She comes into the house, suitcase in tow, little face aglow at spending a couple of nights while her parents keep doctor’s appointments. She hugs them good-bye and before they’re halfway down the sidewalk, she grabs my hand:
“Franna, want to play with me?”
Isn’t there only one answer to this question?
“Of course! What do you want to play?”
We head to “her” room, where I keep books and blocks and bears and dolls and even a couple of old baby blankets for wrapping them. She’s always the mom. I am always the oldest child. I have to help her hold, feed, and potty-train the toys…er, my siblings.
“First I need to unpack,” she announces.
“Okay,” I say, as she unzips her suitcase, navy-blue with pink and white unicorns. “So, tomorrow we find out if you’re having a brother or sister! Isn’t it exciting?”
She nods: “I want a sister.”
“I know you do…but a brother would be nice, too” (because her parents and I think the baby is a boy).
She nods again, pulling a couple of stuffed animals out of her suitcase. She sets them on the bed. “Mama told me to be happy if it’s a boy.”
I am about to speak but just then, I notice something…
She’s brought Allioop, the raggedy orange cat that belonged to my son when he was little. She’s dressed him in Curious George’s T-shirt. He leans against the pillow beside a woolly bear sporting a pastel nightcap.
Allioop and the bear are wearing diapers.
“Did you put these diapers on your toys?”
“Yes. I’m practicing for the baby. Watch…” She shows me how to remove and replace the diapers with their little Velcro tabs.
Strikes me as one of the greatest acts of love I’ve seen.
Her parents FaceTimed to tell us that the new baby is, in fact, a girl. My granddaughter, who’s five, bounced up and down with joy: “My wish came true!” She later told my son that she can’t wait to teach her sister the word “photosynthesis.”
Dear Baby, what a wealth of love surrounds you, already.
–with thanks to the Two Writing Teachers community for the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge.
We are playing a game of hide-and-seek according to her rules, which means that if she can’t find me in approximately twenty-five seconds, she begins calling “Yoo-hoooo,” expecting me to echo.
She sends me out of a room to count while she stays in to hide. I have to pretend I can’t see her sock-toes at the crack of the closet door.She hides in the same place twice.
On her way to find me (I am sandwiched sideways between the bedroom dresser and the bookcase), she stops to retrieve my old hat which is lying on the trunk at the foot of the bed for a bit of vintage-y atmosphere. She plops it on her head.“Yoo-hoooo!” she calls.
“Yoo-hoooo,” I answer.
She whirls around. “There you are!” she shouts, hopping with glee.Then she regains her composure, asserts her authority:“Now, whoever is LOOKING has to wear this hat.”
“Okay, but first let me take your picture wearing it. You are SO elegant.”
“No.” She bows her head, hiding her beautiful face.
“Oh, please? It would be the best picture.”
She has to tease me a bit, evading the camera. She’s calling the shots. She flops around the edge of the bed, giggling.
Finally she stands and lets me get my shot.
Quick look. Can’t help myself: I crack up. “Ummm…how about I get one more? An even better one?”
“Let me see,” says the little grande dame.
I show her the photo on my phone.
“Nope,” she declares, “it’s a keeper!Now you count and I hide—your turn to wear the hat!” She flings it in my direction and scurries away.
I don my old hat and count…every precious, precocious minute, for the hidden elegance thereunto.
—Is she five or fifteen?
An etheree, for my “elegant” granddaughter:
You. Seeking your own way in your own play —let me now preserve your essence for lighting the remainder of my days, hoarding every fleeting moment in the reliquary of my soul where dust cannot corrupt the elegance.
The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 5, I am writing around a word beginning with letter e. Another favorite e-word in this piece: echo.And an etheree seemed to be called for.
Also shared with the Poetry Friday gathering today – thanks to Kathryn for hosting the Roundup.
—(nodding) Yes, and the crown. If I have them I will be SO fancy.
—(chuckling) Hmmm…I’ll see what I can do.
She adores being “fancy.” She’s adopted the word all on her own. I suspect Fancy Nancy books may have influenced this. Elsa in Frozen certainly has, hence the request for these particular ice-blue gloves and tiara—sorry, “crown,” my granddaughter declares. At four years of age, she can slink around the house like any haute couture fashion model, pausing with her face turned to one hiked little shoulder, eyes half-lidded…she can’t hold the pose for long, as the rest of us, her loyal subjects, dissolve with laughter.
—Oh my, you are so fancy, we tell her.
—Of course, she replies in her “fancy” voice, blinking slowly, before erupting in giggles and breaking her own spell.
The little package is waiting for her the next time she arrives.
No words for the magic on her face when she opens it, for the way she gingerly caresses the plastic pendant, as if it were the Hope Diamond. Within seconds she’s all decked out in her fancy finery. For the remainder of her visit, she walks with a regal air and won’t remove those gloves for anything except her breakfast of French toast.
I suspect she knows she’s the queen of our hearts.
One must be fancy even while helping to set up Christmas decorations.
In my humble opinion, the rest of the ensemble was necessary. ❤
Inspired by SOS — Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. This week’s prompt was “fancy,” with this quote from Donald Miller: “Everybody wants to be someone fancy. Even if they’re just shy.”If you write or want to write just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic
If there were a portal from Now to Then and I passed through where would I find myself what would I do
what would I see of my childhood me
raggedy white blanket satin trim pulling loose rub rub rubbing my silky string between my fingers and over my nose as I suck my thumb
Pa-Pa pumping a spinning top reds pinks blues swirling like rainbow smoke —it’s playing music! Like an organ —what is that song what is that song
I can play Grandma’s organ shiny pretty red-brown wood with curved legs she presses my fingers on the white keys — 5653 5653 that is Silent Night oh and I am supposed to be holding the white C button down
I can drive my little red car along the sidewalks in front of the shops by pumping pedals while Granddaddy watches from the bench
sometimes he calls me Duck or Pig
I do not know why
but it is good
Daddy’s buying a house I do not like the way it smells like old old coffee
except that a neighbor kid shows me that there’s a door in the side of the cement back steps when we open it an even older smell comes out past dangling cobwebs on strange cool air —there’s a game under here, in a box soft with forgottenness for so long pictures of ghosts mildewing on the top
a roly-poly scurries away in the dust
there’s a lot of kids to play with and we run and run and run and run around my new backyard
—oh no, Daddy’s going to be mad we snapped his little tree —here, help me hold these two parts together while we pray for God to glue them back
it didn’t work
but it’s not so bad
except for the little tree
Mama’s friends bring their skinny black dog named Thing yeah I know Thing on The Addams Family it’s just a hand in a box
Thing digs a hole in the backyard my sister and I make it bigger and bigger and bigger it’s a giant crater we pull out a giant smooth white rock maybe a dinosaur’s egg
I smell the clay, orange, gray feel its slickness between my fingers while we dig to the other side of the world China
Ding-dong, Avon calling look at all these tiny white tubes of lipsticks they smell so clean —can you believe there’s perfume in this bottle made like a tree —see when you take off the green top and push the bluebird’s tail it sprays
Bird of paradise bird of paradise my own made-up song I sing it in the tub while the white hunk of Ivory soap floats in the cloudy water
At Grandma’s house in the summertime I find a stack of old records I put them on the record player while I dig through a tall wicker basket of dresses fancy ones the pink one is satin covered with tulle but the blue one is my favorite with the rows and rows of lace on the skirt reaching almost to the floor when I put it on
I’m a princess
I’ll buy you a diamond ring, my friend if it makes you feel all right I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel all right ‘Cause I don’t care too much for money Money can’t buy me love
and when I am tired of that and when the long day is done I’ll sit by Grandma here in the floor where she spreads the newspaper open on the braided rug I’ll read the funnies or the The Mini Page or maybe even Reader’s Digest
Granddaddy comes over freshly-shaved, in his pajamas for me to hug his neck and give him a kiss on his smooth Old Spice cheek
while outside in summer dusk cicadas sing and sing and sing, so loud and never stop
now I lay me down to sleep my childhood loves to always keep
Magic find on Etsy: Vintage Avon spray bottle with Her Prettiness Enchanted Cologne Mist. Not so sure how enchanting the scent would be after all this time… that this still exists, however, is surely evidence of one powerful spell.
Thanks to Ruth Ayres on SOS: Magic in a Blog for the invitation to return to childhood loves, to linger there for a while, and to bring something back.
Thanks also to the Poetry Friday-ers and to Mary Lee for hosting this week’s Roundup.
Oh yeah and thanks to The Beatles for the song “Can’t Buy Me Love” — and all the others.
My granddaughter, age four, has a touch of cold. She told her dad (my son): “I think I have a little bit of coronavirus.” Yesterday she told the family that that her new Barbie bakery had to close down because “people in her town got coronavirus.”
Her understanding of such stark realities pierces my heart. Her comments also take me back to something I learned in my final high school English class, where I sat horror-struck, riveted, as my teacher painted a verbal image of London in the bubonic plague (which also originated in China):
This was the second and worst wave … people were superstitious about a catastrophic event occuring in 1666, with the Biblical symbolism of three sixes together, but the plague struck the year before, 1665 … spread by fleas on black rats … First you must understand the condition of London at the time. The characteristic fog was mingled with black smoke from factories and the coal-fires of a terribly overcrowded city. There was no sanitation; people dumped their waste from windows—that’s where the phrase “Gardy-loo!” originated, from the French “garde a l’eau!”—”watch out for the water!” It’s what people shouted to warn those walking on the street below, so they could jump out of the way when the buckets and chamber pots were dumped. Raw sewage ran in the streets … human and animal … just imagine what was on people’s shoes, on the hems of ladies’ long dresses … and during the plague, bodies also lay in the streets, where people fell dead… this sparked the children to invent a new game: Ring-Around-the-Rosie …
Ring-Around-the Rosie? It’s a silly, giddy game. How many times had I played it as a child, with neighborhood kids or schoolmates, trying to pull each other around the circle of our joined hands faster and faster, until we deliberately made ourselves fall?
“Ring-Around-the-Rosie” was originally “Ring a ring of roses,” funeral wreaths for the dead. “Pocket full of posie”was a reference to the nosegays people carried when they had to walk in the streets—flowers held to the nose to counteract the stench, or a handkerchief doused with cologne, if they were wealthy enough to have it. “Ashes, ashes”—at the time, it was “rashes, rashes,” indicating the discoloration of the skin from bursting lymph nodes, or “buboes,” hence the name “bubonic plague.” And “we all fall down” … that’s self-explanatory. It’s what the children saw…
That’s an indelible image: Children joining hands in the streets, chanting, whirling around faster and faster— laughing—against that ghastly backdrop. It’s how they interpreted and internalized events, how they coped with their world—through play.
The game remains with us centuries afterward. In our time, it’s indicative of the carefree joy of childhood; the darkness is long forgotten.
That’s what play does: defeats the demons, diminishes fear, turns the dark into light. It’s the way children communicate their learning about the world. It’s release, acceptance, solace, safety. It’s the bright, creationary force in a child’s domain: play is within the child’s control when nothing else is.
Its value, inestimable.
Barbie’s bakery will re-open, I am sure, for our businesses will. Our times are grim at present, but we know what causes disease to spread. We understand (most of us, let’s hope) that for now we have to keep our physical distance, for our greater good. We know the value of hygiene. We shall have to join hands—figuratively— in many different ways; we shall be pulled, and strained, but as long as we don’t succumb to panic, and if we submit to wisdom, we shall not fall.
And our children?
They’ll keep on playing.
“We should respect with humility the bright holiness of childhood.”
Photo: “Circle of Peace” bronze sculpture by Gary Lee Price (children playing Ring-Around-the-Rosie). Blake Bolinger.CC BY.