Note on the Fridge to That Man

No Telling

Yes, I’m aware that there is a deadly hurricane blowing up New Orleans’ skirts right now. And I’d have to be in a coma not to know about the Republican National Convention bellowing even as I write this. I’ll attend to these things later.

Right now The Perfect Grandson is covered stem to stern in seed tick bites. That is the immediate situation here behind the suburban brick wall, and it’s got me worried sick.

Bear with me here. It took an hour and a half  for his mama to remove seed ticks with a pair of steady tweezers. Hundreds of them, tiny, and most on Very Delicate Places. A five year-old boy (or any boy, really) should NEVER have to endure such pain or close inspection.

I don’t have to explain the whole Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever/Lyme Disease/Tularemia paranoia to most of you, because I’m fairly certain you thought about it two paragraphs up. So far, no big fever, no scary joint pain – nothing to make me go into full blown Mimi-panic. He’s got two pairs of worried woman-eyes staring him down, so there’s not much we’ll miss.

How did he get into all these ticks? Ask his grandfather. Same guy who visited his son at Children’s hospital some 25 years ago because that little five year-old boy had Tick Fever.

I’ve written on this blog for five years without bringing up anything about the man, good or bad, and it was on purpose. I’m breaking that vow of silence right now.

When you’re given insect repellant, use it. This is Arkansas in August and you are a grown man who should know better. Take care of the boy when you’re given the gift of his company, or I will fly at you like a witch unhinged.

Just like I used to.

Sorry about that, folks. I’ll let you get back to your hurricane watch and that Republican soiree.   

The Perfect Grandson goes to Kindergarten

No Telling

School supplies are bought, labeled, and stowed neatly in a backpack by the door. The Lightning McQueen lunchbox is packed and chilling in the fridge. New shorts and a shirt are folded in a pile with clean socks and a handkerchief on the ready.

Tomorrow morning, The Perfect Grandson goes to kindergarten.

He’s a little nervous, but more excited. His classroom looks like jungle with monkeys on the walls, counting bugs in jars, books everywhere. The alpha and omega of his day will rest in Mrs. Lovelady’s hands. He calls her “Miss Lovely” and I think that is a very, very good sign.

I have no doubt The Perfect Grandson will have a sterling day. He’ll come home, eat everything that’s not nailed down, and talk nonstop until he goes to bed. He’s a born-curious extrovert who makes friends on the fly and who craves the how and why of everything. School will be his other food.

Em, on the other hand, is a wreck. I suspect this milestone sneaked up on her like the dirty thief time can be and now here it is, tomorrow. In truth, she’s been weeping off and on for a week. Not because she’s worried or scared that her son will be worried or scared, but because his going to Big School marks the end of something. The beginning too, and that’s a long hall to look down for any mama. When I think about Em’s first day of kindergarten, I’m fairly sure it was yesterday that she went. Maybe the day before, but no longer ago than that.

It’s been 21 years since I walked my baby to her first real classroom. So I understand when Em says tomorrow is the beginning and the end. She’s right. It is.

As a teacher and his Mimi, though, I can’t help but be excited for him. Fresh crayons and sharp pencils and the whole big world to learn. I won’t spend a second worrying about him tomorrow – that’s his mama’s specialty. Besides, The Perfect Grandson doesn’t need hand-wringing. He’ll be having entirely too much fun.

UPDATE:  The day was a smashing success and the young scholar ate all his lunch. How could a boy with shoes as cool as those have a bad day?

Anything for Science

No Telling

So I’m having it pulled in a few hours. Sometime after that, an implant, which will nearly make me The Bionic Mimi.

Because The Perfect Grandson is a five year-old boy, he wants to see the tooth. He’s heard a thing or two about losing teeth and that tooth fairy woman, but he’s a man who likes hard evidence. A scientist.

My fear, of course, is that my old tooth will rattle around in a plastic pill bottle alongside his beetles and dead paper-wasps. Wish me luck.

I Love Her Despite Those Janky Ballpoint Pens

No Telling

My only daughter has disappointed me. Nature vs. nurture? I know I didn’t teach her this, and I’m convinced my genetic code was pristine on this matter. Clearly there is some throw-back DNA from her father’s side. And bad friends. There’s that. Why else would Em prefer trashy, generic ballpoint pens?

It’s not my fault. I come from a long and distinguished line of scribblers who appreciate fine writing instruments. Since my baby was able to make a little biscuit-fist I’ve given her only the sharpest of new crayons, the slickest Ticonderogas. At my writing desk, she’s had a life-long cotillion class of paper and pen.

Montblanc, Parker, Waterman – where did I go wrong?

The preacher’s kid rebels by breaking Commandments. A teacher’s kid skips school. My girl flaunts the cheapest of ballpoint stick pens and leaves them everywhere just to watch me cringe.

I‘ve tried to pretend they don’t bother me so I won’t feed the monster. This is a parental smoke screen I used with a particularly unsavory beau she wouldn’t shake. It didn’t work then, either.

(Honestly, I’d rather spend the rest of my writing life with a nasty ballpoint in hand than see that particular young man again. Things could be worse. It’s all about perspective and deciding which hill to die on. Don’t tell Em.)

The upshot here is The Perfect Grandson. Our hours at the desk together give me hope. Lay out one fine pen next to the trash his mother scribbles with – he’ll choose the Waterman every time. He may grow up to wreck cars and young girls’ hearts, but I’m guessing he’ll do both with a decent pen in his pocket.

He has to. I’m counting on him.

Growing a Writer

No Telling

The Perfect Grandson loves a good story. Always has. And it’s a good thing, because he’s surrounded by women who write and love to tell tales. Until recently, he’s been an appreciative audience when he could sit still long enough to hear the end of something. But that’s all changed now. The Perfect Grandson has learned the power of telling, and now we are the audience.

That picture, for example, is not an errant scribble. It’s an epic story of good versus evil, the treachery of power, of fighting snakes and roly pollies. The insects win, of course, because they are balled up and patient while the snakes ultimately turn on each other. There is no love interest in The Perfect Grandson’s story, but there is a great deal of grimacing and growling. I took this picture quickly, since his stories (much like his block-towers) are made to be erased/wadded up/knocked down. The MagnaDoodle is a perfect medium for such a writer.

Two days ago a bunny wandered into our yard and he spent the better part of five minutes talking to it from the window in a very personal way. The next five minutes, and until the bunny was frightened off, he made a story of how the rabbit came to be there, what he was planning, and where he was going after bounding off into the azaleas.

He’s figured out that everyone has a story. Some of these begin as nonfiction, take a left at creative non, eventually throttling full-down into the fictional straightaway. The Perfect Grandson went to the zoo yesterday, where he saw a few impressive snakes. Later, he and I poked around in our small garden where more than a few roly pollies scattered from under the clay pots. Voila.

I haven’t heard a serpent vs. rabbit story yet, but I will. I can count on it.

His mama started out this way, though not with erasable, bloody epics. Em sang her stories, playing fearlessly with sound and word combinations. Sometimes she’d stop suddenly, then begin again singing the song with alterations both verbal and melodic. I spent hours in the yard scribbling down her Singing on a Swing creations, knowing she was in full experimental/editing mode. One afternoon she slid triumphantly out of the swing, looked at me, and lisped “Princesses don’t have days like these.” Em pushed her hair out of her eyes and fell back into song. I understood completely.

Now she follows The Perfect Grandson around, taking notes because it’s her turn. Not long ago he came home from preschool crushing on a new girl. “I love Lilly,” he said, “She’s pretty like butterflies.” Em always seems a little gut-punched by his casual poetry, although some of that is an irrational fear concerning garage bands and hidden tattoos. He’s not yet three. God knows what he’ll do to break her heart by the time he’s sixteen, but I’m sure it will be something ridiculous she never saw coming. Better to relax while you can, I say.

When he’s not busy trying to put a baseball through my china cabinet, The Perfect Grandson and I spend time at my desk, writing. Already he has an eye for fine pens and reams of unlined paper. All he needs now is power over the alphabet and a some hand-eye coordination. A few days ago I was labeling his latest art story as he sat in my lap. Scads of carefully constructed diagonal lines.

“Put a name here, Mimi.”

“Okay, what’s this one about?”

“Snakes inna Rain.”

So I wrote down the title in big capital letters. He looked at one and pointed.

“Whas dat, Mimi?”

“That’s an ‘S’, punkin. It goes ‘sssssssssssssss'”

“Like a snake.”

“Exactly,” I said. And so it begins.

The Perfect Grandson…

No Telling

…is going to be fine. He should be coming home tomorrow. It’s been a harrowing week for everyone, but he is a strong, brave boy surrounded by love and good medicine. Maybe it was asthma or an ear infection run amok – we don’t know. He’s breathing beautifully tonight and the best team of nurses in the land hover over him.

His Mama is holding up well and I’m proud of her. Nothing prepares young mothers for this kind of fear. I guess nothing could. Emily has become the rock she always thought I was. She knows how to cry behind a door now and that’s how it works. Parenting in critical times is mostly smoke and mirrors and shaky bravado. She’s learned to compartmentalize in the moment and that’s not something they teach in college.

The Perfect Grandson braved all manner of poking and procedures without a tear. He’s the light and joy of everyone at the hospital and they worked tirelessly to make him well. He is better, and tomorrow he’ll be home. Four days is a long time for a little guy to keep still and be good, but he’s done it.

Tonight he’ll sleep and breathe without assistance. Em will curl herself around him in that skinny hospital bed, and her gentleman friend will sleep in the lounge chair beside them – just as he’s done every night this week. He’s a keeper and she knows this.

This is what a happy ending looks like.

Dumptrucks and Reindeer

No Telling

Santa came and paper flew. We’ve been dodging power-hits from the T-Ball set-up for two days now. We’ve built and trashed a few dozen block buildings, put together puzzles, colored with fat crayons so frantically that we’ve got to make another ticky-tack run tomorrow so we can show these beauties off properly.

And there are vehicles – trucks, cars, fire engines, tractors – all with appropriate sounds. The ladies in the house are finding all this varoom varoom business a tad mysterious, but it seems mighty important to The Perfect Grandson. He speaks “race car” more fluently than we do.

It snowed here for Christmas, although only for about half an hour and only between midnight and one o’clock. It didn’t stick and it didn’t stay, but I saw it blowing sideways at the streetlamps and it was a lovely gift. It rained for a week before the snow, devastating and stranding most of the state in floodwaters that have only just today begun to recede.

We had love and food and presents and family. With the flooding and events more dreadful, there are others who did not, so I’m grateful. There are always little miracles even in the worst of times.

The Perfect Grandson swears he saw a reindeer in our front yard.

“Sugar, where did you see the deer?”

“Wight dere.” He pointed at the postcard of grass that is our front yard.

“What was he doing out there?”

“Eatin gwass. Wet’s go, MiMi. I fina deer.”

We bundled up against the cold and searched for it high and low. We live in the middle of town, but it’s not unlikely there was a confused deer wandering the streets. Around here, things like that can happen. But what he saw was no deer – The Perfect Grandson says he saw a reindeer. And I believe him.

Yearbook Yourself, or This is What Happens When She’s got a Little Time on Her Hands

No Telling

So it’s Friday night. Em’s out with her gentleman friend and I’m babysitting The Perfect Grandson who’s working some new molars through and is a bit restless. Writing anything requiring sustained concentration is out the window.

I’m kind of glad, though, because I’ve found this Yearbook Yourself site and it’s more fun than anyone has a right to have. Just upload a picture, make sure it’s lined up correctly, then try on yearbook looks. Anything from 1954 to 2000. Double the fun by adding your picture to activities – seriously, put yourself in a 1966 football squad or become a cheerleader in the 80s (scary permed hair and all).

I loved all of them, but this one (1966) really made me pause. Except for the glasses, I look exactly like my mother.

C’mon. You know you’re not doing anything important right now. Go make a yearbook picture and horrify yourself, just promise to leave a link so we can all enjoy your pain. Extra points if you put it on Facebook.

Good Friday

No Telling

It’s been a pretty damned nice day. Really.

I have a friend who once astounded me by keeping a Gratitude Journal. She’s that kind of person, glass half full and all, and kept whole scribbling book just to write down those things that happened to go well. She sees the lovely in everything, and I’m a little envious.

Not that I’m some old crank screaming at kids to get out of my yard or anything. Not yet, anyway. I’m like everyone else – smooth mornings, trying afternoons, exhausted evenings – sometimes too busy with the minutia of the everyday to stop and say, hey, that was a delightful moment.

Well, I’m doing it right now.

There was a time this morning when I looked at my 11:00 Intro to College Writing class and saw My Reason. The one I get up for every single morning. There they were, two fresh weeks into the semester, terror and self-consciousness gone. My students were writing and talking about their writing in little clatches here and there. I floated from group to group listening, smiling, nodding. One group helped a friend with his essay’s opening. The ideas flew. Another group laughed about a piece one of them had just read aloud, and as they remarked and responded, the writer scribbled furiously in the margins of his own paper.

At 11:00 I had a classroom of students who owned the writing. There was no need for me to stand at the podium and pontificate about audience and structure. Something clicked in that room today, and my students collectively and independently became writers. Not students in some composition class with an assignment – writers.

My gratitude is in being there to witness it.

At 2:30 I rode with Em to pick up The Perfect Grandson at pre-school. This was my first time to visit his school, to see his new life outside of our little house. Em led me down a hall and into a room filled with two year-olds chatting and resting and playing – a whole rainbow-coalition nest of other people’s perfect grandchildren. It’s such a tremendous responsibility taking care of other people’s beloveds, and those women whose names I don’t yet know who nurture these delightful fat-cheeked toddlers are angels. I’ve made a mental note to tell them them this, because they need to know.

Then The Perfect Grandson came careening from across the room with his crazy hair and big light-up Spiderman shoes.

“Meee-Meee!” and buried his little face in my skirt. That knee-hug was a moment so fine I want to weave 2:30 today into a scarf I wear around my neck until I die.

I am indeed the luckiest woman on the planet.

First Day of School

No Telling

Tomorrow is the first day of school for everyone in the No Telling household. I’ll meet my nervous freshman comp students for the first time and Em will be all over the same campus taking this and that as she feverishly works at getting that degree under her skinny belt.

Nothing new there.

What’s new is that tomorrow morning The Perfect Grandson will attend his very first day of daycare/preschool. He’s two years old, a charming rascal beloved by all, and has never been taken care of by anyone outside of our close family. Oh my.

You mamas out there know exactly what I’m talking about. Em’s already worked herself up into a pre-first-day state where she envisions the worst – choking hazards, split lips, crying jags – the whole shebang. Why, she’s even thrown herself past the immediate and well into the future. Soon, Mom, he’s going to be in kindergarten, and then high school and then some wench [sic] will take him away from me forever.

And she’s right. That’s exactly what will happen, but not tomorrow. My experienced motherhood tells me that she’ll drop him off in the morning and cry much harder than he will, because kids are funny like that. When class is over she’ll fly to the daycare to hug him more tightly than he’ll want or allow. He’ll show her around, punch his new friends affectionately, come home with a few new words and nasty habits.

That’s how it works. There are women all over the world dropping their womb-babies off with strangers for the first time. All that common umbilical cutting doesn’t make it less excruciating for a first time mama. It doesn’t get any better, I suspect, with the second or the third.

I will not be a part of the dropping off and picking up tomorrow. That’s Em’s moment and she has a right to the love and pain of it. My job will be to comfort a weeping daughter, to give her a solid place to lean when the ground starts slipping underneath. It’ll be all right.

I‘ll make sure to to schedule my own moment behind a locked office door, neatly timed so I come out looking fresh for class. And for my daughter, who will never know I’m not the rock she believes me to be.