Here’s one thing I know: You can have fun at your own root canal if the company’s good.

Here’s one thing I know: You can have fun at your own root canal if the company’s good.

I learned this truth anew on a recent late-August evening.

My company that night: the two youngest members of my family, whom I met along with their parents and auntie at one of the many chain restaurants that cling like brightly colored barnacles to the perimeters of the big-box stores.

Within five minutes of my arrival, it became clear that the little guys wanted to wait for their food outside the restaurant on the strips of lawn and sidewalk so wee and narrow they looked like scenery on a children’s game board.

So out we went, the 5-year-old with his Harry Potter hair, and the largely pre-speech 2-year-old with the ring of golden curls encircling his head like the halo on the Littlest Angel.

The latter began executing a playful hop down the sidewalk, casting a “You do it, too!” look back at me, and so I was following his lead – that is until I looked back to see the 5-year-old stopped dead in his tracks by the sight of two elderly women sitting silent on a bench and smoking like chimneys.

“What’s HE looking at?” one of them demanded.     

“Oh! Well, I think he’s just maybe noticing your beautiful blue eyes!” I blurted. 

She snorted, half-smiling, and we were forgiven - forgiven and released to dance the rest of the way down the sidewalk to the place where we could look in the window and see the booth where our family sat, looking as happy with their cold drinks and their talk as we were with our skipping and our freedom.

Suddenly the 5-year-old pulled six cardboard beer coasters from under his shirt and set them on the ground.

“Is this for hopscotch?” I said and we fake-played a little hopscotch.

“Or maybe they’re breadcrumbs, like in Hansel and Gretel and we’re leaving a trail?”

He didn’t know the old fairy tale.

We sat right down on the warm sidewalk so I could tell it, though I got no more than 30 seconds in before realizing that talk of evil step-moms and child abandonment was far too horrifying for this young audience.

Just then, the big brother spotted my minivan, which, over the last five and a half years of my grandparenthood, has become a veritable playground.

“It’s your CAR!” he exclaimed. “Let’s go in your CAR!”
 
And so we did, and found in the far-back section a couple of picture books and some juice boxes, two pint-sized beach chairs, an individual package of oyster crackers of the sort you get with your soup, and a large folding table whose legs he began immediately unpacking even as he hauled the whole thing out onto the asphalt.

“This is for our store!” he rejoiced. “We can sell things! These crackers and this juice, and, I know, all those quarters you keep up front!”

Luckily, auntie appeared just then to say that our pizzas were ready.

And so in we went, along the Candy Land sidewalk and past the bench now empty of smoking oldsters - back inside the restaurant filled with the sound of happy diners.

The little ones dug right in, but I? I could hardly eat a bite.

I was too busy looking around at everything and pondering this latest reminder that sometimes the best fun you can have really IS at the margins of things, especially in the company of the light-hearted, on blooming late-summer evenings such as we’re now being given.

Write Terry at terrymarotta@verizon.net or care of Ravenscroft Press, P.O. 270, Winchester, MA 01890, and enjoy her blog and leave a comment at www.terrymarotta.wordpress.com.