Brand building through storytelling

The truth about impressing your grandchild

In the eyes of our 13-year-old grandson, who flew home yesterday after four days with us in Sarasota, the full-body scanner is neither an invasion of privacy nor a prudent concession to the new risks of air travel but an incredibly cool and brag-worthy device from which he had the bad luck to be excluded. Colsen looked on with open-mouthed envy as a chunky woman my age stood between the all-seeing portals, squirming at the thought of her exposed amplitude. I found myself wishing that his visit could have ended with a walk through the scanner, but it seems there are a few pleasures that devoted grandparents can’t buy.

To host a grandchild is to learn how little you know about what is currently cool. Silly us, we kicked off the tour of local attractions with the the Ringling Circus Museum, and specifically the 3,800-square-foot miniature circus that with loving precision evokes every detail of the greatest show on earth down to the colours of the tickets (even though they’re stashed in a drawer where no one ever sees them). What astounded us old-timers was not just the scale and beauty of this creation but its back story as the lifelong obsession of one master craftsman, Howard Tibbals, who’s still fine-tuning his vision after some 50 years. To Colsen the whole thing was a yawn: “Nobody cares about circuses anymore.” As my husband said under his breath, “I guess kids today would like to run away and join a video game.”

It’s not that our grandson is jaded, just that we grownups can’t predict what will capture his restless brain. For instance, the Mote Marine Aquarium‘s contact pool, where he seized his chance to touch the ray (slimy), the sea cucumber (even slimier) and the sand dollar, a surprisingly powerful little thing that would not be dislodged from its chosen spot. I wondered why Colsen was so happy to linger there alongside the six-year-olds—until I noticed how much fun I was having myself. Generation gap be damned! All ages love a good nature show, and so far you can’t handle the critters on your TV screen.

I had dreaded the obligatory side trip to Orlando, with its crowds, endless lineups and wallet-busting admission prices. But Orlando is kid heaven, right? Wonder of wonders, this kid had no interest in the famously dizzying rides at Universal Studios. (I can only assume that his pals hadn’t heard of the place.) What he craved was miniature golf. And he’d come to the right place because Florida abounds with eye-poppingly elaborate mini-golf courses. At home in Toronto we have a local pub and a local market, but here in our rented condo we have local mini-golf complete with waterfall, pirate ship and baby gators. We treated Colsen to two rounds. Then again, maybe we were treating ourselves.

My husband plays real golf after a fashion. He knows the lingo. While the three of us knocked our highlighter-coloured balls around a fake stalagmite in the pirate cave, he compared our performances on “the back nine.” The best that can be said for my own performance, back nine or front, is that most of the time I still beat our grandson despite a swing that’s decidedly devil-may-care. I can see my destiny looming: forever third. Not that I’m about to complain. With Colsen, I get to make up for years of mini-golf deprivation.

When I was growing up in New Hampshire, my high-minded, tight-fisted mother refused to shell out for anything so frivolous as miniature golf. How I lusted after those rinky-dink courses! Mini golf in New Hampshire meant wooden windmills barely big enough to hold a doll, and twirling pinwheels that looked as if they belonged on someone’s front lawn between an oversize Christmas ball and one of the lewdly grinning little back boys who at the time were still considered acceptable lawn decor. I loved the whole idea of miniature golf because the props were so adorably tiny. On such a playful-looking course, it couldn’t hurt to lose.

And lose I most certainly would, given my sorry track with all activities involving an aim and a ball. The school gym teacher once told my slightly less klutzy younger sister, “I’ve never taught anyone more uncoordinated than Rona.” (I suspect she intended to reassure my sister.) Well, Miss Faulkner, you should see me at Adventure Golf in Sarasota! For now, I’m not the least coordinated. So there!

The condo seems unnaturally peaceful today. No tell-tale bleep bleep of the Gameboy, no small, swift hands commandeering this computer as soon as I turn my back. We’ll soon head out for a walk in a state park, as opposed to some kid-friendly destination like the flume ride at Busch gardens or a Tampa Bay hockey game. We’ll be dining tonight on my pork tenderloin and roasted veg instead of the cheese-drenched Tex Mex fare that Colsen rated “nine and a half out of 10.” I suspect that’s pretty close to how all three of us would rate his visit.

Yesterday at the airport, as I waited with Colsen to be personally escorted to his seat, we got talking about our last Sarasota excursion, to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I had  predicted he would love this good-natured hit musical about six nerdy kids who master truths about winning and losing while vying for a shot at glory in the national bee in Washington. Of course, I’d said the pretty much the same thing about the miniature circus. But this time I was right on target: the characters were still on his mind. He said of my favourite character: “I kept hoping Olive was going to win.”

Bottom line: this won’t be his last grandparental winter visit. Next time, I’ll be crossing my fingers that he gets his chance at the scanner.

Click here to learn why I have a soft spot for Putnam County Spelling Bee (it concerns my Broadway debut) and here to read “The secret language of families,” a post that’s particularly close to my heart.


 Posted by Rona

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