By Kate Gilderdale, Stouffville Free Press
Just finished another round of Ollie care and am sitting, stunned, on the floor of the apartment, surrounded by bits of plastic peel from stick-on alphabet letters sourced from that fashionable emporium beloved of grannies everywhere, Dollarama.
My grandson and I have spent the afternoon building a Lego space tractor to service the newly-discovered (by Ollie) planet whose name, he assures me, is ‘Japanese’. On Japanese, ill-fitting wheel combinations and weirdly-aligned platforms represent state-of-the-art technology.
Using a wild configuration of random bits of old Lego sets inherited from his father and aunt, Ollie and I have created a whole new world order, where astronauts carry axes and spears and police officers sport 15th century helmets while galloping about on sturdy horses, whose previous mission was to offer transportation to medieval knights.
Once the space tractor is complete, we turn our attention to the huge box of felt letters and symbols in order to spell out Ollie’s name. He admires the finished result before sticking a ‘q’ over the ‘o’ and howling with laughter when I start calling him Qliver. Then he rips off the last few letters of his surname and adds some whimsy, deftly switching his identity to become the enigmatic Qliver Gilderwooc. At this point we are both in hysterics and even the sharp pain engendered by standing on a rogue piece of Lego, which has become dislodged from the space tractor, cannot constrain my helpless mirth.
When it’s time to go home, I ask Ollie if he’d like to take the subway and bus. He agrees with great enthusiasm, so we totter down the many stairs leading to the woefully inaccessible subway station and wait for the train, which Ollie tells me is too loud.
I agree that trains are pretty noisy and he considers for a nano-second before saying, “Why?” I go into a convoluted explanation featuring details on the workings of engines and tunnels and the need to stay well back from the edge of the platform. “Why?” he asks.
Because it’s not safe to get too close, I explain. “Why?” says Ollie. Anyone who has entertained a preschooler will be familiar with this circular ritual, which not only challenges the (alleged) adult to come up with anything approaching a plausible answer, but also makes you realize you don’t actually have a clue about many things you used to think were obvious.
Luckily my grandson hasn’t reached the stage where he realizes granny has feet of clay and a rather limited grasp of general knowledge, especially when it comes to cranes, tractors and the finer points of how cement mixers turn powder and water into sidewalks and brutalist architectural buildings of dubious merit.
The best way to distract him from continuing this relentless Q and A session is to mention the possibility of scoring an ice cream or some Smarties or tracking down a PAW Patrol colouring book. For some time, I laboured under the misapprehension that ‘PAW Patrol’ was a Turkish term, given that my grandson is fluently bilingual. But now I know it’s North American for parting smitten grandparents from their money in exchange for rather garish merchandise featuring a cast of canine characters with names such as Rubble, Skye and Chase, whose job it is to serve and protect a fictional community known as Adventure Bay.
And whenever Ollie professes his undying devotion for his heroes, I am sorely tempted to respond with his favourite question. “Why?”