My four-year-old grandson jumps up and makes an announcement. “Grandma, I’m going to go use the toilet now.” Keddington* is one of those open-book guileless people who verbalizes almost every thought.
I can’t resist teasing him. I’m bad that way. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” I say with an exaggerated look of despair. “That isn’t allowed today!”
Keddington stares at me with large eyes. “Really?”
“Nooooo,” I laugh. “I’m just kidding. Of course, you can use the bathroom.”
“Oh good!” He races down the hall.
I decide this boy could use some lessons in kidding. He’s far too gullible.
“So Keddington,” I say when he comes back to the living room. “Do you know what kidding is?”
He tilts his head. “Yeeeeeah,” he says slowly. He doesn’t sound so sure.
“Kidding is like joking. It’s saying something silly to try to fool somebody. Why don’t we practice. Now you tell me when you think I’m kidding, okay? Ummm, let me think. Okay. Keddington, I’m thirty-four years old. Am I kidding?”
“How do you know?”
“Because that’s kind of old, but you’re really old.” He chooses not to leave it at that. “When you get really old you die soon. Are you going to die soon?”
“Not that I know of.” This isn’t nearly as much fun as I anticipated. “Moving right along,” I say. I pick up a white bowl from the shelf next to the television. “See this bowl?” I ask. “This bowl is black. So what do you think? Am I kidding?”
“Is it black?”
He shakes his head. “It’s not black, it’s white.”
“That’s right. So am I kidding?”
“Yes, you’re kidding.”
“Right!” I walk across the room to a painting of tulips. “Look, here’s a picture of a building.”
After studying the picture carefully, he smiles. “You’re kidding,” he says.
“How do you know?”
“It’s a picture of flowers.”
“Good job again!” The boy’s really catching on to this. “Okay, now you try it. Now you kid Grandma.”
“Okay.” Keddington looks frantically around the room. His eyes stop at the TV screen where there’s a resting picture of superheroes. A slow smile emerges. “The Hulk is blue,” he says.
I laugh with great satisfaction. “Oh you’re just kidding me! The Hulk isn’t blue.. The Hulk is green.”
His face becomes solemn. “How did you know?”
“I just know that The Hulk is green. And umm, I see his picture there on the screen.”
He looks up at the screen. “Oh.”
“You go again.”
He lifts the small sleek remote control. “Grandma, this is a wall.”
“Hmmm,” I say. “A wall? I kind of don’t think that’s a wall. I think you’re kidding me.”
Keddington doesn’t ask “How did you know?” this time. He just grins.
“Now if you’d told me that that remote was a phone, you’d probably fool Grandma,” I tell him. I let him know that I have picked up our remote at home a few times to make phone calls.
“Ha ha ha!” He really gets a kick out of that. We kid or tease a little more, then move on to other more serious matters such as snack time. He’s no hulk. He’s well below the average weight for his age, and whenever I tend, I try to feed him something with some substantial calories. The problem is, here in this healthy household, finding something even a little bit caloric is challenging. After I’ve looked through the cupboards and fridge I decide to ask Keddington if he might know about some secret stash. I’m pretty sure my daughter keeps lunch treats for her older kids somewhere. “Keddington, do you think there’s something on the shelves downstairs you might want to eat? Should we go down and see if we can find something?”
Keddington doesn’t answer. “Keddington?” I step back into the living room.
Keddington has the remote up to his ear, a mischievous look in his eye. “Grandma, I’m on the phone,” he says.
I laugh full out. It turns out he knows a little more about kidding than I thought he did. Either that or I’ve created a monster.