Grandson visit encourages silly Gigi

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Kitchen Table Talk, Uncategorized

A visit from my namesake grandson, Gardner, filled our house with joy last week. Gardner, one of the two Seattle grandsons, is 3 years old. He came to town “on an airpane” with his mom. The visit was too short, but I say that whether it’s 10 days or three.


My son Brett and other Seattle grandson, Cohen, didn’t get to make the trip because of work and school.

But, hey, I’ll take what I can get! And what I got was the incredible joy of hanging out with a 3-year-old.

Gardner is all-boy, and he only has one speed: Fast.  His laugh is incredible. It’s an older child’s laugh – full and throaty, lighting up his whole face and coming up from deep in his belly. That laugh is going to be missed between now and our post-Christmas visit to Seattle. Even on Facetime, it just doesn’t translate like it does in person.

Gardner will sit to read a book, and he does love the movies “Cars” (only the first one) and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Other than that, he wants to be up and moving: riding toys, pushing trains on the tracks, zooming cars up and down the halls (with frequent crashes that delighted him), Granddaddy time with the football and soccer ball and playing with Darth Vader and the Stormtrooper that Gigi has in the playroom.

Gigi is known for her “adventures” with the nephews, godchildren and grandchildren in her life. I like to take them places, and Knoxville has a lot of choices. Parks, splash pads, bouncy and trampoline facilities, Chuck E. Cheese, bowling, ice skating, movies and more.

Gardner Howell, age 3, enjoys a slide down the pirate ship at Smart Toys & Books during a visit with Gigi.

Since this visit was short, and he’s only 3, we went to one of Gigi’s favorite places: Smart Toys and Books. The toy store in Franklin Square has “Open Play Time” most days with two hour morning and afternoon sessions. The space, designed for toddlers through about age 5, has an interactive play area and a 9-foot-high pirate ship for kids to climb. At $8 (plus tax) per session, it’s a bargain.

Gardner enjoyed the Smart Toys adventure, but it was the time spent with Darth Vader and the Stormtrooper in the playroom that made the biggest impression.

Darth and Trooper are 4-foot-high hard plastic figures that I found on a deeply-discounted sale several years ago. Neville and I thought they were perfect to stand guard in the playroom, as well as feed our own Star Wars obsession. Their arms will move up and down a little with a good push, but the main attraction is in pushing the buttons on their chests to hear one of six comments, including, for Darth, the sound of a light saber being activated, and, for the Stormtrooper, the “pew-pew-pew” of the gun he is holding.

Gardner didn’t pay much attention to Darth Vader, but the Stormtrooper got plenty of action.

And it was in playing with Gardner and Trooper that I learned the main difference in being a parent and being a Gigi: Silliness.

I wasn’t a stick-in-the-mud mom. I loved adventures even in those busy days of too-much work, too-many activities and too-short days. I checked the boys out of school to watch the circus unload, had twice-a-month Mom and Me lunches with each child, bought season passes to what was then Silver Dollar City and would take off for Pigeon Forge, the pool, skating rink, playground and, always, soccer field on nothing but a whim. We did art projects, played board games and card games, and I actively spectated as the whole neighborhood gang tried to “save the Princess” on our Mario game.

But I wasn’t silly. I didn’t talk to the television, chastising Lighting McQueen’s enemy Chick Hicks or hide my eyes and squeal when Oogie Boogie plots against Santa. And, I didn’t have a comeback for every single thing the Stormtrooper said.

Gardner would push the button as I pointed my hockey-stick (which Gardner said was a Star Wars weapon that made the same “pew-pew-pew” sound as the Trooper’s gun). Everything I said in that silly Gigi voice brought that incredible laugh.

Over the few days they were here, I must have repeated, “Oh NO YOU’RE NOT! (taking me into custody), “You can’t get me, you evil Stormtrooper!” and “I won’t stop, and I’m NOT surrounded” a thousand times.

Gardner’s favorite was my response to Trooper’s “Put down your weapons!” I aimed my hockey stick at him and said, “Don’t You Tell Me What To Do!”

By the time I realized that probably wasn’t the best phrase for Gardner to incorporate into this daily life, it was too late.

I was addicted to his laugh.

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