The First Timers Guide - A Monthly Chronicle for the New Grandparent 4


By Gary P. Joyce



Remember Christmas when the kids were young? The Christmas Eve construction projects on bicycles, trains, slotcar tracks, over-designed doll houses, etc., etc.? That’s all in the past, right?

Well, as difficult as it was back in the “good ol’ days,” it makes doing the same thing today look easy, something I found out just other day when it fell to grandpa to put together something that was a cross between one of those saucer-shaped sleds and a walker. Mind you, the grandchild has just crossed the three-month mark, but since he — unlike any other baby ever born — is soooooo far advanced for his age, it seemed to make sense to my wife to give the kid a shot at something that he really wouldn’t fit in for another six months. Do yourself a favor … don’t even try that argument.

Here’s this month’s tip. None of the things the grandkids have today bear more than a passing resemblance to things you had for your children when they were tots. Even if they look like they do. Ergo, anything you’re trying to repair, fix, construct, etc., is best served by using your trusty old digital camera to take a bunch of close-ups of all the working parts of the assembled-on-the-store-shelf gizmo, or if it’s a hand-me-down, doing the same before cleaning or otherwise disassembling said gizmo.

Naturally, my wife had disassembled the seat portion of this thing, washed it and presented it to me like it was the title to a Corvette. “What am I supposed to do with this?” asked I.

When queried as to just what the thing was supposed to look like (it was a garage sale special), her only advice was, “He sits in that, and it goes in there.”

Gee, thanks, but that isn’t exactly a whole lot of help.

No matter which way I looked at it, no matter what way I turned it, I was stymied. I went on line, but this apparently was an older model, so the picture wasn’t the same and besides, they didn’t offer instructions anyway (The thing was built in France, a country that — regardless of the fact I’ve had some fun there — seems to be intent on a national policy of ticking off Americans. And I was getting ticked off).

Anyway … in my time I’ve rebuilt motors, installed bathrooms, repaired boats, made all kinds of “I-ain’t-paying-that-much-for-that!” types of replacement thigamajigs (with, admittedly, about a 50 percent success rate), so I figure it couldn’t be too hard to put a cloth seat back into something that has slots within which the tabs of said seat are supposed to go.

To make a long story endless, after disassembling some parts that obviously — in hindsight — were not meant to be disassembled, and rebuilding the thing, leaving only a part or two left over (I did this with a 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle carburetor once. I had about three pounds of parts left over, and the good old VW never missed them; a tribute to German engineering, not my mechanical skills), I finally got the seat section back in. In the process my knees locked up, as did my right ankle, I took four ibuprofens, didn’t cut myself on tools or plastic edges, and got the erstwhile walker to safe enough condition that we let little Travis test pilot it.

Although he seemed to actually enjoy it, the kid’s head barely stuck above the rim of the walker, and no matter how grandma tried to adjust it, it soon became obvious that … well, as I said earlier, the kid was six months away from using it.

I’ll close with the last tip for this month: once you’ve done something like I’ve described above, get some good heavy-duty plastic and wrap it up like it’s a boat you’re putting away for the winter. It’ll stay clean no matter where you store it, and well … it’ll be ready to go if your grandchild ever really is able to use it.

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