Possibilities: Who opened that Pandora’s Box?

Grandson Patrick celebrated his 10th birthday with me this past weekend in his favorite way – in the guise of a hotel reviewer. “I’m a very important hotel critic,” Patrick confirmed. “I’m very exclusive. So exclusive, in fact, that nobody has ever heard of me.”

His hotel of choice to review was the Chicago O’Hare Embassy Suites. When I balked at the price of a suite, he won me over by pointing out, “We need a suite in case somebody snores and so the other one needs to sleep on a couch in another room. You can’t put a price on sleep, Nana.”

We decorated the rented rooms together. Since we were over budget on venue, the birthday party theme was a Hawaiian luau, the only option available at The Dollar Store. “Nice touch,” Patrick praised, holding up an orange plastic drinking cup with a flamingo bird handle. “And I’m glad you remembered balloons.” He was gracious about my forgetting his birthday cupcakes on my kitchen counter at home because I redeemed myself by remembering to bring Cheetos and balloons.

Possibilities: A new lesson

I asked Patrick, at bedtime (very) late Friday night, what he most wanted to do Saturday when we woke up. He said he didn’t know.

“That’s not acceptable,” I replied. “If you don’t know what you want to do, who does?” This answer startled him a bit, since he was not used to Nana ruffling his feathers. “Dream bigger,” I suggested, tucking him into bed. “You’re 10 now, old enough to have figured out that life is all about possibilities, and possibilities are too often killed by lack of imagination.”

His eyebrows furrowed. “Possibilities or probabilities?” he asked, confused, since that very evening I’d introduced him to the concept of “probabilities” while teaching him a dice game.

“Possibilities,” I repeated. “You are blessed to live in a family with possibilities. We have a car, so we can go places. We still have enough money to do a couple fun things this weekend. We enjoy spending time together. That’s the perfect recipe for fun. We should count ‘possibilities’ on our list of blessings. And you know we don’t waste blessings.”

“So should we have fun adventures and forget children who live in families without as many possibilities? Or should we be sad for children without possibilities? How are we supposed to feel about that? Because thinking about this too much could ruin my fun, Nana, and I’d just want to stay home feeling sorry for them.”

“You give extra money to places like Lamb’s Farm, so they can let more children go there free, and to the church,” I told him. “It isn’t enough just to remember less fortunate children. We need to help them before we can feel good about our own blessings. Patrick, I’m proud of you for thinking of that. You are growing up.”

Nana’s turn for a lesson

Honestly, his empathetic question surprised me a bit, because Patrick more often is convinced the universe circles around him and him alone. But he did dream bigger and, between walk-through rounds critiquing the hotel, he joyfully visited a farm barnyard where we played with lambs, goats, and other animals all day. We also managed to get in a round of miniature golf and then we went to Medieval Times in Schaumburg, where we ate a king’s feast with our fingers while knights jousted before us on horseback. It was quite the day.

But then, predictably, Sunday he balked at visiting his Aunt Brook’s house so that Nana could see her other grandchild, 2-year-old Alex. Patrick had very legitimate reasons for not wanting to go … a little bit of jealousy over sharing a doting grandmother (which he wisely kept to himself), and also a general dislike for younger children. Patrick finds all toddlers to be bothersome and boring, and he had no trouble expressing this sentiment on the drive to Aunt Brook’s home.

Twenty minutes into a litany of every complaint he could levy against such a wee lad as Alex, I suggested we review blessings again. “And this time, start with Aunt Brook, who took Alex to your other birthday party, even when it meant waking him up from a nap and driving him far, far away to where your mom was having the party.”

I helped his memory along: “Remember how Brook took care of you when your mom went to school all those years? Your auntie stayed with you days and nights both and wouldn’t even take any money for it. Now she has her own little boy, and all she asks you to do is to play with him once in a while and treat him nicely … this little boy who thinks you are the greatest person on earth. Do you think you could do that for your family today without being mad about it?”

“When you put it that way,” he agreed evenly, “because there is nothing more important than your family’s respect. I would never want to lose that.”

“Yes,” I chirped, thinking it amazing how much headway I was making with him this weekend!

“That’s right,” Patrick continued. “Losing family respect is the worst possible thing that can happen to a person. You could be trapped in a 10-hour car ride with the most annoying student and the meanest teacher in the school, but losing family respect would be worse. You could go a week without water; you could chop off your writing hand with an axe; even that wouldn’t be worse. You could tie yourself to a tree, stab yourself with a sword. None of that would be as bad as disappointing your family. Why, you could be trapped in a car 24/7 with no air conditioning. But you cannot lose your family’s respect. That would be much, much worse.”

I glanced in the rearview mirror at him, where he sat in his “older child’s” car seat staring out the window as we approached Brook’s neighborhood. I wondered if his smile was fueled by his newfound countermeasure to Nana’s guilt offensive.

“I fear your 10th year is going to be the most interesting yet,” I mumbled.

“Full of possibilities,” he mumbled in agreement.

How did the hotel rate?

Reported Patrick: “The Embassy Suites in Rosemont, Ill., is a wonderful hotel, although it does have a few problems. The ceiling in the lobby needs repair because it doesn’t look very good. Don’t even get me started on the pool because it was all filthy and I saw a huge bread crumb in it. However, I did think the Embassy Suites is fancy and luxurious at the same time. The large open atrium is made even more spectacular because of the skylights. I like the double doors that open into the room and the circular windows in the bedroom. The beds were very comfortable. I would definitely recommend it to other people and I would stay here again.”

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