Monday, February 1, 2010

by great-grandpa Mike

Here's a story about a real experience I had back when my grandchildren were preschoolers. Their mother - my daughter - was a volunteer at the city's natural history museum. Occasionally, when I visited, I would accompany the family on a tour of the museum's exhibits. During one visit I helped the volunteer staff keep the museum clean and orderly and be useful in other ways.

Among popular exhibits at many natural history museums is one that includes life-size models of the huge reptiles that roamed the Earth millions of years ago. At the time of this visit the museum had such a showing and the exhibition rooms were crowded with visitors of all ages, especially lots of young children escorted by adults who watched over them and explained what they were seeing.

One of the dinosaur exhibits was a children's game. Centered in a large open space in one of the rooms was a huge, inflated doughnut-shaped play center. The inflated sides of the play center were firm and high enough so that even little children could safely climb up to the top and jump or slide down inside to a soft plastic floor. They would then climb up from the inside and back over to the outside and do it again. The mothers, fathers, grandparents and other adults smiled and laughed seeing the children at play. Children called the play center the Baby Dinosaur's Nest.

With so many children climbing up the outside and jumping or sliding down inside the huge nest, often five or more kids at the same time, the soft plastic floor of the nest soon became scratched, scuffed, and even torn. The damaged places needed to be fixed and I was the volunteer official fixer of the museum’s dinosaur baby's nests.

What I used to fix the nests were a large roll of shiny silver, very sticky tape to cover the damaged spots, a measuring tape to tell me how much sticky tape I needed to cover the damage, and cutting shears. Two times each day – sometimes three or more times each day – I would arrive at the nest and say in a loud voice to all the children that were busy climbing, jumping and sliding on and inside the nest.

‘Attention, everybody,' I would call out, waving my arms so that all the children would see me. 'Please stand back and listen to me. I need your help. I am the fixer of the museum's baby dinosaur nest and I have come here to inspect this dinosaur nest. If I find any places that are scratched or torn, I will fix them. Then, when I am done you may all return to climbing up and jumping and sliding down inside the nest again? Come watch me as I work.

The youngsters gathered round and watched me as I removed my shoes, stepped across the inflated side of the nest on to the soft plastic floor inside. I lowered myself to my knees, leaned forward and carefully inspected the nest’s floor and sides in all directions. I looked carefully at all surfaces and seams. When I found a scrape, scuff or tear I measured the size of the damage with my measuring tape, cut the correct size strip from my roll of silver very sticky tape, and pressed it firmly into place.

Children and mothers and fathers and grandparents came from other rooms and exhibits to watch the baby dinosaur's nest fixer at work. When all the repairs were made, and inspected by at least two children I would gather my roll of silver very-sticky tape and my tools. I would step back over the side and out of the nest, wave goodbye to the children and the grown-ups and say, ‘OK, everybody, the dinosaur baby's nest is ready for you. Have fun!’ And they did.

My grandchildren were proud to see grandpa at work fixing the baby dinosaur's nest so that it would be a strong and safe place for children during the day and a soft and comfortable nest for a baby dinosaur to sleep in after the museum closed for the night.

There were times when, on my way back to the helpers' shop after fixing a baby dinosaur's nest, that I would look up at the baby dinosaur's dad who was nearby and also part of the exhibit. It may be just my imagination, but I sometimes think that he would wink at me, as if to say, ‘Thanks for fixing our baby dinosaur's nest.’