A Tale of Two Cities….. Both Built with Love

November is the month of Thanksgiving—not only the holiday but a month that reminds us to say thank you and to acknowledge the actions of kindness and support given to us by others. It is in this spirit that I write this month’s blog post.

In my December 2012 post, The Joys of Nana Days, I shared the behind the scenes story of “The City”….. “Over this past year I made “The City” for Lauren. It consists of a board and I have made stores and the like for her to put on the city. As she cannot read, the stores have pictures on them such as Brewster’s Ice Cream and Chick-fil-A. We have wood peg people that are her mommy, daddy and baby Sean as well as cars. We have a zoo that is on another table and the Georgia Aquarium and then we “drive” the cars to the beach–which is blue foam paper tucked under the mat inside my front door area. I keep the various pieces/buildings in wicker baskets and she puts them out as she sees fit. We play imaginary games with the people and move them all around “The City”. It is a bit “off the wall” and funky but we have good time playing our pretend games.”

What I did not share is when my son Chris was a small child I built a city for him—of a similar nature. It was a piece of plywood on which I painted a road and grassy areas. Instead of a Chick-fil-A I had a McDonalds where we went to get pancakes for breakfast. There were other buildings and a park. The buildings were, however, glued to the board and it was stored underneath his bed. I regret that I have no pictures of this masterpiece!

As noted, Lauren’s city contained homemade wood buildings (with the exception of the purchase of a wooden version of our Cobb County landmark—the Big Chicken). I made sure all the buildings I created were ones that she would know of such as Publix and Chick-fil-A. We have spent countless hours playing with the peg people and putting them in cars and driving around the city and to the beach and playing in the “river” that was painted on one corner area of The City.

However, The City had fallen on hard times. I had made it on stiff cardboard and covered the cardboard with paper you would use as the ground for a model train set and I had stapled the paper to the cardboard but two years of peg people scurrying about and cars putting hundreds of miles on the roads had led to urban decay and damaged roads. It was time to recreate The City.

I am aware, by the way, that there are various “professional” cities made by well-known toy companies but I have one major complaint. Each of the buildings is usually a block shape—a storefront look. In my world of imagination and chatter, I like for my peg people to go INTO the building where they can talk with each other such a going INTO the Waffle House and standing there and ordering a waffle and eating it at the table. Lauren and I would each have a peg person and they would act out the conversations while standing IN the building.

So, on one Saturday afternoon, I asked the Gentleman Caller with Smiling Eyes (GCSE) to come over and help me brainstorm options for the new city. There were many reasons for this….one: he is a handyman (as defined as someone who knows how to fix things without duct tape) and two: he owns and knows how to use tools (as in more than a hammer and a screwdriver. He has big impressive tools—such as table saw and clamps and so forth.)

We spent 30 minutes kicking around options and he asked me questions such as what did I really want and where I would keep this (as I live in a smaller size condo storage is always a concern) and, as usual, he brought up some interesting points to think about.

The end result was GCSE agreed to build (with his tools) a small wood table with folding legs so that I could store the table in my closet but still be able to put the table in my sunroom when Lauren and Sean were visiting. The top of the table would be painted with an outdoor road/cityscape. This was to be a team effort—I was to research and create a template design for the top of the table including a road; a beach area; and a river. He would then make it happen.

This also meant that we would need new buildings that would be more in scale with the new city. I provided him with a list such as Chick-fil-A; a fire station; a building where Mommy worked; where Daddy worked; and so forth. He agreed to make a couple of “model homes/buildings” for my assessment and approval.  (This is urban planning on the highest level.)

The GCSE is logical but also has an artistic side—always fascinating to see both traits in one person and I was aware his personality had both sides. What I did not realize is that he also carries in his soul bits-and- pieces that are of a “whimsical” nature. What evolved over the next two weeks were small buildings that were painted in folk-art style. There is a church with pews and a painted stained glass window; Nana’s house has butterflies on the side as I put butterflies in my yard when they visit; the Marietta Fire Station has a painted flag just as the fire station near me has a big flag in the front; the BP gas station has two “pumps” in the front; the school has desks and a teacher’s podium; and so forth.

I cannot put into words how extremely touched I was to see his small wooden creations. GCSE does not have grandchildren of his own but he has fully adopted Lauren and Sean as his. He buckles them into the many-buckles-and-snaps car seats when we go on outings; he stands in long lines getting Happy Meal boxes; he pushes them on swing sets; plays in the pool with them—getting splashed and playing with pool toys; he reads stories to them; and cheerfully takes on any requests I make for his assistance.

In my sunroom now sits a small wood play table and in spite of the folding legs, I will probably leave it up most of the time for the foreseeable future—the former coffee table now resides on a storage counter in my garage. As much as I know Lauren and Sean will enjoy this new and revised city when they visit me, I know I will enjoy it even more. Its presence in my sunroom reminds me on a daily basis of the incredible joys in my life ….. such as my grandchildren…… and this small wood table with its whimsical buildings also reminds me of a very nice man who not only loves me but is willing to love those that are dear to me.

For that, and in honor of Thanksgiving, I simply want to say….. Thank you.


June 2012-Lauren and the Old City/October 2012-The Old City/2014-Urban Decay/The New City/The School/Nana’s Condo/Church/Sean/Sean/Lauren and Sean/Lauren/  Nana and Lauren getting ready to play with The City