Letter to my grandson (xxxxiii) Communion of the Water People

The Communion of the Water People takes a number of forms and can happen in many places. But it is always a silent and solitary experience. It is a special form of bliss found in water.

I remember my first time. It was at the long-gone Karori swimming pool.

My mother took me there when I was about your age. I still remember it.

I have taken you to the Richmond pool after Monday kinder twice now.  On both occasions, there has been no one else in the pool so we have been alone in the pool.

I sit on the steps of the pool and watch you.

You walk into the pool. You spread your arms and trail your fingertips across a surface of the water. Delicately.

The surface luminescent.  Everything silent.  You walk around tracing a large circle.  You come back to me and place both your feet in my hands so I can help you glide out into the centre of the pool  where you submerge.

There are shapes we can make in water. Today you will find some more of yours.

I sit and watch you. You do not need me to help you find your shapes. You find them on your own as you sink beneath the surface to explore.

Sometimes, you return to where I am sitting at the edge of the pool. You touch me and you’re gone. Sometimes you place your feet in my hands and then you glide off into the middle of the pool. It’s the shape of gliding. We both know that.

Later, you walk around pool singing to yourself, making incantations, telling stories. I do not know what these songs. incantations and stories are and you have not told me. They will remain a mystery forever, part of the Communion of the Water People.

Even later, kids will arrive, will be jumping and splashing, wrestling, fun, you will be in your element.

I will watch you as you trade your diving sharks for some toys you covet.

I marvel at you. It took you about a minute to affect the negotiation with the kids who must’ve been at least a year older than you. I watched their father who couldn’t believe his eyes as this little three-year-old talked his children out of the toys they had brought to the swimming pool.   It looked as if you then explained to him how you did it because he shrieked with laughter.  Marvellous stuff.

A Christmas Letter to my WA Grandson (ii)

Dear Connor

Nana Di and I have just returned from Broome having spent five days with you, your mum and dad and your Nanny.

We spend so little time with you, at best two weeks each year and there is so much that grandparents and grandchildren must discover together:

The proper forms and parchments for greetings and, sadly, for farewells.

When we arrived, you rushed to meet us with your specially prepared greeting cards.

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And so we rehearsed the many mysteries of Nanas and Papas, some of which we have practiced, some of which were new, some of which we did not have time for.

The numbering of smarties

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And books to be read and listened to

The singing of songs, the dancing  of dances, and the rhyming of nurseries

The mixing of potions especially mango smoothies and banana milkshakes.

The secret hiding places of chocolates

The telling of wonders

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Incantations to keep big bad wolves at bay

The chants of giants and the singing of dragons

Recipes for wolf stew and fox soup (this makes you very clever)

The various forms of kisses: of Forgiveness, of Healing, of Comfort, of Joy and of Love, specially of Love

The many and varied forms of cuddles

The “Put Me Down Now Wriggle” (one extreme form of which is demonstrated here by your cousin Winton)

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Cakes and Cousins and blood being thicker than water

Places to hide and places to seek

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The conjugation of verbs, homonyms and apostrophes.

Your place in our family.

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And poems, so many poems, we didn’t even start on poems. We have had no Cats and no  Fiddles; no Black Sheep; no Doctor Foster; no Humpty no Dumpy; no Grand Old Duke; no Owl, no Pussycat; no Bad Sir Brian; no Songs of Sixpence and No Waltzing and No Matilda.

But so alas, the five days were gone so quickly, and so much still undone.

I took more than 500 photographs, mostly of you. They are a poor substitute. This one,   of you with your mum. is particularly beautiful.

 

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Letter to my grandson xxxxiii

Dear Winton

You have just returned from a visit to Perth and your relatives there. Nana and I have taken you to the museum on both of our days when we have looked after you this week. Yesterday, you teamed up with a boy about your own age called Will and the two you ran around the Milarri Garden rather faster than Will’s mother, grandmother or Nana and I could keep up with either of you.

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So I have been minded to finish this letter which I started some time ago.  It’s a little  hymn of praise to your exuberant and seemingly never-ending energy.

Even as a small child you were never still.  I have been watching you since you returned from Perth. You have endless enthusiasm for life’s experiences. At the Museum yesterday, you couldn’t wait to get to the Children’s Gallery while we were eating lunch  despite having been there numerous times. Everything is a new adventure and you are eager to be on with it. It’s interesting because you have a way of communicating this to other children which is why the game with Will was such high-energy adventure.

So this is a collection of photos of you in your high-energy mode.

The picture on the left is one of my favourites. It was taken in the Barber Shop coffee shop. You were about six months old and enjoying a boisterous baby chino.  Was there ever any other kind?   In the middle picture, you are now crawling and clearly giving someone the benefit of your opinion and on your way to enforcing it.  I think Susie was always a little bit amazed when giving you a cuddle. They were really unlike cuddles with most other children, more like a cross between a wriggle and a wrestle.

When you are quite little, Nana  would take you for walks up and down Mary Street and you would always set off, full of determined energy, on some important mission

I remember the middle photograph quite clearly. Connor and his family were visiting from Western Australia and we were in the park down the road. You had been on the rocking horse but had spotted someone involved in some transgression against your property and were heading off to right the perceived wrong. I seem to remember someone having to intercept you before you committed grievous bodily harm on some innocent and unsuspecting child.

What I will always remember is that whenever you were running anywhere you always had focus about what you were doing, a sense of concentrating your energies on getting to where you were going, almost to the exclusion of everything else.

These three photographs are from a remarkable morning at soccer when you were preoccupied with nothing more than “going places” both on foot and on your scooter.

Then there was a marvellous game of “Octopus” at soccer. The aim was for the kids to dribble a soccer ball past the coaches who acted as an octopus trying to catch them. You, never content just to think outside the box, went right outside the box. With your hand on your head,  you discarded the soccer ball and became a shark. Well, what better way to avoid an octopus.  You even took time out to threaten the octopus.  Naturally, you  were the last man standing.

These photographs are from a day at the Collingwood Children’s Farm when you and Lucy Oettinger decided to do a large amount of rearrangement of the farm.

As time has gone by, you  seem to have become more balanced and better coordinated,  a treat to photograph.

But for all my photos of your running and your wonderful energy, this is still one of my  all-time favourites.

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Letter to my Grandson xxxxii

Dear Winton

Last weekend was Father’s Day and I had a lovely Grandfather’s Day present. All the grown-ups have gone off to do their thing and we were left to our own devices at 170.  We decided to have an all-out blitz on bad people and robbers.

I built you a robber who hid under a pillow in the upstairs bedroom.  I must admit you were quite impressed with him. Particularly the red.

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The red robber

 You decided to build some cannons out of the Lego to give us some “red power”. The cannons were build predominantly of red Lego.

When I asked you why, you said “Because the bad person is red.”

My systems theory colleagues will be pleased to know that, at the age of three, you have already begun to grasp the fundamental principles of Ross Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety.

We had to creep up on him very quietly. After we captured him a number of times, you put him in your bed for a rest. You climbed in amongst your soft toys and told me that you were driving a speedboat and chasing some more bad people who were on a boat.

I got my chair and sat next to you.

“Are the bad people in the speedboat going off to bury the treasure on an island?” I asked.

You digested this question from moment and said, “Only pirates bury treasure. Can you get me some treasure, Papa?”

” I think so. I will go and look.” I went next door and found a perspex paperweight and a small jewelry box and brought it through to you.

You looked at them, “Gold!”

“I need to put on my diving mask and dive for some more treasure.” You struggled into your diving mask and swam through next door and came back with a large box/treasure chest full of Lego and dumped it on the speedboat.

“Now I need some more treasure from a long way down.”

You set off down the stairs.

“Do you need me to help you?”

“No I’m all right.” You returned a few minutes later with your bug catcher filled with tan bark which you added to the treasure trove.

“Where robbers get the treasure from, Papa?”

“I think they get this from the toyshop, and this from the Art Gallery, and this from the Museum,” I said indicating each piece of the treasure.

“I think I need some more treasure,” you said and went off and got some books from the bookshelf.  You then sat down and began to read them.

Your attention was now diverted to some wood that was on the bedroom  floor.

“I think this will make a big bed,” you said. Brandon, your current hero, is building some shelves in your bedroom. “I will draw him some instructions.”

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Instructions for a big bed

 Yesterday, you decided that you needed a drill that made the same noise as Brandon’s and once we had bought you one, you went out and started helping with the shelving in the annex.

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Some serious drilling and plier work

 You spent a good proportion of the afternoon drilling and even doing some rescue drilling while Nana Di was trapped in the toilet.

Later at bath time,  you and I were building dinosaurs in the bath and Nana Di began explaining how an asteroid had wiped out the dinosaurs. I have never seen you so look perplexed.  You are probably not ready for the idea that dinosaurs aren’t around more. They are fairly ubiquitous in various realistic and unrealistic forms.

And I think we have done small children like you a grave disservice when we give you books, even well-intentioned books, that show humans and dinosaurs together.

And as you grow older, you will come in contact with people who really do think that dinosaurs and humans lived together on earth. I know you are surrounded by people who will ensure that you are brought up understanding that these people are all idiots.

Later that evening, you  brought Nana Di a picture book of a little boy and a dinosaur together which showed that they hadn’t been wiped out. And the BBC program “Andy’s Prehistoric Adventure”, which absolutely fascinates you, probably doesn’t help either because time travel is not possible and you can’t talk to dinosaurs.

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 You and Nana Di set off on a prehistoric adventure with Andy

And suddenly I realised that there is so much that a small boy needs to understand.

Later, going home in the car, you began to explain the story of the asteroid. You started the story four or five times but you could only begin the first sentence. Finally you said, “I think it was only a toy astroid.”

And I think that is a pretty good explanation coming from a three year old boy.

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to My Grandson XXXXI

Dear Winton,

It is often said of only children that they spend a disproportionately large amount of time with adults and as a consequence develop their ability to communicate with adults much more quickly than they develop the ability to communicate with children of their own age.

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I’m not certain if this is the case with you but Nana and I spend two whole days with you when we mind you. You spend all day Thursday with your mum and I pick you up from “school” on Friday and your dad I spend Saturday and Sunday mornings with you at soccer and swimming and that’s quite a lot of grown-up time.

During your time with Nana and me, you are very much part of our grown-up family.

A couple of nights ago, you were sitting in the bath when I put some more hot water in the bath because it was getting cold. You had complained that the bath was not hot enough despite the fact you were turning decidedly pink.

“If you think the bath is too cold, then you should get out and put on your warm pyjamas.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

Now I am not certain what was going on in your head and am equally certain that you wouldn’t have been able to explain it to me. But I think you expected that the logic of making the bath warm was putting more hot water in it was clear and that you expected that I would understand and follow that logic.

I recount this simply because it is a quite different strategy from that of bellowing your head off when you’re not getting your own way. You never cease to amaze me.

Last week, we were driving to the Prahran Market and I was sitting in the back with you in your car seat. You were holding your two armrests and using them as levers. I asked you if you were helping Nana to steer the car. You said you were. And then you off. You were flying an aeroplane.  We were off to Perth to see Nana and Papa Tresham. And then it was a speedboat. And it was a house.

“What do we call a house that we can drive?” I asked, thinking if he’s smart he’ll say  “a caravan”.

” A magic driving house.”

Silly, prosaic grandfather.

Nana recently bought you a small Lego fire engine and with an extension ladder on a trailer, a motorbike with a daring fireman called Winton who has an axe  and a fire squirter and a house that has fire on its roof and an oven inside that has caught fire.

It’s brilliant and you are absolutely fascinated. Fireman Winton has spent a whole day driving his motorbike and putting out fires. The motorbike has been named Mercury.

Last night, I said, not for the first time, “Look there is a fire on the roof.”

And you asked, not for the first time, “But why?”

“Well, it could be that a firebird has dropped some fire on the roof.”

“Or it could be a fire aeroplane. I had better look it up on my Internet.”

With that you went off and got a book about rescue vehicles that was about the size of an iPad  (interestingly not an iPad although one was available). You sat down at the table where the house was burning and read the book from cover to cover.

When you had finished you said, “I better ring up the airport.” You held your finger and thumb  up to your mouth and ear and pretended to make a phone call.

” Hello, airport. Your aeroplane is dropping fire on a house.”  You turned to me and said, “I told him to stop, Papa.”

We have an interesting way of sharing narratives. I had fondly imagined that I would tell you stories and you would sit fascinated by The Three Little Pigs etc.  You were for a while.

But generally that idea hasn’t worked out well.

I was telling you a story in the bath. I think it was Winton Jack and the Beanstalk. I had only just got into the story when you interrupted, “And Winton’s daddy came up the beanstalk too.”

“Who’s telling this story?”

“I am.”

And that pretty much sums it stories at 170 Mary Street, shared narrative, plenty of action, and a hero called Winton.

Recently, we had Winton and the Iceberg (at your request). Now, I have some clue about this one because Nana has read you the story of the Titanic. So once the ship had struck the iceberg, you took over the story and went below decks with your tools and mended the hole and got a large pump and pumped the ship dry so that it could sail away.

Happily ever after.

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Letter to my Grandson XXXX

Dear Winton

Storytelling has changed somewhat in the Haslett household. I should’ve seen the change is coming when the old traditional story changed to “Winton Jack and the Beanstalk.” You’ve lost interest in most stories now unless you are the hero and you are  usually interested in being the hero alongside Fireman Sam.  And there is an increasing emphasis on action and participation.
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We have quite a lot of stories where you rescue various animal friends from dire predicaments: trapped at the bottom of the cliff (behind the sofa in the study),  trapped in a cave (on one of the chairs under the table),  caught in an avalanche (in my wastepaper basket under a large cushion), trapped at the top of the mountain (on the top shelf of my wardrobe).

Many of these rescues involve my towing you on a blanket which serves as a rescue helicopter or fire engine depending on the situation.  Sometimes you come in the fire engine that you and Nana built from a cardboard box and some paper plates.

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You also come equipped with the necessary gear, axe, crowbar, fire extinguisher, hose,  breathing apparatus, face mask as well as a fleet of fire engines. You also have all the gear including a four different fire helmets.

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Last week after you had your bath and dinner, I asked you if you would like me to tell you a story. You agreed.

“Would you like the story of Fireman Winton and the fire at the fish and chip shop?” I asked. That would be fine.

It’s not so much storytelling any longer. It’s more a full-scale dramatic production.

The story begins  one morning in the Pontypandy fire station when the fire alarm goes off and Stationmaster Steel says “There is a fire in the fish and chip shop. Fireman Winton you had better take  Jupiter.”  Jupiter is the big fire engine at the fire station. You have three different versions of now all ready for action along with the Paw Patrol.

You leap up, grab your fire hat and  Jupiter. “Come, Papa.  It’s an emergency.” We charge off down to the bathroom.

It is at this point that you need to go to the toilet.  Suddenly you have to stop being a fireman and focus on more immediate matters. This is quite a protracted performance and involves a lot of running around, chocolate rewards and general congratulations. It takes about 10 minutes. Your instructor told me, “Winton’s problem is that he can’t concentrate.”

When you’ve finished all this, you come over to me and say, “Keep going with the story, Papa.”  You slip back into your role as Fireman Winton and we head off to the bathroom/fish and chip shop again.

“Who do you think is in here,” I asked.

“I think it must be Dilys.” The appropriately named Dilys is one of the characters from the Fireman Sam series. She is Norman Price’s mother prone to setting things on fire.

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“I think you better go in and rescue her and tell her to keep down low.”

“Roger that,” you reply.  You go into the bathroom and search around for a while.

When you return you say, “She’s not here I can’t find her. I think she must be upstairs. I have to get the ladder.”

I think to myself, “Who’s telling this story?”

It’s getting late and I don’t fancy bringing the stepladder in from outside and you’re quite happy to pretend that the stairs constitute a ladder to climb up them to try and rescue Dilys from the burning bedroom upstairs.

When we get up there is quite dark and I suggest we probably need a torch.

You head off downstairs to find a torch. This proved more difficult than we expected as quite the right kind of torch is not available. After about 10 minutes, an appropriate one is found. You come back upstairs to begin searching around the darkened rooms.

While you have been away, I have put a teddy bear on the bed in the spare bedroom. As you are searching, you find the teddy bear.

“Do you think this is Dilys?” I ask.

“Yes!” you reply.

I find it amazing the extent to which you are prepared to enter into the imaginative element of these stories and accept, without a moment’s hesitation, that your teddy bear has suddenly become Dilys Price.  You sling Dilys over your shoulder, in the fireman’s carry. Then, you  go into your own bedroom and start rummaging around amongst your animal friends. You grab the baby leopard.

“Who’s that? I ask.

You look at me pittingly, “It’s Norman.”

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Of course it’s Norman. Norman is Dilys’ son. Like his mother he is a bit of a dill and in frequent need of being rescued.  Of course he will be upstairs in the fire and of course Fireman Winton would remember to rescue him even if Papa has forgotten.

Our  work here is over. The story is complete.

 

Letter to my WA grandson (iii)

Dear Connor

You and your mum and dad have now departed for Manila after a week in Melbourne and I left feeling that I have really seen nothing of you despite the fact that you have been with us for all that time. It’s a sad fact that you’re growing up without us.  But definitely growing more beautiful.

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You came downstairs in your pyjamas each morning when you heard me in the kitchen.

We just pottered around, you playing with the toys, me trying to convince you to have some breakfast, usually unsuccessfully.

The weather wasn’t too good while you here so we were stuck indoors a lot, but we did have a great game of hide and seek in the towels in the backyard,

threw the ball around

put out some fires

and chased pigeons in the park, with no success whatsoever.

We had a major family celebration for your birthday at a local pub.

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I had hoped that you and Winton would spend more time together but he was not particularly well and what with two days at daycare your time together was limited which was disappointing. Nonetheless, you both made the most of this particular day.

There was an interesting little  “blood-is-thicker-than-water” exchange when a girl tried to take the abacus off you.  I suspect that the Haslett boys will always be a formidable combination.

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That is not to say that you didn’t have your differences over such things as the ownership of the birthday cake decorations.

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cake problems

Mind you everything is normally resolvable by birthday cake.

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And now you are gone.

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And we are the sadder for it.

Letter to my grandson (xxxviiii)

Dear Winton

Today is your birthday. You’re three and already an experienced cake-eater and firefighter.

Today, your mum has prepared a special treat for her fireman.

And you have had a day at the Werribee Zoo with your mum and dad where your mum took a photograph of you looking like a barrow boy from London’s East End and altogether more than your three years.

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Later in the day, your mom and dad brought you around for cake and presents. It had been a long day at the zoo so we really appreciated seeing you.

Your cousin, Connor, has just finished a week-long visit and will have landed in Manila by now after flying out last night. The two of you were not able to spend much time together unfortunately but you have a quite remarkably close relationship for two little boys who see each other so rarely.

There’s the occasional altercation about almost nothing but there was an interesting exchange at Connor’s birthday party in a local pub. Connor was playing with an abacus and an older and bigger girl came and took it away from him.  You were having none of it.

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Your dad intervened. I think it was something along the lines of, “‘Let the Wookie win. It’s not wise to upset a Wookie.”

We took you and Connor and his parents to the NGV.  The carwash installation which you have enjoyed so much has been removed and most of the cushions you roll around have gone all to make way for the queues for the Van Gogh exhibition so it wasn’t quite so much fun.

You and Nana often go up the escalator.  Because I am the support team with the pusher I have to use the lift and don’t keep up so I don’t see you go through the exhibitions so I have missed you and your appreciation of the Oriental sculptures.  I do not use the word lightly because Nana says you stop and look, often at the same ones.

But today I had left the pusher behind.

I saw something that made me realise there is something going on in that beautiful head of yours when we visit the gallery that involves more than rolling cushions around the Great Hall.

At the top of the first escalator, there is a bronze statue, a torso by Gaston Lachaise.  You stopped in front of it and stood looking at it.

“What happened to its head?” you asked. Nana explained that the artist left the head off on purpose. “It’s a mummy statue,” you observed. Your aunt giggled nervously as you walk around it.

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In the next gallery, we found a first century BC marble entitled Torso of Athlete.

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You stood and looked at it for some time. “What happened to its arms and legs?” I explained that they had broken off and sometimes some bad people broke them off.

Where do you start explaining all this to a child who is going to have his third birthday party next weekend? The role of the artist and the role of the vandal. I hope I can live long enough.

You walked around the statue looking closely.  “Would you like me to show you some statues, on the computer, that haven’t had their arms and legs broken off?” I asked. You thought that would be a good idea. You went back and inspected the Lachaise again.

I was talking to your swimming teacher recently and he said, “Winton’s problem is that he can’t concentrate.” My immediate reaction was: He is only two years old.

Now I think, perhaps he should come to the National Gallery of Victoria with us one day.

Letter to my Grandson (xxxviiii)

Dear Winton

Last Saturday, you and your mum came back from Perth where you had been spending a week with your other nana and papa. You’ve been away for a week. I know how much they enjoy seeing you but selfishly we were glad you were back. Who wouldn’t be?

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Your dad and I came out to pick you both up from the airport. We caught up with you at the baggage terminal. You put your arms around your dad’s leg waiting to be picked up. When he did, you wrapped your arms around his neck. I was standing next to him and you looked over and saw me and you reached out and said, ”Papa,” and pulled me into the cuddle.

As we walked to the car, you buried your face in your dad’s neck and wrapped your arms around him. They don’t quite reach yet but you were holding on as tight you could. I was walking behind. Every now and then you would look up. I like to think it was to make sure I was following along. And then you would snuggle back into your dad.

I’ll never forget the look on your face. You’re not smiling, you are just very very happy. I’ve seen that look on your face once before that I can remember. You had just woken up in Nana and Papa’s big bed with the covers pulled up and the pillows all around you, snug and secure and very happy. Everything was right in the world in the way that can only be right for a small child.

When we got in the car, I sat in the back seat with you. I had brought Baby Rabbit, Baby Dragon and Leopard specially to greet you. You are so pleased to see them and you wrapped your arms round them in a huge hug while you devoured slices of apple, blueberries and grapes from your special lunchbox.

Next day, you came round for Easter Sunday. As soon as you arrived, you headed upstairs. I thought it was to greet your animal friends. But no, it was to survey the new poster of the solar system.

“Which one is Venus? Which one is Earth?” They were duly pointed out you. You’re three at your next birthday. Clearly soft toys are off the birthday list. You seem pleased that visit to the Planetarium at Science Works was scheduled for the week after next.

Then it was downstairs with some Lego that Nana had bought. You, your dad and Uncle Nick spent the next hour putting it together. I took photos. It was amazing to watch. Just three blokes spending a Sunday afternoon no great rush, not a lot to say, just putting stuff together.

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And you, expecting, I think, to be treated completely as an equal, particularly when it came to an assessment of Nick’s artwork that he did when he was in kindergarten about the same age as you are now. Nick explained to you what he was trying to achieve as an artist and you, an artist of considerable standing in your own right already, were prepared to give him a very fair hearing.

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It’s wonderful watching you building the relationships with the members of the family. You are particularly good at constructing those relationships with adults and I think you have a real talent for understanding how to relate to other children particularly girls who are older than you.

What is particularly interesting is watching you with Matilda. Naturally, Matilda doesn’t respond at all so you have to take a lot of your cues from adults. But on Sunday, you began improvising and while you were having lunch, you began making cheese sandwiches for Matilda. You like cheese sandwiches. They are one of the staples of your diet and it so typical of you to share the things that are important for you with other people.

On Sunday, we had an Easter egg hunt. You shared all your eggs with the family. You shared the biggest one with Nick. He’s going to be the perfect uncle. He’s a sort of a replica dad. Not quite like dad but close enough which is just pretty good from where I stand.

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Letter to my grandson (xxxix)

Dear Winton

We were talking recently about what you would like to do when you grow up.

You said, “I would like to drive a very fast speedboat.”

Nana Di said, “I would like you to grow up to help people.”

I said, “He does help people a lot.  He rescues them from fires.”

Indeed, a large amount of our time together is spent on various forms of firefighting and rescue with you variously filling the role of fireman, helicopter pilot and medic.

I remember when I was very young, probably not much older than you, being asked the same question. I replied, “A fireman.”  I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t particularly want to be a fireman but it seemed to be a satisfactory answer and I didn’t have any others available.

Naturally, I would like you to complete a PhD and find a cure for cancer or something equally impressive. A Nobel Laureate would be nice.  Amongst other things, I think your dad would like you to play for Hawthorn.

And I think we all want you to grow up to be the smartest, happiest and best-looking kid in the world.

But the question got me thinking. It’s argued by some educationalists that the basis for what we become in later life is laid down in the first four years. I’m not certain I go along with that completely but it’s an interesting thought and it means that you’re three quarters of the way there.

Nana Di and I have spent quite a lot of your first three years with you.  Not as much as your mum and dad have spent with you for sure but more than my parents were able to spend with your dad or your uncles.

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But, if the theory is right, we will  have been one of the major influences. So the question makes you think, how are we going? Is it time for a progress report?

When you were very little, Nana or I saw you most days, not for long, but usually enough for a cuddle.   We seemed to spend a lot of time in coffee shops.

Then we got into some serious baby cuddling.  Actually, it was more like a cross between cuddling and wrestling. You were a very active child.

Then we got into some very heavy duty baby minding.

So, given that I am not going to be around for the PhD graduation, I’ve been thinking about what I would like you be when you grow up.

And, of course that begs the question: When will that be?

And the answer to that is, of course: Tomorrow.

I know it is a cliché but you’re growing up so quickly. You are already a giant. Albeit a quite small one as yet, but a giant nonetheless.

But it is not your physical development that surprises me.

We were sitting with you having dinner and we had been talking about going to the park next day and then I said to you,”I have a question for you, Winton. What animal friend would you like to greet you tomorrow morning?”

I always bring one of your soft toys to greet you at the door when you arrive and you replied that you would like your giraffe next day. That morning, it had been Baby Rabbit.

And then you said, “And now, I have a question for you, Papa. When are you going to take me to the park to see Peppa Pig?”  Your dad explained that the visit to Peppa Pig was to be done in Perth next week when you visited Poppy Tresham.  How did your little brain manage to bring all that together and articulate it in two sentences?  Miraculous.

So what would I like you to be like when you grow up tomorrow?

I would like you to be someone who can surprise and delight me with your mastery and delight in the use of the language. Someone who can sing, “Puff, the Magic Dragon, lived by the ocean.”

I would like you to be someone who shares his cheese sandwich with his dad, who says “I love you mum” when he kisses her goodbye each morning.

I would like you to be someone who shrieks, “Put me down, put me down.” when his dad lifts him up three metres off the ground so he can drop his basketball through the basketball hoop, preferring to stand on the ground and try to throw it through himself.

Someone who will wrestle his own dragons.

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Someone who can charm and delight.

Someone who takes joy in everything he does.

I think you’re growing up pretty well.