It all started with a text from Jill: "Can you come over and hang out with Felix for awhile?" The previous day, she had hosted a large Thanksgiving dinner, and was hoping to catch up on needed rest. "I'll try and get a babysitter, but are you available until then?"
Her query arrived while I was riding a bus that would get me to a hardware store. I was seeking a garage door opener that my daughter could use to park in the space allotted to my new apartment. Happy visions of her dropping over spontaneously were spurred by long ago memories of the times in Chicago when I'd return home to discover either of my daughters' cars parked outside.
On the bus, I was studying directions to the store and was as focused as if I were a gold rush prospector. But after receiving Jill's request, I shifted to my attention to my iPhone and typed: "Happy to help. On way to Baller's on Hyperion. Will text when done. Pick me up there."
This new plan heartened me, because four weeks into my move to Los Angeles, I was intent on being an asset, rather than a burden. If I could be helpful -- by entertaining my grandson and providing a respite to my daughter -- my immigration could be considered a win-win.
When I completed my purchases, that included a dry mop and a just-in-case toilet plunger, I typed: "Ready to be retrieved."
"Isaac's on his way." This alert from my daughter was another perk -- a chance to see my 18-year-old grandson whose words, "Why don't you move to L.A.?" sparked my recent long-distance transfer.
"Can you get Felix off his screen?" were Jill's first words after her welcoming hug. I followed her gaze to my six-year-old grandson who was prone on the couch, his eyes focused on an electronic pad and his thumbs swiftly pressing buttons.
I put my hands on my hips and surveyed the indoor scene. I considered my daughter's challenge as one crucial for me to accept and win. But first, I had to lure Felix outside.
While he continued his game, I took a few moments to contemplate their backyard. It held a lemon tree, Ping-Pong table, hammock, outdoor sofa, potted plants, a coiled water hose, and other items I could foresee as props in a game.
"How about a treasure hunt?" I said to Felix. He lifted his head to face me -- interested, but not yet ready to abandon his screen. "I'll hide things, then I'll draw a map with clues. You'll have to search to find them. If you collect all, you'll win a prize."
To be honest, I had never devised, played, or completed such a game. Also, I can only draw stick figures and animals that can be identified by humps, feathers, or wings. But, I was undaunted.
Felix must've assumed I was a whiz at this sort of sport, for he quickly rolled off the couch to round up paper and markers. "You stay inside and close your eyes," I said, as I walked around the living room scouting potential treasures. Along with the kitty key fob, in a jumble of small toys, I found a plastic boat, a cotton stalk of celery, and a mini motorcycle with one wheel missing.
I quickly placed the kitty in the crook of the tree, the boat near the water hose, the motorcycle along the Ping-Pong net, and in what I considered a flash of inspiration, tucked the celery behind Isaac who was lounging on the hammock.
Then, I sketched out the map, and listed clues. Along with "kitty in a tree," I wrote, "boat needs water," "cycle gets a paddle," and "celery loves a boy."
"Come out now," I shouted to Felix. He ran from the house and grabbed the map, which looked to me as if one of his kindergarten pals had drawn it. As he raced through the yard, I'd shout an occasional, "you're warm" or a more helpful "turn around."
When he had successfully gathered all of the hidden toys, he raised his hands in triumph, and then continued for three more rounds with new objects and clues.
From the corner of my eye, I could see Jill watching us. Her face bore an expression reminiscent of the one I had when I had spotted her Honda outside my home all those years ago. It appears we all struck gold.