When Studly and I decided to have grandchildren we didn’t waste any time. Our Dominique was born on September 13, 2002, and our grandson Garrett followed just short of three months later on December 6.
Garrett wasn’t our first grandchild, but he was our first grandson. He restored symmetry to our family. From the beginning our Garrett was a fascinating kid. He started talking very early and his curiosity was boundless. He questioned everything from the moment he started talking, and that continues to this day.
He taught me all the ins and outs of Thomas the Tank Engine, such as the names of every engine and how to lay down a good track. When he outgrew Thomas and Friends Garrett became a Lego aficionado, a true master builder who once told me that every set must be built according to the directions at least three times before the pieces can be used for other purposes.
Nowadays Garrett is a spelling hotshot. He practically eats words for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After winning his school’s spelling bee as a fifth grader, he went on to place in the top ten at the regional bee. He’s also a budding oboist AND he can ride a motorcycle. Pretty well-rounded kid. Oh, my favorite thing? He still says, “Nana, I love you.”
There is something he’s not fond of doing–math homework, so awhile back I wrote this little story.
“Garrett Battles the Math Monster”
No one knew about the monster in Garrett’s bedroom except for Garrett. He’d almost told his parents, but he didn’t think they’d believe him. He thought his sisters might be scared if he told them, so he kept it a secret.
As monsters go this wasn’t a particularly awful one. It had but one purpose in life–to prevent Garrett from completing his mathematics homework. The monster didn’t care about English, science or social studies assignments; it just didn’t want him to tackle math.
When the monster first moved into his room Garrett thought he could just ignore it and it would go away. He could see the enormous beast from the corner of his eye as he worked on assignments. It had silver scales, almost like mirrors that winked merrily as long as Garrett practiced spelling words or memorized state capitals. But as soon as Garrett pulled out his math textbook, the scales turned blood red and began pulsing with a menacing intensity. The monster would snarl angrily and poise for attack. Quickly Garrett closed his book and watched the monster mellow out.
“Ok,” thought Garrett. “No math, no problem.”
But there was a problem. Garrett’s math grades began to slip. Then to slide. Then to plummet. Things were serious. It was time to banish the math monster.
Every afternoon Garrett entered his room with the intention of driving the monster out. First he tried to reason with it.
“Hey there,” he said. “I’m in need of a break here. Do you think you could go mess with someone else for awhile?”
The monster showed his fearsome teeth and howled.
Next he tried fighting his scaly nemesis with fists. All Garrett got out of that idea were bruised knuckles and a black eye.
Maybe the monster was afraid of animals. Garrett brought in his cat Lucy to test his hypothesis, but Lucy took one look at the monster, screeched and scampered upstairs to hide under the sofa.
Nothing was working. Then Garrett had an idea. Maybe he needed to attack the math monster with words.
“Hey, Scale Breath,” said Garrett. “Can you spell extrudable?”
The monster looked perplexed. “How about excruciating?”
The monster started growing smaller.
“What kind of monster are you if you can’t handle a little spelling contest?”
The monster shrugged.
“Try this one,” continued Garrett. “Esophageal.”
The monster’s scales began to lose their luster.
Feeling more confident, Garrett said, “Spell Feuilleton.” The monster grimaced and seemed to shrink even more.
“Stichomythia!” Garrett crowed. The monster’s scales were now a dull brown and he was half the size he’d been just syllables ago. “Knaidel!” Shouted Garrett, and the monster shrunk again.
Sensing victory Garrett asked, “What do you have against math?”
The monster hung his now tiny head and said, “I didn’t want you to be good at math. You’re so good at everything else, I just thought that if I could keep you from being a star math student that it would make me feel better.”
“And did it?” asked Garrett.
“Not really,” admitted the monster. “But I did enjoy hanging out in your room.”
“Look man, you can hang out here. Just don’t interfere with my homework anymore. You’re making me look bad.”
“Ok,”said the monster. “Could I ask you a favor?”
“Sure,” said Garrett.
“Teach me to spell?”
Happy birthday, Garrett! I love you! Don’t let the Math Monster win!
Below: Spelling bee stud; Big boy sliding; Hanging out with Dominique