Nephews K. & D. had a two week vacation from school over Christmas and New Year’s. TWO. WEEKS.
After the boys take ridiculously long showers (what a water bill they must have), we play games, we do crafts, and I try (with limited success) to get some work done while D. leans on my elbow. I eventually send him to the far end of the kitchen table to read a book on his iPad mini and tell him we are both “working.”
About those iPad minis: both K. & D. each have their very own digital window on the world. In my observation, it is only while they are swiping away at their devices that they sit on the couch…side-by-side…quietly. (I’m not counting their near-catatonic state when watching SpongeBob. They are then so quiet and focused on the big screen that I wish scientists would analyze the signal for hypnotic messages.)
Their iPads are truly a part of their education. K. logs into a math skills program remotely managed by his teacher. D. chooses a book to read from a “shelf.” He can either read to himself or turn on a voice recording that reads along with him, not so different from the 45 rpm vinyl that came with the “Book & Records” of my early childhood reading. (“Ding! Please turn the page!” >>Hot learning technology for the mid-1970s!)
Later, they show me a shark game on their iPads. The player tilts the iPad in the direction they want the shark to swim or dive, in pursuit of various prey. Big fish, small fish, (avoid the jellyfish), humans, turtles…wait. Did you say humans?! YES, humans! Shark attacks in horrifyingly crisp Retina display! The boys are great at this game, but I am not; my shark routinely floats the bottom and dies because, apparently, it is not bloodthirsty enough.
D. makes it through the story (thank you, headphones), takes an iPad quiz, then we have lunch. K. eats A LOT, including finishing his brother’s spaghettios. D.’s appetite is improving as he gets older and not only does he eat most of what I make for him, he even tries what I’m eating. While K. is no-frills and just wants to get the calories in and get on to the next activity, D. peers at my Indian-style-cuisine frozen dinner. He tries a pea, some curried rice…and likes it!
The boys launch their radio controlled helicopters while I clean up the dishes. You know that air-movement and buzzing you feel when a mosquito comes close to your ear? Multiply that by 100. When I actually feel my hair moving, I warn the boys that I will ground all local aircraft if it happens again.
Then, we’re off to the art gallery! On the way over, I explain that the art gallery is like the library – no running, inside voices only, and be polite. The uncle meets us there and all four of us head in for an afternoon of art exploration.
Thank heavens for scavenger hunt sheets! K. is looking for animals and D. is looking for faces. It is a great way to get through every room of the gallery and to look at every piece of art. They see ancient artifacts, sculpture, masks, armor, paintings and artwork from all over the world and the last 6,000 years.
K. is transfixed by the Egyptian sarcophagus with mummy (“Ignore your uncle — No, the mummy does not get up at night and walk around the museum.”) He is also exasperated by all the sculptures in, um, au natural human form (“It’s okay, it’s very normal here and you are allowed to look.”)
D. is transfixed by an example of American Modernism, Whitestone Bridge by Ralston Crawford. The painting is a very stark, clean depiction of standing on a suspension bridge that extends off into the sky. This painting is located on the first floor, not far from the gallery entrance. Almost 2 hours later when we are way up in the far corners of the second floor looking at Renaissance art, he is still talking about this painting.
Both K. & D. find all the items on their scavenger hunt sheets, and do so quietly. We cap off with small items from the gallery gift shop. K. choose a thick-barreled pen that with a twist and a click can deploy any one of about 2 dozen different ink colors. Solid choice.
D. looks at every single post card in the shop, looking for one that depicts his favorite painting. The kind saleslady even checks the backroom, but no luck. He selects six others depicting various objects in the gallery collection. At my next visit, I receive crayon-drawn interpretations.
I watched K. and D. three of the 4 days I had contracted to do, the last day cancelled due to the Polar Vortex descending and dumping almost 3 feet of snow within 36 hours. Someday, possibly when they’re really swimming with sharks or flying helicopters, K. and D. won’t want to go to the art gallery with me. Or, then again, they might be returning from an archaeological dig or from their own art opening, and taking me to the art gallery is all their idea.