My granddaughter, who is just now starting third grade, is already waxing nostalgic.
Here's what she says. "You remember when we still lived in the old house, and you used to walk me home on Sunday afternoons?"
Sure, I remember. It was a joy, but then so much about grandchildren is.
"Remember that?" she asks. "We'd walk in the grass and I'd find all those golf balls?"
Her grandmother and I would walk her back to her house, cross-lots, through the thick grass of a perfectly manicured field behind a college dorm.
"That was really fun," she says.
That's what she remembers. And I don't know what to feel.
Once upon a time, we crossed that broad lawn, and I found a golf ball. Some college kid must have pulled a 9-iron out of his bag and hit a few, and left one lie there or simply lost it. She was four, maybe. That bright white golf ball picked out of the long grass was like some totally unforeseen Christmas present. She loved it.
So, on a few subsequent walks home, her grandpa snuck down in the basement first, grabbed a golf ball, and set us both up for her joy. You can't blame me, right? We'd walk home--same route--and when she was chasing a monarch or watching robins, I'd flip that golf ball out where I knew she couldn't miss it. Once again, those darling eyes would dance, and all the way home she'd hold on as if that ball were some precious jewel.
And now--wouldn't you know it?--those sweet little walks are in the scrapbook she's already putting together in her memory. There it is, listed prominently in an abundant category titled "Sweet Things": "the-times-Grandpa-and-Grandma-walked-me home-and-I found-all-those-golf-balls."
The truth is, the whole thing was a set up. Grandpa planted that joy. Those precious golf balls weren't there by chance but by determined manipulation. The truth is, there aren't brilliantly white golf balls just lying out there randomly for kids to pick up, just like there is no Santa Claus and no free lunch. The Wizard of Oz is really just as funny-looking as the Emperor with clothes.
In trying to be nice, her grandpa just set her up for a imminent fall.
So should I tell her? She ought to know the truth, right? I can't have her go on thinking that just behind that dorm lies a harvest of Titleists?
Here's what I'm thinking. If I'd tell her now, it jolly well wouldn't matter anyway. If I'd take her aside, tell her that her Grandpa planted all that joy, stuck all those golf balls out there just so that she'd find them, she wouldn't even wince. Wouldn't bother her at all. She wouldn't get cynical or swear never to speak to me again. She's a kid, after all, and her faith is legendary in its simplicity. Even Jesus loved it.
She'd probably just say the same thing she always does: "Grandpa, I'm hungry--got any cookies?"
"Do we have cookies, my dear?" I'd say. "We've got something around here somewhere for you, I'm sure."
And I'm sure we got golf balls.
So the deception goes on, the madness resumes. Truth be hanged. This old man'll do anything to stay in the joy column of that scrapbook.