Moments with Chase
Moments with Chase
“There’s nothing more wonderful than the love of a child,” I said to my niece Lauren last week, after her son, my grandnephew Chase, had given me my fifth or sixth hug of the afternoon. We were on a playground across the street from Chase’s home in Mamaroneck, next to Long Island Sound. As the sea air fluttered the dark curls encircling Lauren’s face, she kept a close watch on her son jostling with kids of all colors, all age six, like him. The clouds had thickened during this stretch of late afternoon; droplets of rain splattered lightly near a dozen dusty ant hills, and the sea air swaddled us in quiet comfort. Quiet, except for the non-stop shouts and calls from the dizzying array of kids dashing around us!
I didn't ask Chase for his hugs; these were given voluntarily, after he climbed up, then down, on the jungle gym, and raced across the playground. He circled around and came running towards me, his light brown hair flying in the breeze he created; his arms outstretched, he leaped and wrapped them around me as I dropped mine around him. Then he’d take off with his friends, with Lauren and me behind him yelling, “Go, Chase, go!”
I took out my phone and told him I was going to run the video as he swung on the monkey bars, landed on his feet, and kicked up the tanbark as he ran past me with his thick-soled sneakers at the end of his lanky legs, hollering at me to “Keep the camera running!”
The last time I had spent time with him, I had gone up to the loft at his grandma’s where Chase keeps his toys, and we engaged in a table-size air hockey game as we knelt on the floor. He directed me, telling me how to put the pucks on the board and how to shoot. He came up with all sorts of creative ways to launch the puck and pop it against the sides and fire it into the exit gate, and how to knock each other's pucks off the field. Some techniques didn’t seem quite within the regulations. Of course, he beat me 8 to 2.
During the game, he kept getting louder, shrieking, his little hands attacking his puck, and mine, too, both pucks ricocheting in all directions, rules be abandoned! My laughter merged with my words like yay! and wow! and good job! Chase’s giggles flew through the room like the nearly-airborne pucks. At times, the laughter in his innocent eyes met mine.
Seeing me now, about a week later, surprised at my arrival at the playground, may have refreshed the energy and connection blossoming over the air hockey game. As I approached the playground, searching for Lauren and Chase, knowing that one wouldn’t be very far from the other, I had no expectation that my day (and possibly my life) would be changed by the joyous call of “Aunt La!” when Chase saw me approach, and he catapulted himself in my direction.
Dear Reader, if you’re on regular caregiving duty for your children’s children, you know the pleasure (and challenges) of consistently connecting with your grandchildren, nieces or nephews. If your relationship to those little souls is occasional, you may find it both easy and difficult. Easy to be an aunt or a grandma when time with the child is allotted in visits limited by the constraints and schedule of the parents. Easy to be the fun person who creates little conflict for a kid: no rules, restraint, except guidance to prevent an accident. It’s also hard because of the limits; the moments, precious, because they are only moments, leaving you wanting more.
As you are, I imagine, looking ahead to moments with your own little ones, I’m looking ahead to many moments with Chase, only a text away and a negotiation with Lauren for a meet-up. Looking ahead to observing, and at times being a part of, Chase’s life as he evolves, enjoying milestones of new playground adventures, bike riding, and maybe a few more air hockey games before he moves through grammar and middle school and beyond. I hope I’m still around for all this. And I hope that someday, when Chase reads this, he will be pleased.