A great-grandpa vignette
By Meyer Moldeven
In their early years, children may fantasize relationships with imagined
friends with whom they interact. The youngsters and their friends might
be partners in adventures or, equally important, someone with whom to
Think back to when your children, now mature, were young and romped
in the back yard with their own personal frontiersman, pardner or
companion, steadfast and always alongside. They climbed trees together,
sat side by side in a swing, or rearranged the dollhouse furnishings – again.
Inevitably, the time arrived to replace a companion of the imagination with
the reality of growing up. The 'friends' become comforting memories that
did not fade away, entirely.
(This vignette is drawn from the reminiscences of someone else.).
All the woodchucks in Woodchuckaton crawled deep into their burrows.
The chipmunks crept under piles of chips. Even the beavers, over on the
other side of town in Beaverton, stayed home.
It was raining. It had been raining all day, and here it was now, late
afternoon. It was time for the rain to move along to somewhere else.
Leah rested her elbows on the sill of the big picture window and cupped
her face in her hands. Shifting about on the big red cushion, she stared
out through the misty pane. Sheets of water billowed along the street,
one following close behind the other like in a parade.
Leah heard her mother humming in the kitchen preparing the evening
meal. The evening meal was special. Daddy left home for work early
each day, before anyone else was awake. The evening meal was when
they all came together for the first time each day as a family.
Mother hummed or sang often as she went about her work. Leah loved
to listen and, staring out the window, she sang the words. Mother and
daughter voices blended and finished the song together.
The sounds of pots and pans and mixers meant that Daddy would
be arriving soon. When Daddy showed up, David would wake from
his afternoon nap, and Daddy, David and she would play, roll about on
the rug, and talk until it was time for her to help Mother set the table.
Meanwhile, Leah was restless. She felt her left foot tingling asleep
so sheleft the window and jumped up and down to get rid of the pins
and needles. The tingling gone, she ran to the patio screen door in the
dining room and peered into the back yard. She knew it would be
raining there too, but at least the scenery was different.
There was another reason.
Twisting so that she could see into the far right corner of the yard, Leah
imagined the little house under the oak tree where Sarah had her stall.
Sarah was Leah's personal flying unicorn. Leah waved and, in her mind,
Sarah answered by tossing her mane and scraping at the ground with
her hoof. Leah had just enough time for another pretend adventure.
Sarah poked her white horn through the doorway of her little house and
shook her head side to side. When Sarah, a flying unicorn, waggled
her long white horn like that, it carried only one message: Sarah wanted
to fly. Leah sat on the floor next to the and missed being with Sarah.
Leah glanced up at the sky again. The rain had changed to a fine misty
drizzle and the clouds into a light gray with patches of blue peeping through.
A shaft of sunlight cut through the clouds and the patches of blue
The rain stopped. Off in the distance a rainbow formed an arch across the
sky. Leah dashed to the kitchen.
'Mommy, mommy,' she said excitedly, tugging at her mother's apron.
'The rain is over. Sarah wants to play and so do I. May I go out to play
Mother knew, of course, that when Leah and her pretend friend, Sarah,played together, Sarah would often nuzzle Leah. That would be Sarah's invitation to Leah to climb up on to her back and twist her hands intoSarah's white mane. Mother knew that when Sarah felt Leah firm on her back
saddle Sarah would spread her feathered wings and, in Leah's imagination, unicorn and rider, together, would leap to the skies.
Smiling to herself, Mother looked through the kitchen window at the
sky. The clouds were breaking up, but the grass was still wet, the
ground soggy, and the trees dripped.
'Daddy will be home soon, Leah,' she called out, 'and he will be looking
for big hugs from David and you. Then I'll need you to prepare the table
for dinner. You know you have a job to do, don't you?'
'Oh, yes.' Leah's curls bounced as she nodded. 'But I won't be long.Sarah and
I have been cooped up all day. The rain has stopped. I wantto skip and jump.'
'... and fly.' Mother's eyes twinkled as she stooped, laughed, and smoothed
Leah's ruffled hair.
'Well, maybe.' Leah grinned as she hugged her mother.
'I suppose you and Sarah do need some fresh air,' Mother sighed as she
rose and looked out the window again. 'Wear your rain boots and red
raincoat, and don't go beyond Daniel's back yard, next door. When
Daddy comes home he'll call you in.'
Leah rushed to the hall closet and rummaged about among the shoes and
boxes on the floor. In the far corner, a round red boot toe stuck out
from under a large paper bag. That was one found. Pulling it out, Leah
searched nearby for the other. There it was, behind the umbrella.
Waving them high, she jump-skipped to the big cushion beneath the
picture window, sat, and pulled them on. Mother came in with the red
raincoat and helped Leah get comfortable in wearing it.
Dashing to the back yard doorway, Leah jumped the short step to the
'Sarah, Sarah,' she shouted, 'come on. Let's go.'
That was all Sarah needed. She came frisking and prancing out of her
little house, raising first one hoof and then the other as she approached
closer. Sarah nuzzled Leah's shoulder, and then unfolded and stretched
her wings so they would be out of the way for Leah to climb up and
scrootch about to safe and comfortable. That was the invitation Leah
was waiting for.
Leah twisted both her hands deeper and tighter into Sarah's long silky hair
and pulled herself forward until she was well out of the way of Sarah's wings.
'All set,' Leah shouted. 'Away we go!'
Sarah trotted to the far end of the yard until she was close to the fence.
She faced about and began to run, faster and faster. Suddenly her wings
spread wide and with a leap they were up and away.
Up. Up. They spiraled around the old oak tree, rising higher with each
loop. From far out, they dipped into a long glide and swooped down
under the tree's branches, around and around the swing that grandpa had
made for David and her, and up and around again. They flew along the
top of the back fence, lifted, and cut across the roof of their house from
one end to the other. Twisting about, Sarah hovered above the front
Along the horizon, Leah saw the city still hidden in rain curtains and mists.
Leaning forward, Leah spoke into Sarah's ear. 'Let's fly over to Daniel's
back yard and see if he and Herbie the Lion are at home.'
Sarah snorted her understanding. She could talk, but did that only when
it was absolutely necessary. She had a soft gentle snort and would rather
speak her thoughts that way. It was a lot simpler, and Leah
Circling around toward Daniel's yard, Sarah cleared the top of the fence,
swooped, and held steady just above Herbie the Lion's house.
'Herbie,' Leah called out. 'It's Sarah and Leah. We're just flying by
today and stopped to say 'hi' to Daniel and you. Come on out.'
Herbie the Lion stuck his shaggy head out of his house, blinked, and
opened his jaws wide to an enormous drowsy yawn. Looking up, he grinned
and said, 'Hi, there. Where are you off to?'
'Oh,' replied Leah, 'we're keeping close to home today. Rain, y'know.
Also, Daddy will be home soon and I want to be with David to welcome
him and roll on the rug and talk. I'll also be helping my mother get
ready for dinner.'
'Quite right. Quite right,' Herbie said, shaking his head wisely, 'that is as
it should be.'
'Where's Daniel?' Leah asked.
'Daniel and his mother are at the library,' Herbie answered. 'Daniel's
books were due to be returned today.'
'I see. Well, Herbie, we must be off. Please tell Daniel we stopped by to
say 'hi' and that we'll see him another time.'
'Will do.' Herbie the Lion yawned again and pulled his shaggy head
Sarah's wings fluttered and they rose higher and higher. A moment later
they were looking down on Daniel and Leah's homes and all the other
houses on their street. Leah saw the glowing signs of the shopping
center a few blocks away. The mists and rain curtains still hid the high
buildings in the distance.
Looking toward the end of their street Leah saw Daddy's car turn the
'Daddy's home. Daddy's home,' Leah shouted. 'Time to head back,
Sarah snorted and dipped into her landing approach. Circling, she lost
altitude each time around. Finally, coming in over the fence, Sarah
arranged her wings for landing and bent her legs slightly to soften
contact with the ground. Leah tightened her grip.
Close to the soft earth near the patio, Sarah's wings beat at the air. She
hovered for an instant, then lowered until all four hooves touched down.
A four-point landing. The flight was over.
Leah slipped off Sarah's smooth back, wrapped her arms around her
neck and gave her a tight hug. Sarah's hoof scraped the ground and she
gave another of her soft, gentle snorts.
Daddy stuck his head out through the patio doorway.
'Hi, there,' he laughed, 'what's happening.'
'Out and about, Dad,' Leah answered. Been up and about. Flying, don'tcha
know?' Leah answered.
Daddy smiled down at her.
'I see,' he said. 'Well, I'm pleased you made it back in time for our
before-dinner get-together. David is up. Come on in and we'll roll on
the rug and talk for a minute before you help set the table.'
'Leah,' he said. 'Your mother, you and I are also going to have a talk this
evening. A meeting; very important. Coming in?'
'Yup, Daddy, just about ready.'
She turned back to Sarah and gently pretend-stroked the unicorn's nose.
Turning away, she crossed the patio and stopped at the low step to the
dining room. Daddy opened the screen door and bent down. Leah
wrapped her arms around his neck. Daddy rose, lifting Leah as he did,
and caught her rain boots as they slipped from her feet. He stood them
up outside, beside the doorway, to dry. Hugging each other, Daddy and
Leah turned back into the house.
Leah hesitated, and glanced back. In her imagination, she saw Sarah fold
her wings gracefully along her sides, lower her head and nibble at the
soft, green grass. It was also time for Sarah's dinner.
Dinner was behind them, Leah joined Mother in clearing the table.
Nesting one plate into another and picking up a few utensils she carried
them to the kitchen counter near the dishwasher.
Daddy rose from his chair, went into the kitchen, and dampened a cloth.
On his way back to the dining room he winked at Leah as they passed.
Leah turned with a grin, watch Daddy and David.
Daddy tiptoed behind David's high chair. David, finished with his
eating, busily rolled leftover peas round and round his food dish.
Without warning, Daddy quickly reached around and with the damp
cloth wiped breadcrumbs, mashed peas and potatoes, and smears of
chocolate pudding from David's face and from behind his ears.
David howled and twisted away, but Daddy was ready for him. A
moment later, his face and hands cleared of food; well, cleared as
much as could be expected with only a damp cloth, Daddy hoisted
David from his chair and lowered him to the floor.
Looking back over his shoulder as he scampered on his hands and knees
into the living room, David tangled with a fire engine. He rolled over on
his back, looked up at Daddy, and laughed. The laugh stopped Daddy
from rushing forward; the tangle had not been hurtful.
Daddy stooped and pushed the fire engine toward David, then joined
him on the floor. They put their heads together, and as their hands
touched and explored the fire engine they explained to each other how
the different parts worked.
Leah, drawn from her work by the sounds of David's tumble, peered into
the living room. Seeing all was well, she smiled, and carried another
armful of dishes and tableware to the kitchen counter.
'Looks like our men are busy,' she said.
Mother nodded as she spooned leftovers into containers for the
'It's always good to relax after dinner,' she said. 'When we're done here,
we'll join them. Then, in a little while, I'll bathe David and put him down.
You will take your bath, and then you, Daddy and I will have our
'Daddy did say something about a meeting when I came in from the
yard,' Leah said. 'What's up?'
'Let's just wait and see,' Mother smiled mysteriously as they loaded the
Finished with her work, Leah skipped along the hallway that connected
her room to the living room. Little brother was down for the night.
Leah, bathed, hair washed, blow-dried and brushed, was squeaky clean in
her red nightgown.
She squeezed a space for herself on the couch between Mother and
Daddy and they eased aside to make room. Daddy put his newspaper
aside and Mother placed a card in her book to mark her place.
Glancing up at one, then the other, Leah put on her serious business
'Meeting time,' Daddy said.
'What's the problem?' Leah folded her arms across her chest, straightened
her legs, and fixed her eyes on the opposite wall to help
Family meetings were important. The meetings were still only for the
three of them. When David was old enough to share in the family
responsibilities, he would join the meetings.
'It's not really a problem,' Daddy said, 'but we're going to have a change
in the way we live.'
'A change?' Leah frowned. 'Everything is going fine. I'm satisfied with
the way we're living now. Why change?'
Leah turned to stare at Daddy, then shifted about to look at Mother, who
smiled at her. Daddy put his arms around Leah and pulled her close.
Mother reached over and straightened a wisp of Leah's hair.
'Leah,' Daddy said, 'you may be a child, but you're no longer a baby.
You're growing up. Before long, you'll be a young woman. Young
women and young men need to learn about the world in which they live.
Mothers and fathers, and grandmas and grandpas teach children much
about the world and about what is right and what is wrong. That's fine,
but knowledge about the world around you also can be given to you
from somewhere else. Do you know of another place where a youngster
learns about the world?'
'School?' Leah's voice rose.
'School.' Daddy nodded slowly.
'School.' Mother's soft voice repeated.
'I'm going to go to school?' Leah wriggled from Daddy's embrace, slid
off the couch, and hop-skipped to the middle of the living room.
Whirling to face her grinning parents, Leah bounced with excitement.
Daddy motioned Leah back to her place on the couch.
'Our meeting is not finished,' he said. 'We have more to talk about.'
Leah immediately stopped her bouncing. Meetings, she knew, were not
to be interrupted by rude behavior. Climbing back onto the couch, she
leaned back, folded her legs under her, and her hands clasped in her lap.
Her eyes sparkled with excitement. Pressing her lips together tightly,
Leah forced the no-nonsense business look back to her face.
'OK,' she said, I'm listening.'
'We'll tell you what to expect, Leah,' Mother said, 'and, afterward, you
may ask questions.'
'Not far from where we live here in Woodchuckaton,' Mother began, 'is
'Right,' Leah cut in. 'We've been to the city lots of times on shopping
trips and for sightseeing and for visiting parks and....'
'Leah,' Mother put her hand on Leah's arm. 'Concentrate on what we
Leah looked sideways at her mother and her eyes twinkled. 'You mean
no more interruptions. Right?'
'OK, I'm switched to my listener.'
'In the city nearby, and in all the cities and towns round are schools where
children go to learn about the world. You're going to be a student in one
of those schools. You will attend every day except weekends and
holidays. Is that clear to you?'
'At the school are worktables, books with lots of pictures, playgrounds,
games, and many things to do that are fun. Children who are the same
age as you will be there too. A grown-up will be in the room with you
and the other children to teach and help you to understand all the new
things you will do and see.'
Leah was having a problem being a listener.
'I think Leah either wants to say something or ask a question.' Daddy
grinned. 'Shall we give her the floor for a moment?'
'Very well,' Mother said.
The questions tumbled out of Leah. 'When will I start? What will I
learn about? What's the teacher's name? Will I get new clothes for
school? What about....?'
'Wait a minute. Wait a minute.' Daddy laughed. 'Let's take them one at
a time. We can answer a few of your questions, and the teacher of your
class will answer others.'
Mother turned Leah to face her.
'You start school in three days,' she said. 'The school's teacher knows
you are coming, just as they know of the others who will be with you.
What you learn will depend on your teachers and on you.'
Suddenly Leah's face drooped.
'What about Sarah?' Her face clouded, and her voice became a whisper.
Mother and Daddy glanced at each other. Daddy picked Leah up, placed
her on his lap so that they faced each other. Their eyes met.
'Tell me, Leah,' Daddy said as he drew her close and gave her a
full Daddy-hug, 'When we have a change in our lives in which you will
be at school every day, where do you think Sarah will be while you are
'Sarah will always be my friend,' Leah's voice was a whisper as she
leaned her head on her Daddy's chest. 'She'll be with me always,
wherever I go. Maybe we won't go flying as often as we did before, but
I'll always feel her close to me.' Leah raised her head, grinned, and added
with a laugh, 'and that will always make me feel good.'
Leah and her Mother and Daddy sat on the couch, talking about the
changes that would come with school. There would be a new time to getup in the morning, dressing to go out, packing a school lunch and having a comb and brush kit, and things like that.
Leah listened, and gave opinions that Mommy and Daddy considered
very carefully. The meeting was a sharing.After a while, Daddy and Leahwent to the dining room table and Mother brought cookies and milk. They sat around the table, munched the
cookies, sipped the milk, and talked some more.
Daddy rose, came around the table where Leah sat, and picked her up.
Mother kissed Leah's cheek as her head rested on Daddy's arm.
Daddy carried Leah down the long hallway, passed David's room, and
opened the door into Leah's softly lit bedroom. Daddy lowered drowsy
Leah to her bed, tucked her in, and kissed her good night.