I was what you might call a free-range child.

My parents worked during the day in my formative years, and I was left in the care of grandpa and grandma. There might’ve been rules at their house, but if memory serves, they weren’t rigidly enforced.

I don’t know whether, in the aggregate, I was naughtier than other children – but a cursory glance at my childhood rap sheet might lead a person to think so. Why I behaved as I did is a whole other question, one for which I have no answer.

Twenty years have passed since the days when I was burning napkins in the toaster and getting booted out of daycare for crying too much, and naturally some stuff has changed – grandpa died in the fall of 2016. I moved away for a job.

But some things, like Grandma Betty, have remained steadfast. She still lives in the same house where I once flooded the basement with a garden hose.

She is, in my estimation, a national treasure.

On a recent visit, I reminisced with grandma over coffee about the bad things I and my comrades did when we were little.

MD: You guys never got mad about a lot of stuff. Remember all those times I would poop behind the armchair in the living room?

GB: You remember that, Mason?

MD: Oh yeah. But I don’t remember you ever getting mad about that.

GB: No. Well, we couldn’t get mad because, we tried to train you.

MD: How old was I when I finally stopped going behind the chair?

GB: You weren’t that young anymore, because we were worried that you were never going to be trained by the time you got in school.

MD: Nobody got mad that time I flooded your basement with that garden hose. You remember that.

GB: No, I don’t!

MD: Huh. But there were a few times when you guys did get mad about stuff. Remember that time when (cousin) Katelyn and I ran away the whole day to (the neighbors) Johanna and Charles’ house?

GB: I was mad, because I was babysitting you, and I didn’t have a clue. You never said where you were going. I was not happy, and I went and got you, remember?

MD: We had a grand old time over there. Then all of a sudden you were furious.

GB: Well you didn’t say anything about going anywhere, and grandma was taking care of you and I was not happy!

MD: You remember (my friend) Austin and I burning up that napkin in the toaster? For so long, you’d all say, ‘Don’t put napkins in the toaster!’

GB: Oh yeah, yeah.

MD: When Austin and I tore all the tomato plants out of (aunt) Robin’s garden –

GB: Oh yeah, I remember that. Boy, was she pissed. She was not happy.

MD: Then there were all the times Katelyn and I plastered the outside of your house with mud, and got it all over (neighbor) J.B.’s Buick.

GB: Yep.

MD: And all those times I got so badly sunburned. That one time, I almost think I had sun poisoning, it was so bad. And you tried to rub aloe vera on my back, then suddenly I started vomiting uncontrollably in your dining room.

GB: You had such fair skin, you shouldn’t have been out in the sun that long.

MD: Then there was daycare, which was always a problem. I didn’t want to go to daycare.

GB: No, you hated it.

MD: I wanted to come back here. But no, mother insisted I go to daycare.

GB: You cried all the way to town, I remember that.

MD: And I cried all day at daycare. I cried all the day through, every day. Wouldn’t go to lunch, wouldn’t play with the kids, wouldn’t do anything, just cried.

GB: You wanted to go back and see grandma.

MD: And in the end the daycare kicked me out.

GB: Because you were unruly.

MD: They told my mother that I’d never be ready for school.

GB: (Laughter) Yeah.

MD: By the way, when I was visiting the other week, and (my dog) Archie picked up your dentures in his mouth, he didn’t damage them any, did he?

GB: No, no, no. They’re pretty hard actually. That was fine. He just wanted to wear dentures too.

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