Archive for the ‘children’ Category

Red and white cane…

December 11, 2008

No, not the diagonally striped one made of candy, so seasonally appropriate right now. This one is a collapsible aluminum white cane with a red bottom portion such as used by those with limited vision as a way to warn others around them that someone who might make unpredictable moves is about, and should be looked out for.

A week ago, Rumpole took me to visit Dr. Seemore. We hoped to hear reasonably good news about me getting a new lens in my left eye, maybe early in the new year. Instead, Dr. Seemore viewed my eyecondition with reservations, and while he did not say in so many words that I would be sightless in that eye, after all the numerous operations during the past two years, he telegraphed by carefully chosen words and phrases that the prognosis might not be as I had hoped. More tests in the new year, to see if blood supply into the retina is adequate to make it worth installing a new lens.

On the drive home from the office, Rumpole essayed to draw me out as to how I interpreted the conversation between myself and Dr. Seemore. As if interpretation needs to be made by doctors’ pronouncements! Unfortunately, it has been my recent and not so recent experience that doctors are notoriously loathe to give bad news, and in their avoidance manoeuverings end up severely pissing off a patient, such as your truly, who might wish for some necessary and unvarnished truths. I was righteously annoyed, and kvetched and carped about my chagrin all the way home.

Once we arrived, we partook of a good cup of coffee. Rumpole took his cup and disappeared into the front office. After several moments, he called out to me to come and join him there. He had logged onto the computer and got into the CNIB site. He patted the chair next to him and said it was time for me to order a white cane, which might be useful in warning off people walking near me to look out for my wild swings and lunges toward my blind side. And how did I feel about this anyway?

I felt okay, I guess. I spend half my time out in publick apologizing to people for knocking into them or slapping them with my wildly gesturing left arm, that is whenever I don’t cut them off in their eagerness to pass me by. The white cane will help shut me up in public; save some breath.

So my cane arrived in the post today – a tidy collapsible and lightweight pole good for probing ahead but not of cudgel-like proportions to knock others nearby senseless. It’s rather jaunty, like a fencing rapier, but not as dangerous seeming. Sort of reminds me of cross-country skiing poles, minus the stabbing bit at the tip. It collapses in a jiffy and fits inside my purses. A very practical little stick.

I wonder how long it will take for me to get used to using it. I’d really rather fake it, and pretend I see just fine, but unfortunately that ain’t the case. I bet Mousey will like my cane. We can play magic tricks with it – collapse it and hide it, use it to loft stuffed animals about the house, lift curtains with it to see who is hiding behind. I wish Rumpole wore a toupee on his bald head; I’d delight in flipping it off his head with my cane. The Mouse would chuckle with great glee. Maybe I can victimize some other poor toupee-wearing schmuck on the streets nearby.

They don’t beat up an old blind woman, do they?

Not another sweater…

November 26, 2008

Anyu always held close to the belief that appropriate Christmas presents for men in the family were either a sweater, an LP of music beloved by the recipient or a book of some esoteric character that was to edify the recipient.. She really looked askance when I gifted Renaissance man on his 18th Christmas with a stuffed ‘Bill the Cat’. Rumpole has long disabused me of the gifted sweater. So for these two men in my life, Christmas gifting has proved to be an adventure, of sorts.

A couple of years ago I gave Renaissance Man a fold out huge cultural history of the world. It opened up the length of his living room, and he seemed to enjoy reading esoteric bits of information from among the ages. The gift that both he and Rumpole took particular delight in was when they received guitar lessons for 4 months. This was 18 years ago, and I must say, it has been a gift that has kept giving. They joined a band, and have played together for 12 years now, and entertain us at home with musicales regularly.

This Christmas seemed particularly problematic. What does one gift a grown man who has alost everything his heart could desire? I stewed and fretted about this for months now. I want him to enjoy life, to keep learning while he can and to model that learning and enjoyment for his young daughter.

Last weekend, he and Glasgow Girl brought Mousey over for a visit. Here was the perfect occasion to put the query to him. I had cleverly and casually placed the new second-hand recorder I had bought at the thrift store, as an inducement to pique Mousey’s curiosity. True to form, as soon as she spied it, she picked it up and asked, “What is this?”

“Blow in the end,” suggested Rumpole, “It’s a recorder.”

She picked it up and tooted away with it in great delight. “Here, Mouse, ” said RM, “I’ll show you how to put your fingers.” He played the scale for her, but she couldn’t when she tried; her hands were much too small.

She marched about the kitchen and tooted away, experimenting with blowing through breaths.

“Mom, you’re such a trouble maker,” said RM. “Every time you introduce her to new things, she keeps bugging us to keep playing with them.”

Heh, heeh, that’s the plan – I thought to myself. it’s never too early.

“You know, R.M., you have a really good singing voice,” said Rumpole.

“Yeah,” I agreed, ” you have perfect pitch. Every time you sing with the band I have to pinch myself. You nail the songs so perfectly. But you lack confidence.”

“How would you like to receive singing lessons as a Christmas present, this year?” asked Rumpole.

Renaissance Man looked at each of us in turn. “You know,” he said, “it might be kind of fun. Only I don’t want to go to someone’s house for lessons.”

“Okay,” I said, ” I have the perfect place to order up lessons for you, the local music school. See if you like what they have on offer.”

So, that was that. Renaissance Man is intrigued by the possibility of voice lessons. My job was to do the research on this possibility.

So this week’s job for me was to find the singing teacher, which I did, and to order up lessons, which Rumpole and I did, this evening after having dinner with Lookingforbeauty. We drove to the music school in the dark of evening, and made arrangements with the pleasant director of the school. In January, Renaissance Man is to start his weekly lessons on Tuesday nights. I think he will be well pleased.

While at the music studio, I asked about replacement strings for my cheapo violin. They had them, and Rumpole bought a set for me. We drove home in the dark, well delighted with the possibility of making more music, en famille. I can hardly wait for Christmas – a book of songs for Renaissance Man to go with his singing lessons, and perhaps my newly strung violin along for Christmas dinner to play some reels. Of course, I shall have to practice during the coming weeks. I know for sure that Jessica, our Scottish Terrier will accompany me on the violin. She hates my music, or my singing, and joins in a chorale accompanyment appropriate to my level of playing.

It promises to be a musical New Year for us all. I can hardly wait to hear Renaissance Man let loose with his wonderful voice.

“Time Out…” I’ll show you how!

May 30, 2008

Being Grandmother to an engaged and busy 22 month old toddler is far superior experience to winning a multi-million dollar lottery, I’d wager. At least, such has been my experience up to date. This past Wednesday, my big treat was to spend an extended five-hour period with Mousey while Glasgow Girl went to her afernoon job, and Renaissance man was to go to an after work meeting. GG and Mousey came to pick me up from home, and there was Mousey, perched in her car-seat, madly grinning and waving as I walked to the car bearing the black bag which she has to inspect as soon as we go into her house. What goodies are in there, what surprise?

Once we arrived, Mousey led me into the living room and inspected the contents of the black bag. Sun-glasses (check), wallet (check), umbrella(check) keychain(check), comb(check) and what’s this? Small cardboard boxes of mysterious stuff? (“Later, Mousey. Grandma will show you what these are.”) There is also a brown paper wrapped bottle of wine, as a treat for GG after she gets home from work, to sip with exhausted Grandma. (“This is for big people. You wait, Roxy will come and have a visit with us this evening before you go to bed. This is for Momma, Grandma and Roxy.”)

Glasgow Girl shows me what to feed the Mouse for dinner and then leads me into a section of carpeted hallway. “This is the spot for “Time-out”. We have been doing this for when Mousey hits us, something we want to discourage. She hates it and will scream and yell. You’ll have to hold her down for two minutes.” Mousey pays us no attention; she is busy pulling on her pink rubber boots, muttering “Go outside” under her breath. She drags me by the hand to the back door, and waves a distracted good-bye to her mother. She is fixated on an outdoor adventure. Glasgow Girl leaves.

Out in the yard, Mousey collects her favourite stones that she has stashed in a special spot under the emerald Cedars. She also has a stash of curiously-patterned fallen leaves which she weights down with a large stone. “Open sand-box,” she orders. “We play.” While I lift the lid from the sand-box, she ferries her collection by making several trips. She only brings the most precious ones of her stones – a large one, a medium turd-shaped one and a small round black and white speckled one. She seems to favour the turd-shaped one. The last time we were all together, when I pointed out that unfortunate similarity to Glasgow Girl, she shushed me. It seems that “turd” is not to be one of Mousey’s vocabulary words, just yet. Is it an improper term? Oh, well. There is still time to round out her increasingly extensive vocabulary, a bit later.

Mousey busies herself with pouring sand from one container to another. We discuss the concepts of full and empty. She carries on filling up buckets with sand, says “full”, pours it out into another bucket, “says “empty” and gives me a meaningful look. She tries to make a mountain out of dry sand, which doesn’t work too well. The sand refuses to keep a good form. We go off to the garden hose and fill a bucket with water. This we carry back and dump on the sand. It’s good and mucky. She happily fills a bucket with this wet sand, I show her how to tamp it down in the bucket. She pats down the additions of added sand. Then she can’t lift the bucket and looks frustrated. “It’s heavy”, i point out to her. “let Grandma help.” We upend the bucket, remove it and there she has a nice solid tower of sand. This she augments with the rocks and leaves. “Big mountain!” she announces, looking ever so pleased with the result. She steps back and inspects it, meanwhile rubbing and slapping her hands together to rid herself of the sticky sand. “I go pool now,” she says and marches off to where her new inflatable lady-bug pool sits, now empty of water. She kicks off her rubber boots and climbs inside. Lies down. “Resting” she calls out, and hides.

Soon, her little voice pipes up. “Bugs… bugs…”. I go over and there she is lying on her stomach following the path of scurrying ants on the plastic bottom. “Oh, bugs, bugs…” she cooes at them and makes to give them kisses. They run away from her mouth. She giggles. “Bugs… kiss bugs!” she announces. ( Good thing Glasgow Girl is not here. She might not like Mousey making too affectionate with crawling things.) Mouse climbs out of the pool, pulls on her boots and heads out into the garden. “Bugs!” she calls out with glee as she plicks something from the dirt. She runs back to me and hands me a round black ball of something, which I then drop on the ground. We watch it unfurl itself into its true form – a sow bug. Mousey raises a foot, and makes to stomp it. “No, no, let the bug go back to its home,” I caution her. She falls to her hands and knees and watches the bug scurry quite smartly in the direction of the garden. It makes its way under her sandbox. “Gone!” she says. “Look under the sandbox,” I suggest to her as I get down on my hands and knees. “it went under there.” We lie down on our stomachs and watch the sow-bug wend its way to the edge of the patio, and drop off back into the garden. “Bye bug” says Mousey. “Bug home.” She looks at me and asks “Cookie?” “Would you like a cookie, Mousey?” I question her. “Yep, pease.” she takes my hand and leads me to the back door.

In the kitchen we select gold fish crackers – three of them, which Mouse has to count – one, two, three. She takes them to the living room, and picks up a book about bugs. “Read” she orders. She settles herself on the couch and places the gold fish crackers on her lap-covering skirt. Pats the couch beside her, “granma, read.” She pops a gold-fish into her mouth and takes great pleasure in pointing out various kinds of bugs. Repeats with a mouth full, “ftik bug” and “bubberfwy”. She loves naming things, animate and inanimate. Her enunciation with a full mouth is quite funny. After she swallows, her speech is just a bit clearer. She goes off into her kissing phase. Insists on kissing every bug picture in the book.

(This reminds me of something funny Glasgow Girl told me a couple of weeks ago. She and Mousey went to the grocery store for toilet paper. Mousey had to kiss every package with kittens pictured on the wrapper. “It took us forever to get past the toilet paper section”, groused GG. “What’s with this blasted kissing?”)

Mousey and I segue into a Winnie the Pooh book. We read it over and over again at her insistence. She sees every little detail in the illustrations and wants to tell exactly what each thing she sees is. Soon she fixates on Pooh’s honey pot. “Honey”, she says, then looks up at me. “more cookie?”

“Let’s go get your supper ready.” We walk to the kitchen. Mousey drags a chair to the sink and climbs up. “I help” she states, matter of fact, and starts to collect her plate and spoon from beside the sink. I fish out her container of cottage-cheese noodles from the fridge ( aha! Renaissance Man has introduced her to his favourite meal as a child – Noodles Stroganoff -a dish he still equates to homely comforts, much as I always have. Another food tradition well on the way to being established!) I heat her plateful in the microwave while she goes off to climb into her high chair. I add tomato salad to her plate and place it in front of her. She digs in with relish. Although she eats well with a spoon, she soon drops her spoon and starts shoveling the food into her mouth with her hands. Seeing she is so hungry, I don’t insist on Queen’s Table Manners Rules. In minutes she polishes off her whole dish. “Done” she says proudly and hands her plate to me.

Next is halved grapes, and then a small amount of yoghurt and fruit salad. Mousey finishes off her meal with long satisfying sips of water from her sippy cup. “Finished,” she smiles, even though I am busy cleaning her sticky hands and face afterward. She pulls off her bib and impatient, slaps the table of her high-chair to be let out.

“Come help me clean up,” I call from the sink. She climbs back onto the chair there, and helps rinse the dishes. Starts to splash me. I splash her back with sprinkles of water shaken from my wet hands. She giggles and blinks her brown-button eyes, chortles and asks to be dried. “Go outside?” she asks.

Outside again, she takes care to say bye as she prepares to have a few private moments at the side yard with her sit-down elephant on wheels. I flop into a patio chair and try to regroup for the next phase of our afternoon. Mousey carries on a long, convoluted conversation, half of which I do not understand, with the neighbour’s cat which is keeping to the safety of the fence between them. Maybe she has made repeated attempts to haul the cat by is tail to her to bless it with numerous kisses. Cats are too smart to let a toddler get her hands on them and rough-house them into submission. Mousey stays in the side-yard for quite a time, chatting up a storm. I rest and just listen.

Soon enough, she reappears and wants to read more books. Back we go inside. Grandma dutifully reads a selection of books Mousey presents. At the end of reading, Mousey sits and thinks for a few minutes. She looks at me with a speculative expression, then whacks me a good one on my arm with her fist. “Don’t hit, me”, I complain. “Time out.” she announces, takes me by the hand. “Okay, then,” I tell her, “Time out for you. No hitting allowed!” She immediately drops to the ground as if her legs have given out. Drops her head and arms to the ground and starts to howl. (I recognize this pose. It’s what Renaissance Man calls her “bowing to Mecca” posture that she does whenever she is having a temper melt-down. The lamentations, entreaties and moanings have a slightly religious quality, so I see where he has equated this behaviour with religious fervour. Funny man, my son!) I lean down and whisper to her that she show me where we do time out. She smartly picks herself up off the ground, grabs my hand and leads me to the hall, where she gestures me to sit down on the carpet, then pluks herself down in my lap. She proceeds to suck on her fingers and twirl her hair, as she reclines quietly. I wait the obligatory two minutes then suggest we give each other a hug. “Are you tired?” I ask. “Yep.” she replies, nods her head.

“You can’t go to bed yet,” I tell her. “We have to wait for Roxy to arrive. Let’s start your bath and get the bath things ready.” Mousey leads the way to the bathroom. Starts the tap running while I plug the tub. We test the water for correct warmth and make the adjustments to the water temperature. She places all her water toys inside and calls out, “Bubbles!” The door-bell rings. “Is it Roxy? Let’s go see.” Mousey runs out to the front door and waits to see who’s there. It is a smiling Roxy standing there when we open the door. Roxy’s in time to share bath-time. Mousey runs off, shrugging out of her clothes. Roxy goes off to the kitchen to open the wine, and rejoins us in the bathroom, where Mouse is busy splashing with her toys in the tub. She shows Roxy all her toys, calls them by name and submits to hair-washing and being scrubbed free of all the sand stuck to her arm-creases. She then announces she is done, puts all the bathtoys away and climbs out of the tub ready for towelling down. “Wash teeth” she says and fetches her toothbrush. She makes goofy faces as she brushes her teeth. All done, she waits while I towel her off and dry her hair. Then it’s time to get the pajamas on, and she is very co-operative in doing so.

She’s all dressed for bed. “Bottle”she demands. She still drinks one bottle at bed-time. She settles with her bottle of milk, while Roxy and I sit down with our glasses of wine in the living room. When she finishes, she goes and sits on Roxy’s lap and chats away to her. When she has visited to her satisfaction, she comes back to me, settles in my lap, sucks her fingers and twirls her hair. “Are you sleepy?” I ask. Mousey nods. “Let’s say goodnight to Roxy, then.” She walks to Roxy and says to her, “Kiss, g’nite.” She comes back into my arms, thinks a minute then says “Hug Roxy.” I carry her over to deliver her hug. We go into her room, inspect for Snowy’s presence, check behind the curtains and under the bed. No Snowy cat. Mousey pats all her stuffed toys ‘nite, then orders me to the light switch where she clicks the lights off.

“Nite, granma. Kiss” She clamps around my neck and gives me a sloppy smack. Giggles. I place her in her bed and she opens her arms. In one we place Mickey, in the other Minnie. She hugs them and waits to be covered by her blanket. She turns her head to Mickey and shuts her eyes. “Nite, granma.”

“See you later, alligator. Nite nite. Sleep well.” I whisper. She whispers back, “later gater.” I leave her room.

Out in the livig room Roxy and I are catching up on our news over a glass of wine. Not a peep from Mousey. “This child is amazing,” comments Roxy. “She seems to have no problem in going to bed.”

“Well, I am bushed and ready for some z’s myself,” I tell her, laughing. “Whenever Mouse and I are together we are very busy, I think she is also exhausted. It’s hard work being a toddler.

Roxy and her husband, Mike, have been married many years and have no children. Roxy expresses that she likes children, but so many of them are brats. Yeah, I tell her, we were brats too once upon a time, a long, long time ago. And some of us, like your’s truly, are still sort of bratty. I recount to her my first experience with “TIME OUT” with Mousey, and how  badly I handled it. Should I fess up to Glasgow Girl when she gets home? Roxy thinks it’s funny, and, definitely yes, I should admit to ineptness to GG. We sip our wine, and exchange our news. She leaves to go home.

Rumpole arrives before Glagow Girl does. I tell him about “TIME OUT”. “That’s not how it’s supposed to be done. Have you forgotten how to do it right?” he chides. “GG will tell you off.”

Glasgow Girl slopes in, flat-footed and weary. I smartly let her pour herself a glass of wine before giving her a rundown of how my time with Mousey was spent. I mention all the fun stuff before broaching the report of “TIME OUT”.  GG just rolls her eyes when I tell her of my “TIME OUT” method. “Oh, Lorrrd! You’re supposed to leave her alone!” she pronounces with her rich Glaswegian brogue. I grin and shrug, apologetic, dotty and inept.

Mothers always know best, I figure. And maybe next time, I’ll apply the method with greater skill.

New Year’s Eve…

January 2, 2008

It was to be a quiet, uneventful New Year’s Eve. Rumpole and Renaissance Man were to play at a New Year’s gig with their band. Glasgow Girl went along to help serve food and tend bar for the celebrants. I was most grateful to serve as companion for Mousey, as I have not now, or ever, been a party-girl, and am bored to tears by the noise and bustle of large, raucous gatherings of the festive kind that New Year’s parties tend to be.

Martha agreed to spend the evening with Mousey and me, as she was entertaining no other option for this evening. I feel unease at having sole responsibility for this little grand-daughter now, with my bad eyesight and the lack of confidence and clumsiness that has come along with it. Martha and I planned to bring along a take and bake prepared pizza,  a movie, Yahtzee and Dominoes. We spent some time on the 30th selecting a movie, buying the pizza and debating what games we could play after Mousey’s bedtime. We were ready and looking forward to the entertainmet of Mousey’s company.

We convened at RM and GG’s house at the appointed time, loaded down with our stuff. Mousey met us at the door with Glasgow Girl hovering nearby, putting on her shoes and coat. Mousey immediately forgot about her mother and glommed onto Martha, who seldom sees her and thus presented as great novelty for her. We got her to wave bye-bye to her mom and proceeded to be entertained by a steady stream of Mousey’s favourite toys,  and her attempts at conversation which takes the form of completely unintelligible sentences, complete with emphases of tone and an occasional word which referred to objects. Of course when Martha or I asked her a question, she would nod and say a long convoluted reply which neither of us really understood. miming and pointing. Our three-way conversations had the surreal aspect of spending time with a foreign speaker where only small portions of meaning could be gleaned by us two older visitors, whereas the native, small person fully understood what we meant when we spoke. Really weird and quite funny.

Martha put the pizza in the oven to cook while Mousey and I dragged her high-chair to the dining room table and readied some snack for her to eat more appropriate for her tender system. Mousey ran into the kitchen and observed as Martha pulled the pizza out of the oven, slowly waved her little hands and uttered “Hot!” and commanded me to pick her up so she could see Martha slice it. She licked her lips; her eyes brightened and lingered on the pocked pattern of the wedges. She was eager to be strapped into her high-chair and drummed her hands on the tray part, quite excited until I placed her biscuits on it. Martha brought the pizza and placed it in front of us; we helped ourselves to a couple of slices. Mousey picked up a biscuit, sampled it, and tossed it over the edge of her high chair. She beaded me with her dark eyes and held out her hand, beckoning me to share with her. I plucked an olive slice and handed it over to her. She sampled it, made a moue of disgust, took it out of her mouth and tossed it overboard, like garbage; she waved her hand at my pizza slice and made a long, garbled sentence with a loud demanding tone that brooked no misunderstanding. I picked a piece of crumbled sausage and dutifully handed it to her. She liked it, and made impatient gestures to keep more coming, and be quick about it.

“Not a good idea, G,” cautioned Martha. “She’ll get diarrhea. You’ll be sorry later.”

I handed Mousey another, unsullied biscuit. She was having none of it and threw it away. More waving of her hands at my pizza slice. This little one has inherited her father’s cast-iron digestive system as well as his adventurous appetite. I figured a few bites of sausage, cheese topping and crust might not harm her.

After eating, I wrapped her up in a blanket and took her outside into the yard to look at the neighbourhood in the dark. She oohed and aahed at the Christmas lights on neighbourhood houses. We stayed out for a few minutes and she identified lights, houses, cars driving by. “It’s dark,” I said to her. “Is it time for you to have your bath now?” She nodded. “Dark…bath,” she said. “Dark night…can you say good night to the lights, houses, cars and the dark,” I asked her. She made her farewells to the outdoors and we went in to ready her bath.

Mousey did not linger in her bath for long. She was eager to get dressed in her sleeper and rejoin Martha in the living room. She curled up beside Martha and had an extended conversation with her, threw herself on her lap, inspected her curly grey hair, and wriggled and giggled. She dragged her blanket over, pulled it over the two of them and leaned on Martha and gazed up at her face while sucking on her middle fingers. This she did only when she was sleepy, so I scooped her up and suggested she give Martha a good night hug. Then we put all her toys to bed, in their appointed places, went back to wave good night to Martha.  Mousey turned off her bedroom light and went to her bed cheerfully. She blew me a kiss as I covered her with her blanket. She grabbed her Pooh bear and fingered its ear. “Help Pooh go to sleep. He is tired and sleepy,” I suggested and waved her good night.

Mousey settled in easily and talked in a light soft voice to Pooh. Martha got the Yahtzee game organized on the dining room table. She went over the rules of engagement and scoring in the game. I had not played Yahtzee for many years. Mouse quited down, so we waited for a little while to let her fall into a deep sleep before beginning the rattling of the dice. I went off to grab myself a drink, and to go to the bathroom. A few minutes later, as I was sitting on the toilet, came a loud thump followed by sudden screaming from Mousey’s room. “Oh, my God!” yelled Martha. “G, get in here!” I quickly pulled myself together and ran into Mousey’s room. She was up in Martha’s arms, tears streaming down her little face. “I think she is all right,”whispered Martha. I took Mousey in my arms and placed her on her changing table. Took off all her clothes and checked her thoroughly; moved and felt her limbs, chest and back. She looked a bit shocked, but was, fortunately, had survived the fall unscathed. I dressed her up again and bundled her in her blanket. Martha and I inspected her crib. It was intact, so we figured she had climbed out by using her Pooh bear as a ramp to give her height to scale the side of the crib. Out came the Pooh, relegated now to spend the rest of the night on the couch with the other stuffed toys. I brought Mousey into the living room and cuddled her. She had not cried for long, and she nodded when Martha asked her if she was scared. She lay in my arms and snuggled down. Twirled her hair around her finger and sucked on her fingers.  After some time had passed, as she could hardly keep her eyes open, I took her back into her room and laid her in the crib. She turned on her side and I rubbed her back until she fell asleep.

Back in the living room, I said to Martha, “Why did she have to climb out of her crib for the first time on my watch? I’d better report this to Glasgow Girl on the phone right now.”

So, I called GG’s cell. Told her what had happened. “How did Mousey fall out of her crib? Is she all right?” she asked.

“She scaled the wall, climbed up, and gave herself a good shock.” I told her and asked. “Has she ever done this before tonight?”

“Ooh, the little bugger,” replied GG with her Glaswegian brogue. “This is entirely new behaviour for her. I guess we’ll have to put her in a regular kid bed now.”

“This new change will give you and RM many nights of broken sleep. This next phase can be daunting. Until you change her crib she will now try to find ways to keep climbing out.”

“Of, dear God!”exclaimed GG. “I guess we’ll just have to suck it up.  Got to go now and tend bar. Don’t wait up for us.”

Surely she had to be kidding. There was no way I’d be able to nod off later, given that I’d worry about a repeat of Mousey’s earlier performance. I hung up the phone and Martha and I began to play Yahtzee. we had forgotten to bring pennies so couldn’t gamble on the games, but I beat her two games out of three. She was disgusted with the fact that she had helped me make my winning strategies. We decided to next watch the movie, “Dream Girls”.

This musical had some wonderful musical bits, a couple of  brief Diana Ross cameos, terrific acting by Eddie Murphy and was the right movie to watch on a New Year’s Eve. It finished just before midnight and Martha went off to her house to make sure her Jack Russel, Murtaugh, was not excessively traumatized by the setting off of fireworks in her neighbourhood. Of course, he was probably oblivious to any fire-cracker noises, as earlier Martha had dosed him with some dog equivalent of Ativan. But she frets about him and was eager to get home and make sure he was not having a nervous breakdown.

I settled out on the back patio to have a cigarette. A sudden wind arose, the sky was clear. People were banging pots and pans in the neighbourhood. Lights from the house next door winked through the gaps in the hedge. I sat there thinking that with my poor vision now this view appeared to be a scintillating, shifting dark scrim where pinpoints of light formed and reformed new and novel constellations.

Once back inside, I dug around for books to read. Before I got a chance to settle with a book about Scotland, Mousey woke and started yelling and complaining. I went and got her, changd her diaper. She was wide awake and resisted going back to bed. I wrapped her in her blanket and took her into the living room. We turned off the lights and sat by the low glow of lights from the Christmas tree. “Look…dark,”said Mousey pointing to the window. Then she wanted her bottle, but when given it licked it and then tossed it aside. She tore the glasses from my face, put it over her eyes and grinned at me. She peered through them and looked toward the window. “Dark” she said. Then she pointed to the Christmas tree lights and said, “light”. So I talked to her about how we sleep in the dark, and get up and play in the light, that now grandma was tired and sleepy, Pooh was also sleeping. She was not convinced and wriggled to get down and go about playing. I kept her wrapped in her blanket, on my lap. She whined at first, but soon acquiesced to sitting calmly with me. I closed my eyes and yawned at her. She mugged back at me, grinning. She fiddled with my hair, eyes, glasses; peered closely at me and tried to get me to giggle. I finally bored her back to a sleepy state and as soon as she was flagging I suggested she say good night to the dark and the lights, took her back to her dark room where we waved to all the stuffed animals, wished them a good sleep. She lay down in her crib, quite content and waved me good night.

I returned to my perch on the couch and opened the book on Scotland. Had trouble staying awake, so went off to tidy in the kitchen, polished the dining room table and finally turned on the TV, with low volume. Flipped through the channels. There was nothing even vaguely interesting, so I kept flipping channels. Soon, the sounds from the garage door announced the arrival of Renaissance Man and Glasgow Girl. “Mother, why are you still awake?” he asked. It was, after all 3 am.

“I want to go home to my bed now. I didn’t dare to fall asleep, in case Mousey might repeat her vaulting from her crib.” I explained how she had gotten up shortly after midnight and showed little inclination to go back to bed, but in the end was quite amenable to the idea of going back to sleep once she had been sufficiently entertained. “She should sleep through the rest of the night, quite well.”

Rumpole arrived, shortly thereafter to take me home. On the drive I told him of Mousey’s discovery of being able to get out of her crib, and how that could hurt her “You know, I’m surprised that parents get through this phase, sometimes relatively sane and unscarred. But I sure don’t have the stamina for the kind of vigilance required for keeping a toddler safe.”

Except for Mousey falling out from her crib, it was fun to spend the new year’s eve with her. She is an absolute delight to be with. But today I was exhausted. Well, that doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to have her in my life and look forward to all the changes in her we all will have the pleasure to witness during the next year.

A conundrum, a decision inevitable…

December 8, 2007

Memory: 1973 Beginning of December.  There we all are; sixteen grade nine and ten adolescent boys and me, their very green art teacher. Rocky, Joe, Moose, Pipsqueak, Mark and Matt are the ones that I have clearer remembrance of. Rocky, for sure I will never forget – he pulled a switchblade on me when I asked him to take his feet from the desk. “Make me!” he said with a snide smirk. Joe is indelibly firmed in my memory. After he was kicked out of school for truancy, he came by my classroom every afternoon, knocked on the ground level window and handed in all kinds of interesting junk he had dumpster dived for. He appreciated the fact we had few materials to work with, so these were strange tokens for his feeling of comfort and belonging in this motley group of juvenile delinquents in a special art class.

“Joe, this stuff better not be stolen,” I cautioned him through the window, as the other boys dragged in and pawed through bits of tangled wire, a length of barbed wire and miscellaneous interesting rusted gizmos of a mechanical nature.

Mark and Matt were brothers, one year apart in age. They had been wards of the government since the age of five and six, and had been moved from one foster home to another. They were tall, thin, white haired, blue eyed ghostly wraiths. Their skin was almost transparent and they moved very slowly as if operating in an unfamiliar ether. They said little as they took up whatever I proposed by way of experimentation in class and gamely carried on explorations as if fascinated by the materials and what they could make with them.

I wondered how these boys would respond to colour, selecting, mixing, expressing reactions to them. I had been reading Johanness Itten’s The Art of Colour and was fascinated by the colour exercises he had given students at the Bauhaus. It occurred to me that perhaps for these boys an exercise where they selected colours they individually found attractive and explored through colour mixing to arrive at personally satisfying pallettes might give them something of a  meaningful discovery.  I was somewhat doubtful that these rough and tumble, somewhat resistant fellows would respond to this exercise, but they took to it as if there was nothing else they would rather do. They were so excited by discovering hue mixtures from the combination of two or three colours, by the addition of black or white or grey, and most especially by having to ask of themselves if the colours they invented were to their own taste. The key reminder for them was, “If the colour you have mixed is yummy and delights you, and you are convinced it is a colour you would love to have around you, then use it – put it into a square.” They were so excited; silent for long periods of time as they mixed like studious alchemists, at other times callling out with great excitement “Hey look what I found!” They talked to each other about how they arrived at some curious combinations, why they were or were not to their taste and what colours reminded them of.

Joe, who during this project skipped out of most of his other classes, arrived on time and handed out materials and equipment. The boys cleaned up as if the art room was an operating theatre. They relaxed around me and talked freely amongst themselves. I listened and watched and marvelled at how engaged and at home they seemd to be. Discipline problems arising were quickly resolved, they monitored each other’s behaviour toward me. Even Rocky, who had pulled the switchblade on me at the beginning of the year behaved as if he cared about what went on in the room and stopped challenging.

Shortly after the beginning of November, after the boys completed their colour exercises and pinned them in prominent spots in the class room, Mark stopped coming to class. When Matt was asked if his brother was ill, he said Mark ran away from the foster home where they were living. But where did he go to? Someone else’s house, maybe to a friend’s? “We have no friends,” said Matt. “He ran off into the bush.” He was reluctant to provide further detail.

I could not wrap my mind around how he could possibly survive in the bush. It was cold. There was snow on the ground. How did he keep warm, what did he eat and drink? Daily I bugged Matt for details. He withdrew from me after announcing he was helping Mark by sneaking him food and blankets while he was supposed to be doing barn chores. I talked with the principal and counselor, wanting to know what was going on in these boys’ situation. Kept bugging Matt. Three weeks went by and then Matt also stopped coming to class. Boys did not just disappear into thin air, in my limited experience. The other boys in class seemed to know more than any of us adults in school did. They said Matt also ran away from home, but the two were managing. Managing? How the hell could anyone manage in sub-zero weather living rough? I pestered those poor kids in the class room.

Then, in the first week of December, Mark and Matt showed up in class and resumed as if they had never been gone for so long. They looked shaggy and even more translucent and frightfully thin. I did not dare question them about how they had got along, just simply said it was a relief to see them again.

The following week, Mr. V., the principal called me,  from my prep-break, on the staff-room blower. “We need to discuss some students at a meeting in my office, right now.”  I had been running off some drawing assignment work-sheets on the Gestetner, and my fingers were nicely purplish-blue, there was no time to clean them completely, so I nipped over to Mr. V’s office with my hands in my pockets.

He and Mike P. the counselor were there, and also a man who didn’t belong on staff, a complete stranger. As Mr. V. did the introductions, this fellow held out his hand for a shake. I presented him my bluish hand along with an explanation and apology for its unladylike appearance. We sat, the stranger, a social worker from the local Government office brought up the sublect of Mark and Matt. He explained the circumstances of their difficulties within the current foster home from where they had run away. He related how the boys now were in a temporary foster home, but didn’t want to go to any of the available foster homes, where they had previously been. They asked to  be  fostered out for a long term, that they would prefer that to any more temporary fostering situations. They had named me as the person they would like to foster them. The social worker thought that it was proper for him to give a rundown on their difficulites in the past, meet me and seek my interest  in involving myself before embarking on all the record checking required of foster parents. He asked how I felt about the situation.

I was flabbergasted. How could a twenty-seven year old single mother with one child under five have the wisdom and wherewithal to presume to sensibly parent two midteen boys who had a history of being moved from one foster home to the next? I posed that question to the social worker. In response, he said there was ample help available locally for foster parents to deal with issues with children. As well, he pointed out that the boys were motivated to have the situation work for them, that they made a choice based on what they obseved about me as their teacher, that they had already expressed a degree of trust roward me.  Would I at least think it over for the next week, and then let him know my decision. He then left me with Mr.V. and Mike P.

I was completely stunned and went through a series of reasonings with these two very sensible cohorts. They listened, posed questions for me to consider in arriving at a decision, and said to not feel pressured one way or the other, that whatever choice I eventually made would be the correct one in the circumstances. Mr. V., father to two boys of that age group, said I could always rely on him and his wife for the necessary support if I chose to foster Matt and Mark.

I went back to the staff-room Gestetner machine and continued running off work-sheets in a daze. The rest of the school day, I looked at my pubertal charges with curiosity – how would it be like to be mother to any of them.  I had not had any experience in parenting a child beyond four years of age, even then there were mistakes I was making, no doubt, but then the process of growing as parent along with a growing child laid a foundation of experience with that individual child’s perceived needs, capacities to allow for more confidence in being his caretaker as he reached his teens.

In the end, after a week of considering possibilities, I arrived at the conclusion that at my particular stage of life, I had not the wisdom, experience, knowledge, confidence nor emotional strength and resilience to be of adequate service to these boys. They needed careful, patient affection; intelligent decisions about the limits to their behaviour and to their increasing needs for autonomy. No matter how much I wished to have an illusion of capacity for care and competence, these boys did not need me to practice with their lives. So, one afternoon, I went to Mr. V’s office and told him my decision would have to be a no. Mike P. called the boys to his office, and I told them with difficulty how I had arrived at a decision to say no to their request. Then I called the social worker, and gave him the news. He didn’t seem surprised, but thanked me for my honest evaluation of the situation.

Mark and Matt continued on in my class room until Easter. They didn’t seem to hold my decision against me. After Easter, they no longer attended my school. They were fostered with a family in another northern town. I never saw them again.

I think of them often. This year they would be forty-eight and forty-nine years old. They were so close and supportive to each other as boys. Maybe they live near other still, have families of white-haired children of their own.

That was my conundrum, with an inevitable decision. I still believe it was the right one under the circumstances; yet I can’t help wondering how life has been for Mark and Matt.

Hot and Cold…

July 12, 2007

It promises to be yet another scorcher of a day today.  Yesterday a number of records for high temperatures in British Columbia have been surpassed.  It is odd that as little as a week ago the temperatures were so chilly that Rumpole insisted on turning on the heat for a couple of evenings. Water conservation rules have been put into effect, and there has been discussion about water metering being instituted.  This is timely as many people here in suburbia insist on washing their driveways and hard landscaping, which to me is a phenomenal waste of water.

I toddled next door to Looking for Beauty’s yard and watered her many plants in pots she is to transplant to her new garden as soon as she moves out here.  Wore a long-sleeved shirt, floppy hat and sunglasses for the traverse across her tarmac to her back yard gate, and the paving was so hot that surely it could have fried an omlette.

I had got up yesterday morning after a poor night’s sleep, coughing and hacking, my head stuffed with cotton wool, nose red and running and feeling very chilled.  It is weird to be going out and about on such a blasting hot day and feeling chilled.  It just seems that just after getting over another eye infection that necessitated two visits a week with my doctor, that this dratted cold got me.  Am I whining?  You bet!  Summer colds are not much fun.

It is Glasgow Girl’s birthday on Saturday, so it is unlikely that I will get a visit in with her, Renaisssance Man and Mousey.  If Rumpole doesn’t come down with this cold also, he can go and celebrate, whilst I languish here in my nightgown.  Well, what the heck!  It wouldn’t be doing the young ones any favours to infect them too.

The one good thing about this hot weather – the lawns are not growing fast, which means that the weekend will not be noisy with the sounds of lawnmowers, weed-eaters and leaf-blowers – so blessed silence will reign!

The neighbours across the street have spent the past two weeks constructing a skookum tree-fort for their growing little people.  Soon there will be the sounds of chatter from the young residents of the tree-fort, which is always amusing as kids discussions can be quite entertaining, and eavesdropping on them is one of my favourite summer past-times.  The twins have moved from next door, and our complement of children has dwindled.  Last summer they kept me in stitches playing at being CIA (in Canada) and arguing about who was to be head honcho.  They spied on the neighbours and made a running commentary on their activities, suspicious and otherwise.  The girl twin always got to be the underdog who noted on paper the movements of the people they were spying on, and her complaining was really quite eloquent, but usually to no avail.  The boy twin scanned the neighbourhood with his mother’s bird-watching binoculars, making terse commentary which he expected his sister to note down carefully.  I sure will miss these two, they were most amusing to hear chattering in the background.

Off to make some lemonade from tap-water – and thank God we have plenty of potable water from taps here.  I have already resuscitated my wilting hydrangaea, and hope to resuscitate my dry throat with some cool lemonade.

I realize that south of us in the Western States there have been horrendous hot spells, not to be compared with this minor one of ours.  However, it is really odd to be experiencing such a heat wave here.  What can this augur?

Toys…

June 20, 2007

Mousey is nearly eleven months old now. She has never stepped on grass, nor has seen birds fly, nor insects crawl, hop, hide or fly. She has not sat outside for any length of time, to watch the shift and play of light, the effect of the breeze or wind on the lawn, the leaves on a tree or the moving clouds overhead.  Whenever she goes outside she rides backward in her carseat and sees a fast moving world as she is driven about from home to run shopping errands with her mother.

She has piles of stuffed animals, toys appropriate for her age, but they are all plush and plastic.  What she is most curious about is Snowy, the family cat, and she is forever on the lookout for opportunity to be near this ghostly white creature, to touch it and watch it. She has learned that the cat has a will of its own and will not tolerate her awkward ministrations.

She now has a toy cell phone. It has a musical ring tone and flashes lights much like a real cell phone when it is activated by a call.  Does a nearly eleven month old baby need a toy cell phone? I think she needs to go outside frequently and feel the grass under her feet and hands, experience the moving air flowing over her skin and through her hair, listen to the complex soundscape surrounding her, and see the interplay between the natural and built environment in which she will grow.

I know I am getting old and am expressing my wonder and, yes, my dismay with the fact that she has been born into a much more complex world, in which opportunity abounds, and yet in which so have limitations increased.  Many of the toys available to her, while providing an illusion of richness of experience, in fact prevent full engagement and don’t provide the occasions for developing discernment.

You are not at the Suez canal… Our river is the Raba…

June 14, 2007

I opened my eyes to a silvery light and burrowed down into the blankets with just the tip of my nose and my eyes exposed. Ildiko slept soundly on the part of the trundle bed under which fit my rolling mattress. My eyes slowly adjusted to the details of the room and I craned my neck to better see the shiny tiles on the kandallo, the ceramic clad fireplace, in the corner of our room. The white glazed tiles looked as cold as the room felt and I was reluctant to emerge from my warm cocoon.

What was going to happen today, I wondered? We didn’t have to go to school, it was temporarily suspended. Anyu might have to go to line up for buying meat, milk, rice or flour. Maybe she would take Ildiko and me along to wait at the shops, and we could help bring home provisions in the string bags she carried bunched up in her purse. Or, perhaps, she would let us go outside to play the stone-tossing game against the apartment walls, with Marta, Tibi  and Karolyka. I knew Laci, my violin tutor, was arriving in the early afternoon to monitor my practice session, and that Herr Kropatschek would make his appearance in the early evening for our German lesson. Life was certainly topsy-turvy, but Anyu made sure that not all of our routines were interrupted. Apu was keeping appointments in the surgery in our apartment, and would afterward go off to the hospital and the clinics around the city to do his doctoring.

As I lay pondering these possibilities it occurred to me that maybe today the Russian army might arrive.  I crept out of bed, wrapped in the top-most blanket,  shuffled to the window and looked down upon Stalin Utca. Skiffs of snow drifted about on the road and on the soccer/handball court across the street. And parked on the empty street were tanks, lined up end to end as far as I could see. These were a mossy gray colour, patrolled by one soldier per tank dressed in long khaki overcoats and fur-lined khaki shapkas. The soldiers carried strange-looking guns and walked back and forth along the length of each tank.

I shuffled back to the beds and shook Ildiko awake.  “Come and see all the Russian tanks outside!  They really did come!” She blinked, sleepy, stretched and muttered “Go away, leave me alone… you are making this all up!” I poked at her and insisted, ” Really, I have seen them from the window… come and see for yourself”.  Ildiko crawled out of bed, rubbed her eyes and slowly made her way to the window. When she saw the tanks she groaned, “Oh, no!…now what will we do?

I was excited and suggested that after breakfast we gather all of our friends and go visit the soldiers. ” We just have to find out where they came from, and see if they really are dangerous to us,” I announced, “and besides which none of us have seen tanks before. We need to take a good look at them.”

We washed up in the cold bathroom and dressed in our matching grey sweatsuits, our regular at-home winter wear.  Anyu had our usual breakfast of cream-of-wheat, sugar and milk ready for us in the dining room. As we ate, she told us that today she would go and line up to buy lentils and rice; she had heard a shipment had come in and she had to make sure to be able to get some for us to eat. “I want you girls to stay inside. The Russian tanks have arrived outside and it may not be safe for you to go out.” Ildiko said she would practice on the piano while Anyu went shopping. I mentioned that Marta wanted me to come downstairs and exchange stamps from our collections, but carefully left out any hint that I wanted to talk with the soldiers.

After Anyu left the apartment, Ildiko opened up the piano and set out her sheet music. She wound up her metronome. Before she began practice she turned to me and warned me, “You better not go outside. You will get into trouble if the soldiers don’t shoot you first.” I just shrugged, and ran off to the kitchen to prepare some slices of  lard bread with sugar sprinklings for the soldiers. Then I went to collect Tibi, Marta, and Karolyka and we trooped outside bearing the pile of lard bread.

We stood outside the apartment building door and fooled around kicking up snow. Slowly we approached the nearest tank, and studied it carefully.  It looked somewhat like a mechanical sow-bug, but one with a long gun protruding from its humped back, and was a dusty moss green. The soldier patrolling, holding his gun, watched us, curious. “Good morning, Comarade”, greeted Tibi in his best Hungarian/Russian. The soldier approached us and motioned us to back away from the tank. This we did. I held out the pile of lard bread toward him and asked if he would like a slice. He shook his head, “No.”

He appeared very young, about the same age as Laci, my violin tutor. Like a skinny teen-ager, he seemed. From under his sheep-skin lined shapka strands of pale blond hair escaped, his skin was very white and his long green eyes gazed at us. I sensed he was friendly and was not about to shoot at us, so I offered him the bread again.  He took a slice and ate it down in very few bites.  “Good!” he said, in Russian.

Marta asked him, ” Where is your family?” “Novosibirsk”, he replied.  “You are very far from home” I said. “Yes, The Suez Canal is a long distance from Novosibirsk. I am surprised you African children can speak Russian”, he responded.  This took us aback and we exchanged glances and began to confer in Hungarian. Karolyka decided that the fellow confused our river with the Suez Canal. Karolyka’s Russian was better that the rest of ours, mainly because he was in a higher grade and had longer time to learn it. He clarified for this soldier, “You are in Hungary, not near the Suez Canal and our river is the Raba.  We are not African kids, we are white skinned like you.”  “No, no,” insisted the soldier “This is Africa.  We were told that we were to be stationed at the Suez Canal”.

We didn’t feel like arguing with him, after all he had a gun and a tank. So we politely said our goodbyes and went back into our building. I could not figure out how a soldier might not know where exactly he was.  Karolyka said that the soldier was just stupid. Tibi, Marta and I climbed the stairs to our apartments, and on the way to our homes determined that adults lied, not only to children but to each other.  I found this difficult to grasp.

Frankenbaby…

May 31, 2007

Yesterday “By-line Woman” and I had our side by side haircut appointments after which we went off to have a visit and lunch with “Glasgow Girl” and “Mousey”. “By-Line Woman” and I have been friends since third year art school; we both had our kid(s) at a young age, under relatively poor economic circumstances. Thus during our visit we regaled “Glasgow Girl” with comparisons of how equipment in nurseries had changed, but the nature of infants had not, in the intervening 37 years.

“Mousey”, now ten months old, alternately crawls, walks around keeping one hand on surfaces for balance, and covers short stretches of ground, unaided, but staggering like a little drunken sailor. She was fascinated with “By-line Woman”, who in turn appeared charmed by her outgoing sweet nature, her efforts to engage adults in interactions and her goofy sense of humour.

Initially, “Mousey” gave each of us equal time. She would visit each of us, but soon ignored her Mother and me and turned her attentions to “BW”.  “Oh… look at her walk, and at ten months” crowed “BW”. “Mousey” took 14 steps that looked like a drunk forced to demonstrate sobriety by traffic police at a road-block. We giggled madly as she arrived at her destination (BW) and propped herself in what seemed like relief on “BW’s” knees.”Renaissance Man” has taken to calling her ” “Frankenbaby” “, chortled “Glasgow Girl”. The three of us practically peed ourselves laughing at this. It was amusing to conjure up an image of a baby  Boris Karloff, a self-satisfied smile on his tiny raddled face, barefoot and wearing baby Frankenstein clothes, madly windmilling his chubby little arms and lumbering toward a bedazzled, glowing and freshly coiffed, and insanely beaming “By-Line Woman”.

Good one, “Renaissance Man”!  This is one for the family history!

Little Mousey…

April 8, 2007

As we arrived at the front door, peeking out at us from her bedroom window was Little Mousey. “Renaissance Man” was wrestling with her to change her diaper.  When she spied “Rumpole” through the window, her little arms windmilled, her little mug wreathed in smiles.  He was thrilled with this welcome!

Once we were inside the house, “Rumpole” went to scoop her into his arms.  He seems to be getting more comfortable in lugging her around; he has realized she is resilient and won’t break. With one hand “Mousey” yanked off his glasses; with the other she ruffled his beard.  He is very content with this rough treatment. As he says, “Well, at least she has not taken to biting me to death!”

We walk into the living room, producing goodies we brought from various bags, chocolates for “Glasgow Girl” and “Renaissance Man”, and a truly ugly yellow fleece duck for “Mousey”. “Rumpole”deposits “Mousey” on the floor, where she proceeds to pummel her new duck, collapses down onto it and gets caught in its floppy legs, struggles upright to swing it around crowing with great glee. She drags it around the floor toward each one of us, deposits in our laps to show it off.  At my knee she takes a big bite on its weirdly shaped beak, makes a face of disgust and lets it fall to the floor. She raises her arms, expectant, wanting up in my arms, and I oblige her.  She proceeds to work me over in the same rough fashion as the duck.  My glasses go flying, my carefully combed hair turns into instant bed-head. Torturing grandparents seems to give her much delight!

She is 8 months old, a whirling dervish scooting about on her hands and knees, a climbing, rolling constantly moving small body. She loves to dance, and as I sing her a silly rhythmic song and accompany it with tappings on the coffe table, she stands swaying from side to side in her own version of dance.  As she does this she dips her head from one side to the other, and appears to be listening with great concentration. “Rumpole” is completely fascinated by this.  To be truthful, so are the rest of us adults in the room.

At one point, “Glasgow Girl” brings out the brochures and books for their upcoming trip to Rome.  I glom onto one with good maps and start to find landmarks that they must visit – the Pantheon, the Dora Pamphilj – and start reminiscing about my long sojourn in Rome as a 19 year old.  “Mousey” appears at my knee and begins to chew on the bottom edge of the spread out map. “Glasgow Girl”, seeks to distract her and moves her away from me, so the little whirlwind crawls toward “Rumpole” and begins to pester him – he is also looking at maps. It is proving a challenge to carry on a discussion about Rome, while this miniature local native expends great energy in distracting us all.

Soon, “Snowy” slinks through the room and scoots under the coffee table. “Mousey” spies her, proceeds to stalk her on hands and knees, uttering “itty, itty”. In a desperate bid to get away, the cat scrambles over the back of the couch. “Mousey” briefly looks disappointed, but soon forgets about the cat and resumes her efforts to get back into the discussion about Rome, or better yet to get further tastes of the maps and brochures.

“Rumpole” ventures a plaintive question – “Does she ever run down?”

“Right about now,” announces “Renaissance Man”, as he scoops her into his arms and goes off to ready her bath.

“Rumpole”, exhausted, makes leaving motions toward me. “Glasgow Girl” packs up the brochures, brings our jackets and hugs us in turn. Before we leave, “Rumpole” and I stand at the bathroom door and watch “Mousey” in her bath as she attacks her floating toys.  She grins up at us.  I kiss “Renaissance Man” on the top of his head as he busies himself ladling water over her shoulders.

“Rumpole” and I make a quick getaway.  We have had our grandchild fix and are very pleased about this.

Once at home, we “dusterize” and collapse on the couches. “God, but I am exhausted” complains “Rumpole”.

“Yes, but it’s good exhaustion!” I remind him.