to knock on the wooden seat of the chair. I did, then poked my head inside. The two of them were munching away. “Addison, give me the bag of cookies.” They heisted the whole bag from the counter behind me while I was peeling apples at the sink.
A few minutes later I called the girls to the kitchen, holding a large mixing bowl of thinly sliced fruit. “Would you each like an apple?” They sported big smiles as they chose their slices, but upon eating them, the smiles turned to puckers. The tart Granny Smith apples were not what they were expecting. I laughed, added the sugar and spices, stirred the apples, then asked if they would like to try another. They were pleased with the new flavor and came back asking, “Papa, can we have some more of the apples with cinnamon?” I held the bowl for them, pleased that they were enjoying my cooking.
After running some other errands, we came back to the house. Addison walked into the kitchen from the garage and asked, “Papa, how did you make our house smell like your house?” Honey, that’s just apple pie.
Friday, Sydney called down the steps, “Dad? I’m leaving for work. Both girls are up, watching a movie. See you tonight.” I heard the garage door closing followed by little footsteps racing across the squeaky floors overhead. I was up late again the night before, but managed to drag my tired self from under the warm covers and trudged up the stairs.
When I emerged from the stairwell, both girls looked at me with surprise, like two deer in my headlights. Each of them eating a cookie, with the open bag sitting between them on the couch. I told them they could not have cookies for breakfast Addison immediately justified their position. “You let us have cookies for breakfast yesterday.” Not today kid, let’s go get some cereal. “But you said we could have cookies for breakfast if we got up before you did.” Hmph.
After a breakfast of cereal, fresh fruit and cookies, (yes, I caved in) Addison explained a new game they wanted me to play with them. “I’ll go in the bathroom, close my eyes and count to ten. You and Ev go hide then I will try to find you. It’s a new game called Hide and Seek, but you’ll learn it pretty fast.”
I hid Ev in her chair under a pink blanket, then I slithered behind the couch. “…eight, nine, ten. Ready or not, here I come.” She found Ev rather quickly, but it took them a few minutes to find me. “Where are you Papa?” I remained quiet. Standing near the front door, Addison called, “Come out, come out wherever you are.” Then she looked right at me laying on the floor, “PAPA! I see you!”
It was their turn to hide; I saw two rounded lumps under a blanket in a wicker basket. I quickly pulled the blanket away, yelling, “AH HA!! I found you!” The two girls screamed, tipped the basket over getting out and ran to the living room. It was my turn to hide again. It took them a while to find me standing behind a curtain. On their next turn, they hid together under their mom’s bed. I couldn’t find them right away, but then heard giggles coming from the bed skirting. I hadn’t played Hide and Seek since my daughters were little – we had a lot of fun.
Around eleven I asked the girls to get dressed so we could go to the store. “We’re going to pack sandwiches and go surprise your mom at work with a picnic for lunch.” Remembering what a hassle it was getting the girls in and out of the van, I bundled them up in their coats and mittens. It was a beautiful day: twenty-seven degrees with lots of sunshine and just a little breeze.
I took a large fleece blanket, folded it several times and lined the floor for them to sit on. I set both girls in the wagon, facing one another. I put another fleece blanket over their laps, tucking it in alongside their legs and sides. I started down the sidewalk toward the grocery store.
It’s a light-colored wagon made of wood; the removeable red wooden sides have gold lettering: Radio Flyer Town and Country. Just like the wagon my dad bought for our family when I was little, I bought one for my daughters when they were little girls. I recalled many times years ago, giving them rides. It’s a good wagon, well-built and a little more expensive than most, but I thought it was worth the money. Now almost thirty years later, I was giving my granddaughters a ride in this very same wagon.
As we made our way down the walk, the wheels went, squeak, squeak, squeak as the hard rubber tires mounted on white steel rims turned on the dry axels. “I need to oil those wheels.” I said to the girls.
At Fareway, people looked on and smiled as we made our way up and down the aisles with our little red wagon; squeak, squeak, squeak. The girls had juice boxes, some fruit, a package of lunch meat, chips and some cheese, setting in their laps. With everything on our list, we pulled through the check-out lane, paid for our groceries and headed for home in our Town and Country Wagon. “It’s good exercise.” I said, breathing a little harder as I pulled the wagon; the short three-block-walk home was all uphill. Squeak, squeak, squeak.
I packed all our sandwiches in one plastic container, some fresh fruit in another, slices of apple pie in a third, and a canister of Pringle’s potato chips. I hadn’t had those for years! I put everything into a plastic grocery sack with some napkins and forks. “Are you girls ready to go?” I went to the living room to check on them. “Where did you girls get those cookies?” I took the bag and said, “Come on, we have to go.”
Sydney was pleasantly surprised by the picnic. She looked at the girls, rolled her eyes and told her boss, “I’m not sure if the girls or Papa picked the outfits.” I’ve never been the best at coordinating fashions so I let them pick their own clothes. They chose items similar to what I would have picked. I thought they were stylin’ even if they did look like a couple of orphans.
We went to a break area to eat. “Guess what, mom.” Addison started telling a story, “Papa took us to the store in the wagon and we were under blankets and he took the wagon right into the store.”
“You took the wagon inside Fareway?” Sydney laughed. Well, I wasn’t going to leave it outside where it could be stolen. We enjoyed our picnic. Sydney told me when I got home, the girls would need a nap. “Put Ev in my bed and Addie in her room. You can try them both in my room, but Ev won’t sleep if Addison is keeping her awake.” Both girls fell asleep in the van on the ride home.
I put them down for a nap, then went to the sit on the couch. “Addison, stop it.” I called out, then “Addison, leave Ev alone and go to sleep.” The giggling continued. After several more calls, I went in to lay down with them. “Addie, go to sleep.” I put my arm around her, “Stop touching your sister and go to sleep.” Boy, I could use a nap as much as they did. “Addie stop…zzzzzzz.” I was down for the count.
I awoke when my phone rang. It was aunt Delaney. I spoke softly, telling her I was laying down with the girls, taking a nap and I would call her back later. I reached my arm over toward the girls but all I felt was an empty bed with covers. I got up. The door was pulled within an inch of being closed - I didn’t close it. I walked out into the hallway to find their bedroom door closed – I didn’t close it either.
I opened their door and the two of them were sitting at their little table playing. “Did you girls just wait until I fell asleep, then sneak out of the room?”
Addison pointed at Evelyn and confessed, “It was her idea.” That’s when I noticed they each had a cookie in their hand and the open bag was on the table between them. At least they were sharing.
“Girls!” I took the bag away, looking inside. “There are only four cookies left. Two of these are for your mom, and you can each have one after supper.”
As soon as Sydney got home, I had to get on the road heading north. We said our farewells, and I pulled away from the driveway giving two toots on the horn – see you soon, girls.
I yawned as I drove away; I was tired. “Where do those girls get all that energy?” I asked myself, then answered, “Probably from the sugar in the cookies.” I wondered if there would be any cookies left for after dinner. I started thinking about my own dinner and what I would make when I got home.
I thought, “I can find something leftover in the fridge that doesn’t take long to warm up, but I’m just so tired.” I said, “I wish I could just go get a pizza or something instead.” With that thought, I reset the GPS to take me home through Rushford, Minnesota – home of The Creamery Pizza. No doubt the best pizza in southern Minnesota.