Want to get involved in a grandchild’s life? Try it Jerry Zezima’s way… but if you do, wear something that can get wet. Jerry, who lives on Long Island, New York, and writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and Tribune News Service of Chicago, finished Field Day with granddaughter Chloe.
Anyone who knows me and is willing to admit it— which severely narrows the field— knows that I always have a field day with my grandchildren. But I recently had a real one at my granddaughter’s elementary school, where I was a volunteer for— what are the odds? —Field Day.
I signed up for the water relay, one of several events that would give me a heart attack if I competed in it. But it was the only one that proved, as if anyone needed verification, that I am all wet.
My granddaughter Chloe, 6, and her kindergarten classmates were the youngest of the participants, all of whom showed an unbeatable combination of athletic ability and sportsmanship.
I will modestly admit that I was a pretty fair athlete in my day. Unfortunately, that day was June 12, 1960, when I was Chloe’s age. I have been regressing ever since.
My partner in officiating the water relay was Jimmy Smith, with whom I have worked for many years (that’s only half right: he’s worked, I haven’t) and whose daughter Sarah, 7, a second-grader, also was one of the participants.
The object of the relay was for students to dip a plastic cup into a bucket of water, run to another bucket several yards away, dump the cup of water into the second bucket and run back to the first bucket, where it was the next student’s turn. This was repeated until either time or water ran out and I was splashed so much that I looked like I had just emerged from a deep-sea expedition.
“I’m glad we put this on our bucket list,” I told Jimmy. “I just hope we don’t kick the bucket.”
“Then people could say we were in the bucket brigade,” he replied helpfully.
Jimmy used the watch on his phone (only Dick Tracy has a phone on his watch) to time each relay, which lasted for five minutes.
Two teams— blue and yellow— competed in the various events, which included obstacle course, potato sack race, hippity-hop race, hoop relay, and 50-yard sprint.
Unwittingly, which is how I do almost everything, I wore a blue T-shirt. It was perfect because blue is Chloe’s favorite color (along with pink) and she was on the blue team.
But she wasn’t in the first few relays. Instead, she was competing in other events, being cheered on by her little sister, Lilly, who is two-and-a-half, and my daughter Lauren, who is their mommy.
My job was to stand by the blue team’s second bucket and exhort the players by saying, “Hurry up!” (if they weren’t hurrying), “That’s OK!” (if they slipped or got more water on my shoes than in the bucket), and “Good job!” (if they did a good job, which all of them did).
One of the best players was Sarah, a sweet and funny girl who is a natural athlete.
Either because of or in spite of my dubious coaching efforts, the blue team won most of the relays.
During one of the breaks, I went back to my car to get a wide-brimmed hat to shield me from the relentless sun.
“Are you going on safari?” Jimmy asked.
“Safari, so good!” I retorted.
“With us,” he suggested, “all that’s missing is the third Stooge.”
Until the last relay, Chloe had been missing, too. But she showed up with her blue team classmates for the final run. I asked her to help demonstrate what to do and she pulled it off flawlessly.
During the relay, all the kids did a great job. That was especially true of Chloe, who ran fast and didn’t spill a drop.
It was a fitting conclusion to a Field Day of Dreams.
Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima
Jerry’s newest book of humor is “Nini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures: Grandkids, Wine Clubs, and Other Ways to Keep Having Fun.”