Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gramkids next door, 'cept they moved away!

As we wait for our own blood kin to produce an heir or heiress, we've actually considered adopting--not our own grambaby. Somebody else's for us to practice on with the parent's delighted permission. We have become something more than baby sitters. We are Brother Howe and Gramma Rosie to six of the cutest surrogate gramkids we have ever had the pleasure to live next door to.

Their father is our landlord and for the last five years, we have lived through the wall of a brick duplex in Holladay, Utah. The parents' bedroom where the dear little screamers were gently led for time out was a rather thin concrete block wall that adjoined our living room. Sitting at our table we have enjoyed the screams and squalls of Elizabeth, James, Joseph, Patrick Preston and Amy. We've got so we could identify them through the wall by pitch.

I say HAVE enjoyed because Daddy Chris and Momma Ellen have left us our rather lonely peace and quiet by moving a few blocks away to a bigger home. I especially miss the piano practicing. Suburban parents have substituted piano for work on a ranch to teach their children discipline and focus. They're still around, but it's just not the same.

He's an investment banker and she is a concert violinist with the Orchestra at Temple Square. Together they moved to the green house on the brow of a little hill for at least two more chillins to love. Both mom and dad come from big families. We've chuckled with them that eight will probably be enough. One neighbor woman asked me one day if I would speak to the Pappa. He gleefully told me that eight is Momma's idea and he's more than happy to help achieve her goal. I dare say that together they are the terrific parents you hope every pair would be around the world.

I honestly have never heard either of them raise their voice, and believe me, we've been invited into their homes many times and hear virtually everything through the wall. They have both mastered the gentle grampa skill. It isn't always easy.

Their third, Joseph, had his little 4 year old hands tied behind his back with a loose shoe lace one Monday afternoon when I dropped by with some cookies from Gramma Rosie for their family home evening. His same age girl cousin was visiting and as his mother turned to the sink for a minute, he hauled off and smacked the little girl's shoe with his shoe. Without missing a beat, Ellen kept working at the sink, and in the most loving way said, "Joseph, you keep that up and you'll be in time out."

We love collecting Joseph stories. His Grampa Marvin teases the kids when he visits, calling them SLK (short for Silly Little Kids) By then Joseph is old enough to read, and he knows what his grampa is doing. Quick as a flash he spoke up to Grampa Marvin. "We're not SLKs" said Joe, "we're SBKs" " What does that mean?" Marvin shot back. "Smart Big Kids!" shouted Joseph!

Ellen told me once that when they were in student housing where walls are considerably thinner, she followed the philosophy that you let your little babies cry themselves to sleep. For Christmas she bought sets of ear plugs for the student couples on either side of her and begged them to be patient as she got her children sleep through the night.

More about Chris and Ellen and their six little neighbors going forward. They have much to teach us all. JRH

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