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School is over and the four boys are pulling on their coats, hats, and shoes to walk through our backyards to their house.

EM already has her hat, coat, and shoes on. She stands quietly beside me and in her sweet, barely-three voice asks, “Gramma can I have marshmallows?”

I walk into my pantry to get the bag of mini-marshmallows leftover from New Year’s Day candied sweet potatoes. Into her outstretched hand I drop some mini-marshmallows, and with a voice of finality I say, “I’m giving you four.”

EM closes her fingers over the mini-marshmallows and with upturned face and a sweet smile says, “Thank you, Grandma.”

That’s when my teacher-self mingles with my grandma-self and I reach into the bag for another mini-marshmallow.

Holding it out, I ask, “EM, if I give you another marshmallow, how many will you have?”

EM uncurls her fingers to look at the marshmallows and starts counting, “One… Two… Three… Four…” Then looking up with a radiant smile, she declares, “FIVE!”

And of course, you have already guessed it, there are four more hands outstretched. I drop five mini-marshmallows into each one.

Another school day is over and the clamor of putting on coats, hats, and shoes fills my kitchen.

This time it is EN (almost 5) who initiates the request for marshmallows.  But instead of asking for marshmallows, he begins alternately raising his arms up and down as he dances about the kitchen loudly singing his song, “Marsh- mal- lows, marsh- mal- lows.”

EM puts down her books and joins him in song and dance.

I laugh in pure delight.

Who can count marshmallows during such a performance?

Once again, into each outstretched hand, I put five mini-marshmallows.

That’s what happens when Gramma is a teacher.

Watching them walk through the gate into their backyard,
I close my kitchen door against a bitter winter wind.
And I am thinking . . .
I should have a cup of hot cocoa
Or no, make it a rich mocha
with what else but FIVE MINI-MARSHMALLOWS.