I’m not totally sure if I remember this happening, or if I’ve heard the story so many times that it’s like I remember it happening. If I recall the story correctly, I was two-ish years old. So don’t judge me on the details.
When I was a young child, my parents thought it was important to help me learn how to behave in public. For that, I am grateful, even if I turned out a little uptight in certain public spaces.
One day, I was taken to a restaurant with my Grandpa Chuck. Grandpa Chuck is a fun-loving character. In his younger days, he tells me he was a real “cool guy”. He was a racecar driver, running around with the likes of NASCAR drivers, and smoothly running his sports bar outside of Denver, CO.
However old I was, my mother was desperately trying to teach me to behave, taking me to restaurants to test my behavior, teaching me important manners skills, such as how not to screech in public.
Enter Grandpa Chuck, to ruin everything.
There I was, behaving as my mother had taught me. I probably had my napkin folded on my lap and everything. Then, my mom left the table for mere moments, and upon her return, she discovered a once-clean table filled with the grit of cracker crumbs, with water splattered about like a bad art student had fled the scene. The dark-rimmed diner drinking glasses were now cloudy with Saltine residue and filled with spoons, and there was my mother’s smiling baby girl, flickering the restaurant’s light switch on and off, clapping and cheering as she showed off her new skills to their waitress.
Grandpa Chuck was quietly enjoying the moment of blissful chaos while mom mentally unravelled – all of her hard work down the drain.
I recall many, many moments of happiness from childhood, but this story of Grandpa Chuck’s famous lapse in appropriate supervision seems to have been told since the beginning of time. As an adult who doesn’t yet have children but who frequents restaurants with other adults, I imagine this to have been quite the scene.
I’m not sure who else was in the diner that day, but I wonder what they saw. I’ve never asked my Grandpa why he let me destroy our table in this way, but the way I’ll always remember it is that he had a charming appreciation for the bliss of his grandchild. That he lived vicariously, for a few minutes, through one child’s unexpected thrill of crushing crackers and flashing lights. That he understood this behavior in a way only a grandparent could.