He's teaching them chess.
Now I would love to tell you that I had already run some tutorials in chess for the kids. M and I used to play chess...a lot. We actually played chess on our honeymoon...no, really, real chess. But if I were to try to teach the kids chess in this season of my life, it would involve trying to find the board, and then trying to find all the pieces, and then having to Wikipedia (yes, I'm using it as a verb) to try to remember how many pieces I should actually have, which would then involve me raiding our Polly Pocket stash to turn a couple of Polly Dolls into a queen and a pawn, which would then let me see the condition of 4 and 6's closet, which would then involve a housekeeping hissy fit on my part and slave labor closet cleaning on theirs and then, whoops, it would be time for soccer practice. So, I haven't bothered with chess lessons.
So my awesome father-in-law, whom we call PaPa, shows up this visit with chess set in hand, along with an easy instruction book...and the matches have been underway ever since. As I write this, 3 and PaPa are at the kitchen table, moving their pieces and discussing strategy. It seems awfully cozy. And my kitchen faucet is polished. Ahhhhh.....
Several of the kids have taken to playing against PaPa. 6 of 8 has actually gotten down the lingo; I suppose in her drama queen mind, it's sort of like bit players in a soap opera--she seems to have an uncanny ability to remember the status and dance moves of every piece. 5 of 8 has organized the chess information into some kind of huge video game matrix in his mind--it all makes perfect sense that certain pieces have certain 'powers' and can move in certain ways--sort of a monochromatic Mario Brothers.
But I suppose it's 3 of 8 and PaPa I enjoy watching the most. 3 of 8 has picked up on the nuances, the longer term vision of the game, and PaPa is cheering him on. It seems an apt metaphor, the older generation teaching the younger the characteristics of certain players in life, the awareness of planning ahead, the strategies for getting inside your opponent's head. And then all these metaphors are liberally sprinkled with copiuos amounts of grandfather love--no one is more delighted, more laughingly outraged, when 3 of 8 bests his PaPa than PaPa. He utters an exasperated laugh, acts chagrined at 3 of 8's prowress, laughs some more and tells a beaming 3 of 8 what a great player he is. I just want to capture the whole thing in a bottle, the linear board, the simplistic shape of the pieces, the hues of PaPa joy and pride making sparkles over the scene.
Oh, and the cleanliness of my kitchen...want to put that in the bottle as well....