My grandsons, Tyler and Bryce, turn 5 today. Here is some of what they know:

They know how to fill up a water balloon (but not how to tie it). They know pumpkins and apples have stems and that stems come in all sizes. They know pumpkins grow on vines.

They know I keep a list of things I need — i.e. things they say I need (a flashlight to search for missing toys under my couch, a new ribbon for my 1940s Remington Rand manual typewriter). 

They know how to type their name on that typewriter. They know Pieritz Bros., where we picked up the new ribbon last week, is a virtual manual typewriter museum.

They know that Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor in Forest Park was once a movie theater.

They know how to tell jokes. Tyler: “Why did the pumpkin cross the road?” “I don’t know.” “To get to the pumpkin patch.” Har, har, har.

They know squirrels bury nuts and later dig them up. They know squirrels eat acorns, but we don’t have the teeth for it.

They know how to buckle themselves into their car seats.

They know how to say “Morton Arboretum,” which is a real mouthful for a 5-year-old.

They know how to find a clog in a sewer pipe (which we saw being worked on along the side of the road one day). Tyler said they probably use a flashlight, but Bryce said they should put a camera on the end of a long cable. I asked if someone had told him that. “No, I just thought it.”

They know how to rearrange magnets and artwork on my fridge.

They know how to impersonate a singing cat.

They know how to make up songs, which sound more like recitations.

They know most of the holidays during the year, or at least the ones they like: Halloween (we get candy!), CHRISTMAS (Santa and reindeer and Polar Express!), Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, EASTER (Easter Bunny and Easter eggs!), Mother’s Day, July 4th (parade and fireworks!), and OUR BIRTHDAY (we get cake!).

They know the holiday that’s top on their list (“The one that comes next!”).

They know what they’re going to be for Halloween.

Bryce: “Two scoops of ice cream.”

Me: “Aw, that’s cute. Two brothers, two scoops of ice cream in a dish?”

Bryce: “No, two scoops, one on top of the other. Tyler’s going to be a donut.”

Tyler: “Hey, I wanted to tell him!”

Me: “Tyler, what are you going to be for Halloween?”

Tyler: “A strawberry donut with sprinkles.”

They always know whose shoes are whose because one always wears red (for firemen and Marshal on Paw Patrol) and the other always wears blue (for policemen and Chase on Paw Patrol).

They know most of the words to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and they know the North Pole can get foggy on Christmas Eve.

They know what’s alive and what’s not, for the most part. It usually moves, breathes and/or grows, and it isn’t made by people (we’re saving babies for another discussion, but they know babies come from “mommies’ bellies”). We get into these discussions while driving or waiting for Daddy to meet us so we can go to the zoo. “Last time we waited for 21 hours!” Bryce says. Minutes feel like hours to a 5-year-old.

They know so much in just five years, which is short to us, yet so vast in terms of their development. They can run at breakneck speeds without breaking their necks. They know how to read books without actually knowing how to read words. They pore over each page and devour every detail. When we walk through our courtyard, we look at all the flowers and they ask for their names.

They know that the zoo carousel goes round and round and so do the changing seasons, the years already piling up. They spent the last day of summer, a scorcher, getting gloriously soaked by the spouting whale at Fox Park. So they know that whales spout and I know that whoever designed this particular water feature was a genius as I watch them frolic from a safe distance under the boughs of a nearby redbud tree.

I have watched them frolic and chortle and climb and slide and dig and swing and drink from big-boy cups and reach up and say, “I love holding your hand, Grandpa,” (Tyler) and finding a book that “we haven’t read until a long time” (Bryce), and I love his creative use of prepositions. I love every perfectly imperfect moment we share. 

It’s a privilege being along for the ride.

They have learned much, absorbing, connecting the dots, imagining, observing, listening, remembering, asking questions, paying attention, taking an interest. Such facile minds, soaking it up, assembling their own personal instruction manual.

So many phases in five years. And if you asked which was the top phase on my list, I’d be tempted to say, “The next one!”

The seasons go round and round and the painted ponies (or in their case, elephant and baboon) go up and down (they’ve figured out how that works). We’re captives on the carousel of time. We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came (what a view!) and go round and round and round in the Circle Game (thanks, Joni Mitchell).

When they head home each week, I tell them I’ll miss them and how much I love them.

They know that, too.

Happy birthday, boys.

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