I remember visiting relatives when I was a child. It was an exciting time for me, as there was usually something different to do there; or maybe there would be a new game to play.
I have fond memories of an afternoon with two of my younger uncles. They had received a game of Tiddlywinks for Christmas and decided to show me how the game worked. My uncles, Brian and Wayne, were only a few years older than I so they sometimes treated me as if I were a younger sister. Great fun for them, nerve wracking for me.
The great Tiddlywinks event, was that, first I didn't believe the game was actually called Tiddlywinks. Wayne and Brian assured me that, yes it was so, the game was really called Tiddlywinks. I, however, refused to say the name of the game, just in case there was some evil Wayne/Brian scheme afoot.
The other problem was I refused to believe that the game consisted of my keeping my mouth open so they could flick “tiddlies” into it. With much snickering, they finally admitted that the winks, which the small, round, plastic discs were called, were to be flicked into a plastic cup by pressing a type of wink, called a squidger, firmly against the side of another wink.
I'm sure people would understand my suspicions because those two uncles were always up to some kind of mischief. They loved to see a niece or nephew appear. They had numerous methods of torture to practice on younger children. None of those methods involved actual maiming, but humiliation or “a screaming me-me” event were generally a goal with that pair. So, there we were on a quiet afternoon, them trying to get me to try squidging a wink and me, suspicious, refusing to do it or even say the words tiddly or wink, let alone Tiddlywinks.
Looking back, I realize they were only attempting to defend themselves from being the babysitters every time a grandchild appeared. My grandparents were busy people, with a farm to run, so they naturally expected my uncles to “keep an eye” on me. That was no easy chore, for I was probably one of the most annoying nieces they had to “babysit” or tease as they actually did, utilizing every technique at their command to encourage me to avoid them and play with dolls or something.
The uncles were adept at misdirection and could have you in a mud puddle in a flick of an eyelash, but their favourite place for small children to land was a pig wallow. Pig wallows are lovely for pigs, not so lovely for little girls. Even grubby little girls, such as I was, are no match for a pig wallow. Pig wallows have a tendency, once you've reluctantly enjoyed a nudge into one, to give you a jaundiced view of people who say such things as ”trust me, you’ll like it”.
Children need to be taken to visit relatives. It’s one of the easier methods of learning that people are not nice all the time and that maybe it’s okay to be assertive and say no. Annoyed uncles might shoot a few winks into a mouth, if they can trick a child into keeping it open, or “assist” someone into a mud bath complete with “Eau de hog”, but seldom actually leave anyone in the woods with Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood, or the wolf. Yet, they may suggest they will, if they think it will give them a free moment or two.
Relatives of certain ages may help a child learn not to be hoodwinked or recognize a practical joker. They’ll also spend a lot of time laughing and explaining things children don’t always understand, like why sometimes the kittens in a litter are all different in appearance, or if an aunt, how to curl hair and put on lipstick before a Mom thinks it’s a good idea.
Families that are fortunate to have lots of relatives can be sure of one thing. When the chips are down the tribe’s behind you but keep an eye on the aunt with the tricky fingers in case some of those chips wander away. Plus, just because someone slaps themselves in the side of the head and says, “not you again”, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are not happy to see you.
Since arrival to Dawson Creek in 1960, Margo Hannah plants, paints and ponders.