An hour later, exhausted, Pip signals it’s time to go home. Again, he reaches up his arms. He wants Pa to carry him back up the hill.
“But what about the pram?” I ask. “Don’t you want to push the pram?”
He shakes his head. It seems the imagined child, the one we pushed down the hill, is no longer deserving of his assistance.
Read more by Richard Glover
I lift Pip up into my arms, which is one of my most favourite things in life. Then I hold him with one hand as I push the pram with the other. I’ve also got the dog, Clancy, whose lead is somehow connected to the hand with which I’m steering the pram.
Going up the hill in this manner is like a 20-minute gym session. Pip pulls one way; Clancy pulls the other. The pram has a mind of its own.
You could put this exercise into the SAS training course and hardened soldiers would burst into tears, begging to go back to the exercise where you crawl through the mud, beneath razor wire, while occasionally defusing a bomb. My limp worsens by the minute.
Finally, halfway up the hill, I beg for mercy. I address Pip directly: “Would you consider hopping into the pram for just the last few minutes?”
He understands every word, shakes his head, and says, “no”. The word is so clear and precise. I am awed by his linguistic skills.
The only problem: he’s not always a linguistic genius. There are plenty of words he doesn’t understand.
“Perhaps,” I’ll sometimes say to Pip, “we should stop watching Bluey because two episodes is enough” and he looks at me as if English is not his first language. He’s a child from Mexico, or Timor-Leste, or Germany, who has inexplicably been placed with this grandfather in Australia, a grandfather who is using a series of baffling squawks to deny him further episodes of Bluey.
I turn off the set, and he makes his protest clear, via a series of stylised dance moves. “I have no idea why you did that,” he appears to be saying, “plus your views on the correct allocation of Bluey episodes are ridiculous”.
Then, minutes later, the linguistic genius is back. I offer him a banana pancake, freshly cooked, and his acceptance is immediate.
He doesn’t quite say: “Superb, this morsel is just what I was hoping for with which to staunch my appetite” but it’s close.
I’m reminded of Pip’s father whose motor skills, when a child, varied considerably according to the task at hand.
Place a plastic-wrapped Caramello Koala inside a locked box, dangled on a rope, above a pool of crocodiles, and the Space Cadet would have it open and in his mouth in seconds. Ask him to pick up an apple core, then put it in the bin, and he’d go to pieces.
Maybe we are all like this. We respond best when the world bends itself to our desires.
And so, we make our way up the hill: a boy, a dog, a wayward pram and a grandpa with a limp. It may not be a pretty sight, but it fills me with joy.
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