Chuck wrote this piece about his grand­son Ryan ten years ago.

It start­ed out as a fair­ly typ­i­cal supper.

Grandfather, grand­moth­er, son, daugh­ter-in-law, and grand­son — all at the table ready to par­take of a sim­ple meal. The adults would be din­ing on car­ry-out Chinese fare and Ryan, twen­ty-two months old and a very finicky eater, would be hav­ing spaghet­ti, cut into short­er, man­age­able lengths.

Ryan may be finicky about WHAT he eats, but he’s not quite so reserved when it comes to the man­ner in WHICH he eats. Not yet well versed in the niceties of the use of knives, forks, and spoons, he is allowed to use the uten­sils giv­en him by nature — his fingers.

Ryan at 22 months
Ryan at 22 months.

It’s a good thing chil­dren are not as dex­ter­ous with their toes as with their fin­gers or meal­time would undoubt­ed­ly be far more inter­est­ing than it already is.

Shortly into the meal, Ryan decid­ed that the prop­er place for the pieces of spaghet­ti was not on his high chair tray, but on the floor and he pro­ceed­ed to gin­ger­ly drop strands over the side and then watch to see where they would land.

After only a cou­ple such grav­i­ty-test­ing exper­i­ments, Grandmother, affec­tion­ate­ly known as “Gimme”, decid­ed that this was not the way that she want­ed to see her grand­son devel­op, visu­al­iz­ing him as a thir­ty-year-old glee­ful­ly drop­ping food onto a restau­rant floor some­where, still test­ing to see that grav­i­ty was con­tin­u­ing to work as always.

With Ryan poised to let fly anoth­er piece of spaghet­ti, Gimme gen­tly admon­ished him, “No, Ryan. We don’t throw our food on the floor.”

Ryan stopped in mid-drop, his arm out­stretched with a sin­gle strand of spaghet­ti dan­gling pre­car­i­ous­ly, ready to be launched. But his tiny fin­gers, smudged gen­er­ous­ly with toma­to sauce, held the poten­tial­ly errant piece of food there in mid-air, a mute bar­ri­er between him and a grand­moth­er try­ing des­per­ate­ly not to break out laugh­ing at his hesitation.

Ryan low­ered his head slight­ly and scowled (as much as a twen­ty-two-month-old can scowl) from under his brow, not know­ing how far he could push Gimme and get away with it.

Grandmother and grand­son each sat there, try­ing to out-scowl the oth­er, while three oth­er adults at the table were either try­ing, unsuc­cess­ful­ly, to sti­fle out­right laugh­ter, smirk­ing, or giv­ing up alto­geth­er and howl­ing uncon­trol­lably, grand­fa­ther being the latter.

After a very long time of Gimme and Ryan see­ing who would yield first, each try­ing to out-stare the oth­er and with Ryan scan­ning the faces of every­one sit­ting at the table look­ing for some guid­ance as to what his next course of action should be, he appar­ent­ly final­ly decid­ed that cross­ing Gimme was prob­a­bly not a good plan, espe­cial­ly since she is the one who pro­vides cook­ies and milk on a reg­u­lar basis.

Reaching across his high-chair tray, he very gin­ger­ly placed the piece of spaghet­ti on the din­ing table and set­tled back to non­cha­lant­ly take a drink from his sip­py bot­tle, obvi­ous­ly gloat­ing in the real­iza­tion that he had accom­plished a coup and a diplo­mat­ic solu­tion all in one, while the adults were bare­ly able to fin­ish their meal due to laugh­ing so hard.

Remember, grand­moth­ers are just like moth­ers, only few­er rules… but don’t break the ones she has.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.