One blue putter promotes compromise

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THE grandsons are visiting. Red-headed Chuck is 10, and Danny, with hair-colored hair, is 8. It is early, but days begin early with little boys. There is the perplexing problem of the cereal. It must be decided whether to eat it from a bowl or from the little box with a hole cut in the top. The decision is made. Chuck eats from a bowl, Danny from the box.

Last night, when Gramps was home, we had a putting contest. Today it is raining. Gramps is away on business, but the putters await in a corner of the family room. Two little boys with serious expressions begin a putting competition. There are four putters, but only one is blue. They have a discussion about how long each one gets to use the blue putter. I am advised of the final ruling. Anyone whose game is in serious trouble will be allowed to use the blue putter. They putt, and I iron shirts. Lunch is mentioned. It is 9 o'clock. I consider two hungry faces, and we fix a snack.

Upstairs in a closet, we find two games. One of them is checkers. Checkers lasts 10 minutes. They report to me that Chuck has won. They are not interested in a repeat match. I study the other box.

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Tippecanoe is a game of skill. The instructions read, ''The purpose of the game is not only to cause a steel ball to pass from the top eye over each of the nine rocking bars, coming to rest finally in the lower eye, but also to accomplish this feat in the shortest possible time.'' This tells you a little something. I am amazed at how hard they try.

When one of them is able to ''accomplish the feat,'' he feels the need to protect his advantage. This he does by sitting close to the board and breathing on his opponent, reaching out with one finger to poke him if his own position as front-runner seems in peril. I come in from the kitchen, we talk about fair play , and they begin again.

The rain continues. I look at the clock. It is 11:30, not too early for lunch. When food is mentioned, cheers go up. Danny has a peanut butter sandwich and Chuck, potato soup. I do the dishes, and they go back to putting. Putting deteriorates into a charged debate on the ownership of certain golf balls. I stand in the doorway wringing my hands.

Danny comes to my rescue. ''Do you know how to play fish?'' he asks. I admit a knowledge of the game, and we locate a deck of cards. Chuck plays the theme from ''Chariots of Fire'' on the piano, and Danny and I shuffle and deal several games of fish. Our combined efforts make three people very hungry, and we bake brownies.

While the brownies are in the oven, the boys decide to call home. Although their parents are on vacation, the distant sound of the telephone ringing ''at home'' is reassuring. The homesick feeling subsides when Pinkie, the squirrel, comes to the windowsill for a peanut. We take turns dropping a peanut out the door.

At 4 o'clock we begin to cook dinner, meat loaf and mashed potatoes, put together and peeled during bouts of fish. When the potatoes are ready, we must all mash them. This is accomplished by counting to four as each of us mashes.

Soon after dinner, while I am squeezing sudsy water out of the dishcloth, a pastime I rather enjoy, an aura of peace envelops me, a sense of tranquility. The house is totally quiet. Glancing into the family room, I see two little boys , each one reading a book. It is an uplifting moment at the end of day.

I pick up my book and join them in the world of words, a place where funny little squiggles fit together like pieces of a puzzle creating a picture in the mind, furnishing the house of our imagination with a splended variety.

Bedtime arrives without our knowledge. We must return from our separate adventures. In thoughtful silence we troop up the stairs.

Tomorrow I will teach them how to spell Mississippi the way it was taught to me: M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-P-P-I. My grandmother taught me how to thread a needle with a modest length of thread. Perhaps they would rather learn to count in Spanish.

Today I learned little boys are hungry when it rains, one blue putter promotes compromise, and books are a singular joy. Reading, we communicated, although we were each in a private province.

We are a family. Tomorrow will be a lovely day, even if it rains.

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