When Jackson comes to Grammy’s house, it’s a good day. If you ask him what makes Grammy the happiest, he’ll tell you in a heartbeat that she’s the happiest when he’s at her house. And he’s absolutely right. Jackson Matthew Yocham brings sunshine to his grandparents, and here’s how . . .
The day starts when he gets out of bed and announces, “It feels like I need to go to Grammy and Pop’s house today!” You know what that little declaration does to our hearts.
As this bundle of energy hits the front door, he heads for both of us with hugs. Now, don’t get me wrong—his hugs aren’t with his arms; they’re more a leaning in to us with his head. But we know that they’re hugs. Most days, he comes in dragging his Handy Manny suitcase (really a backpack with wheels) filled with extra clothes and underwear, snacks, and a toy or two. The only part of the contents that he needs is the clothes and underwear because he wants only two snacks at Grammy and Pop’s house—chocolate milk and round crackers—and both of them are right here. He seldom needs toys of any kind because he’s far too busy helping us. And no toys are required for that.
He immediately asks for chocolate milk after his daddy leaves, and you know he gets it. Since he knows where it is, he goes directly for the pantry. The organic chocolate milk box has rows of three little individual boxes in it. If Jackson is trying to get his milk from a full row and is having trouble, I remind him of our motto: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Yes, I know it’s an old mantra, but it’s new to him, and he likes for us to use it, and he likes to use it on his parents at home. Round crackers—Ritz Crackers— come later.
After being rejuvenated with chocolate milk, he goes to Pop’s garage to help him with some project, like wiring, putting in circuit breakers, putting up lights, examining and learning about tools, hanging garage doors, and installing the garage door openers. Or maybe he’ll help
outside with moving sand or laying flagstone or watering the trees in the “orch-red,” as he calls the orchard. He can tell you the names of almost every fruit tree there. He and Pop may take a little break to rock in the wicker chairs on the portal. Since I’m not invited to those sessions, I don’t really know what those boys talk about, but I’m sure it’s important. It may be that they talk about the mama bird and her eggs, the growth of the grape vines, the inadvisability of messing up Pop’s sand on the terrace just down from the portal, or the name of the bird making “that” sound. They talk about all sorts of things.
At least twice during the morning, he’ll run inside wanting to know if it’s time for lunch yet and if he can have tomato soup and croutons when the time comes. That’s what he has every day that he’s here. Never tires of it, and the little sweetheart eats almost a whole can of soup and croutons made from two slices of bread all by himself.
I think you need to know that five people in Jackson’s life have nicknames for him and that no one else can call him by these names. To his dad, he’s Little Man; to his mom, Sweetie Boy; to Pop, Buddy; to me, Sweetheart and Darlin’; and to Chris, one of our good friends, he’s Short Round. Quite a range of names, huh? I’m not sure why I thought you needed to know all of this, but now you’re educated and know not to use those names yourself.
When lunchtime does roll around, right at noon, the three of us gather, and Jackson says the blessing: “God is great; God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hand we must be fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Ah . . men!” When he first began to be in charge of this part of the meal, he kept his eyes wide open to be sure that everyone else had his/her eyes closed. Lots of pauses to remind folks. Now he squinches his eyes closed, but if you dare to look, you’ll know that he’s still peeping out through little slits so that he knows what we’re all doing. His intonation reminds me of that of a television evangelist.
After lunch, it’s naptime. You might think that he can twist Grammy around his little finger and avoid snooze time. Not so. We have a little ritual that we follow, and I think the pleasure of completing it makes taking a nap worthwhile. First, we get the bed in the guest room ready: one pillow with a sham on each side of the bed, his special pillow between them, the colorful blanket (an afghan crocheted by my mother) ready to cover him, the ceiling fan turned on (even in the winter). Now we’re ready for the next step. “I’ll turn the dryer on, Grammy!” We put his towel in the dryer for about two minutes so that he can snuggle up to it. Now he’s all set, and we each say, “’Night, ‘night, I love you!” about three times, and he’s off to dreamland. He used to sleep about three hours, but nowadays, an hour and a half is a good length.
When he wakes up, he comes very quietly to wherever I am . . . sometimes in my office, sometimes here on the sofa answering email, writing on Facebook, or writing for my blog. If I’m in my office, he plays office while I work. That means that he punches holes in paper with my hole punch or sits there pinching the staple puller together, listening not too carefully to my admonishing him not to poke his fingers. If I’m working on my laptop in the family room, sometimes he begs to write on his blog. I pull up a new page in Word, and he types away. Here’s an example of his talent:
Beautiful, isn’t it? I love having him work with me, no matter what we’re doing.
Just a few minutes after he gets up from his nap, he asks me if he can have a “little treat.” Actually, he asks several times during the morning, but the rule is that he can have it after his nap. He seldom forgets. Now, you may be thinking that a “little treat” is a handful of cookies or a bowl of ice cream. No . . . his “little treat” is one Junior Mint, not one box of Junior Mints . . . just one little piece of nickel-sized candy. He’s perfectly content with only one. In fact, he knows where the boxes are stored and will go there and get his one “little treat.” Wendy and Todd didn’t give him any sweets until just a year or so ago, and he’s now four. The only kind that they let him have then were cookies that I made because they knew what was in them. He’s not really attracted to sweets much . . . just his “little treat” and sweet biscuits on Sunday morning at his house . . . ones that I make. He calls them cake.
Another thing that Jackson almost always does when he comes to Grammy’s house is work with me in the kitchen. Oh, my goodness, can he ever bake biscuits! On second thought, I guess I should say, oh, my goodness, can he ever make a mess! He pulls his little stool up to the counter where I’m cooking and announces that he’s going to help me cook. That means that I need to get two bowls, the sifter, a measuring cup, a couple of measuring spoons, and some
flour ready. I’m not exaggerating when I say that he can stand there for 30 minutes or more just sifting flour from one bowl to the other. And is my kitchen covered in flour? Oh, yes, and so is he! After we finish cooking, he just moves his stool a few inches back and helps me wash dishes. That process is very similar to biscuit making: he has one sink, and I have the other; he has a measuring cup, a spoon, and lots of suds to pour between them. And is there soapy water everywhere? Oh, yes. But does he have a grand time at Grammy’s house. Double or triple that yes!
When Jackson’s daddy comes to get him, Grammy and Pop are a bit weary but ever so happy for the good day. Jackson, named for both Frank and Jay, is so precious to us. I don’t even let myself think about what our lives would be like if we hadn’t moved to Cerrillos in 2003. So many things would have been different. Perhaps the most important one would be our not being close enough for Jackson’s proclamation, “It feels like I need to go to Grammy and Pop’s house today” to be fulfilled almost every time he makes it. You see, it is, indeed, a good day when Jackson comes to our house.