Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Driving Miss Sophie

Jenn is still on the mend and asked me to take Sophie for a haircut today. I was planning on taking her to the mall anyhow just to browse around and help me spend a Christmas gift card. Sophie phoned all morning to remind me of our date. Her last phone call admonished me, saying “You were going to come in an hour, Babci. It’s over an hour.” Now that the child is polishing her primary skills in kindergarten, I have to be on my toes. Sophie is becoming quite good at reading and now getting the hang of math. She insisted on counting to 100 the other day when we played hide-and-seek in the playground and, by golly, she did just that!

We have a routine in the car. (Read on for Sophie’s definition of routine and then decide whether I’m using the right word.) Anyhow, I let her take winter hat and gloves off but then find “mother Mary’s” small blue-and-white afghan and cover Sophie’s lap and legs. She’s grown quite fond of the little crocheted blanket which was made for her mommy by my mommy many years ago. My mom thought the kids needed an extra cover to keep warm in our blue Oldsmobile and color-coded the blanket to match the car. Who would have thought this labor of love would be keeping a new generation warm?

Next comes the audiotape selection, preferably classical or polka music. I swear that Sophie got hooked on polkas in utero. I can still remember Jennifer, about eight months pregnant, riding in the front seat and bouncing along to one of my polka bands as they sang of weddings and daughters and dancing with the bride. We laughed a lot at the lyrics but the music was lively and made us all feel good. Today, I only have Pachelbel’s Canon and Vivaldi and Bach. No Happy Louie in the glove compartment. Sophie is quite content to go classical.

As I’m driving, I look in the rear view mirror and see her hands gracefully conducting the music.

“I like this song, Babci. I can see a princess riding Pegasus.”

I smile; the kid is on to something. The music is bold and dramatic. I can imagine a hero riding a flying horse too.

“Sophie, I like that you try to see things in your mind when the music plays. That’s your imagination.”

By now, we are listening to one of the slower pieces in a minor key.

“This one makes me sad.”

She continues to conduct the music and I can’t help but ask, “Would you like to conduct an orchestra when you’re bigger?”

“Oh yes, Babci! And I can write music too!”

“Yes, there are all kinds of songs and songwriters. Mariah’s mommy writes her own songs.”

Sophie ponders this bit of information and weighs its validity. Luckily, I have heard Mariah’s mom play her guitar and sing her songs so I’m standing on empirical high ground here. This is good because my granddaughter no longer thinks I am the end-all-be-all walking font of knowledge. Lately, she has taken to correcting me. What’s humbling is that sometimes she’s right. Her parents are trying to temper her need to correct with the need to respect her elders. I think it goes with the territory of being five “and a half”. She’s testing the waters.

The day is overcast with occasional snow showers. We fall into a comfortable silence, letting the music speak to us and the mountains peek at us from alternating sides of the highway.

The rhythm of the driving and the music, along with secret glances at the passenger in the rear seat, provide a temporary respite from my everyday worries. I become aware of a strong feeling of peace which has settled upon me as securely as my mother’s afghan has wrapped itself about Sophie. The mountains outside are also covered with a light blanket of snow. I am grateful for this unexpected bliss.

I feel like I’ve been transported, that my auto and its precious cargo are flying above and beyond all worldly cares. Sophie and I are aloft on our flying horses and life is good, very very good. I know what this feeling of transcendence is and know that it does not happen often. I live my timeless moment and prepare to let it go.

Soon we are in the mall parking lot, putting Mary’s afghan away and covering our heads with winter hats to stave off the blustery wind. We run into the nearest department store and find our way to a hair cuttery where Sophie’s flowing locks are about to be cut “shoulder length, no bangs”. I watch her sitting in the hair dresser’s chair, propped up on three pillows, long hair clipped above her face and I suddenly see an image of the young girl to be - Sophie as a teenager having her hair done for prom.

Next stop is Wild Things, a nature store that has oodles of carnivorous plants, hermit crabs, precious stones … we go no farther. Sophie is in gemstone heaven. She can fill a small drawstring bag with as many stones as she can fit and, of course, I’m saying “yes” because it really is the best buy in the entire store. We then stop at a Native American store and Sophie finds a small pink turtle for her sister. Pink is Hannah’s favorite color.

We end our outing with a fruit smoothie because she always gets a fruit smoothie after a hair cut in the mall. I make the mistake of saying to her, “Sophie, this is such a fun routine.”

“No, Babci, having a smoothie is not a routine because I do not do it every single day.”

I have to admit, the kid may be right. This was not a mindless, repetitive kind of day at all. In fact, it was quite extraordinary and filled with hidden grace.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Santa was hungry

It doesn't take much to keep a five-year-old happy on Christmas eve. I helped Sophie spell the words in her note to Santa and promised to set it on the kitchen table along with the customary milk and cookies. "Don't forget a carrot for his reindeer", Sophie reminded as I tucked her in and ventured downstairs. Her mom had been out of the loop with the flu and I was trying hard to pick up the slack to help David while he finished correcting loads of term papers and final exams.

This was not a Norman Rockwell Christmas but enough of the myth and the magic hung around to provide the right atmosphere for the girls.

Sophie was sitting on the couch when I arrived the next morning, waiting patiently for the rest of the family to come down and open the presents that Santa had left under the tree.

"Babci, Santa ate the cookies and wrote a thank-you note!"

I'm glad she's still caught up in the wonder of it all. I remember being about the same age and awakened in the wee hours of Christmas by a loud thump and crash. Mom came rushing into my bedroom telling me to go back to sleep, nothing to worry about. Santa Claus just tripped. Santa brought me a shiny bike. I'm sure my dad had some black and blue shins that Christmas.

This Christmas brought American Girls and Dancing Princesses. Not quite sure what's going on in their Castle though ... the 12 Princesses have only three beds.

The girls are really into all that frilly, silly, girly stuff. I'll just have to remember to teach them how to use a hammer and power drill when they're a little older.

David cooked a whopper of a meal; we ate buffet style and brought our plates back into the living room. Jenn tried to keep down some mashed potatoes and ice cream. Pop pop and I took some pictures. The girls had lots of new toys and books to play with. There were plenty of unsolicited expressions of "thank you" as they unwrapped their gifts. This makes up for the tantrums and squabbles, believe me. Sophie and I ended the day on the living-room rug, picking up at least 500 micro-beads from a jewelry-making kit that spilled from the couch.

There have been brighter Christmases but we managed to muddle through. For Sophie and Hannah, the day was filled with lots of surprises from family and friends far away. I guess that connection alone made it a special Christmas after all.

Here's to a healthier start to the New Year and better sleeping accommodations for the dancing princesses.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Haiku for the Holidays

Holidays are here
People rushing back and forth
Cash registers hum

Too much stress for all
Why hurry to go in debt?

Deeper values lurk
Just outside the bustling crowd
Try to bring within

What's it all about?
Let the glitter disappear
Look for one true gem

Sparkles from inside
Voices saying hi to friends
Twinkles in the eyes

Stillness in the night
Harmony without a price
Money not a source

Give yourself as Gift
Move more slowly, less in haste
Breathe a purer air

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The morning after

I feel like I've been drinking but I'm only high on latkes and Jenn's good fortune. Well, what appears to be her good fortune. The powers that be have to confirm and make it official on Monday. Still, I think I heard the fat lady singing around the stroke of twelve last night. If that's not PC, think of a thinner diva.

This seems like a fun time to bring back an old poster, not that I played such a formidable part in Jenn's rally. A few phone calls here, several emails there as my Polish posse rounded up some loyal readers. Never underestimate the power of the Polish cousins. Many of the lovely readers I've gained here have also come from B'EAW. Thanks for being so generous and joining in the ride. It was a great way to spend the past week now that America's Top Model has already wrapped. All that energy and attention had to go somewhere.

Dziekujie bardzo! The clarinet and accordion are warming up. You're all invited to the Polka Palace. I may even make some pierogies and sing Sto Lat. See? Fat lady singing.

Right now, I think I'll wander down to the pool and look for my cabana boy. I didn't get much sleep last night what with all the excitement. I need a good massage.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Win one for the pupper

Yes, a shameless and brazen tactic but it’s down to the wire and only 24 hours (or so) to go. My Canadian son-in-law phoned me at school today. This rarely happens. I could hear the excitement in his voice.

“She’s behind by just nine votes.”

For someone who is about as steady as a rock (oops, poor analogy considering the competition), David was getting caught up in the contest.

“So can you tell your co-workers to vote for Jenn?”

“Er, I’ve only been here at the new job a couple months. Most of these guys really don’t have enough history with me to know about Jenn and her mommy blog. Besides, this place is so secure that our firewalls have firewalls and it’s really hard to get access to blog sites, let alone mega blog-awards sites.”

I think he sighed and seemed a bit disappointed. I felt like a traitor to the cause and guiltily promised to at least grab my boss and office manager for a quick couple votes on my way out the door. The office manager could not “plug in” to the 2006 Weblogs Awards but brilliantly sent the link to her home computer. Aha! One vote, possibly two by tomorrow night. My boss had left the premises and a scribbled note about my daughter needing votes to win an international blog contest didn’t seem to read well. My boss is a young married professional but has no kids. I don’t think Jenn would be her menu du jour.

I packed up my paperwork and walked to the car. I have to admit that I was psyched thinking that Jenn had actually narrowed that awesome lead to such a small margin. Jenn is not really as young, hip and street wise as the bloggers with rocks in their titles or in their socks or in their dryers or wherever. But my daughter has been going through a rocky time of it lately and even sitting on Hannah’s rocking chair telling bedtime stories of “happily ever after” can’t make up for the fact that her dog is way past Medicare, her mom is almost eligible, her house needs mucho repairs and yet she’d rather build a polka palace for the Mater. (Maternal tear glistens and drops into mother’s wine glass.) Hey, I told you I’m pulling out all stops. This is my kid. She’s had her share of hard knocks. No rocks, just hard knocks. I think winning a worldwide blog contest would provide a temporary soft cushion for her tushie.

Just took a peek. She’s breathing down #1’s neck … only seven degrees of separation.

I’d even forgo the Polish immigrant pool boy. Now that’s as big a sacrifice as a mother can make.

Keep those cards and letters comin’ for one more day ... it’s been a heckuva ride and ain’t over yet! I haven’t been this invested in the power of the vote since Jack and Jackie.

Holy Hannah, Jenn just took over the lead!!! I gotta go and pour another glass of wine. What a horse race! Jenn, girl, you ROCK.

PS Do you like the photo of my two underdogs?

Monday, December 11, 2006

'Tis the season

I’ve become more spontaneous since moving up here. I’m learning to go with the flow. What I may think will happen on a particular day may not really occur at all if the phone rings and daughter is on the other end.

“Mom, we were wondering … (they wonder a lot) … if you could take Hannah to the crafts fair and lunch while we go to synagogue with Sophie and then get a Christmas tree.” She knew I’d be much more ready for this if they tagged the Christmas tree on.

It’s not that I have anything against interfaith assemblies in the local synagogue, but my own Catholic roots always start to sprout a bit around December and April.

Sophie helped me put up my Nativity Set the other day. It was an easy sell except for the part about Joseph being a step dad. How do you explain that God has custody of Jesus to a five-year-old? So, I concentrated on the frankincense and myrrh and cute little sheep who came to visit instead. I’d already explained that Jesus was a good Jewish boy. What’s not to love? The other grandmom sends books on the Jewish faith and culture and I read them to the girls. I’ve also spun a dreidel or two. I have yet to bake a challah.

I figure God is an equal-opportunity employer in the grand scheme of the universe. My daughter and her hubby want the kids to be raised in a loving home where mitzvahs and beatitudes become a way of life. I will try to graciously stay out of the driver’s seat on this one and support their efforts. It’s harder than I thought. Luckily, I’m quite good at playing White Christmas and Havah Nagilah on the accordion. The ecumenical chameleon.

I think the girls will be okay. In fact, they’ll probably do the whole Zen Buddhist Vegan thing and be chanting “ohm” by the time they’re in their twenties. And then I’ll have to learn a whole new repertoire.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My daughter, the writer

I've been occupied with the new job and post-London catching up in the Berkshires. If you've been reading Jenn's blog, you know that I've been busy worrying about her health and state of mind too.

She is losing the dog that she took to college, the constant companion through all her loves and twists of fate, the dog she envisioned when she created him as an imaginary hero in Dungeons and Dragons as a kid. He has a huge heart and will not go gently into that good night. Only Jenn will know when to give him a hand. Tonight, he played with his younger partner until his hind legs gave out. There were signs of the past and it was good to see. Jenn named it well. He is a loss in progress. He's a prince and really hates to leave us. So we will do what needs to be done to make him still feel welcomed and loved. We owe him that.

In the meantime, it's been a good week for celebrating Jenn's success as a blogger. Being nominated for a worldwide blog award seems a nice perk and I hope it takes the edge off the sadness and melancholy.

I never remember my daughter without a pen or pencil in her hand. From about eighteen months on, she and I were having conversations and she was drawing and scribbling on anything handy, including her bedroom wall. I didn't know whether to scold or praise her when she wrote the letters of the alphabet on her wall at about the age of three. She amazed me with her mastery of language so it became a source of pride to point to the crayoned letters which stayed for all to see.

She's advanced to blogging now and I'm still just as proud of her gift of communication. Jenn can reach deep and produce the most wonderful metaphors and analogies. She's a painter of words and there are so many colors in her crayon box. She may start out with a bright pink or sunny yellow but, more than likely, she will end with the darker, richer shades. Humor and pathos, over and under the rainbow. Being such a sensitive soul can be a double-edged sword. I'm convinced though that she cannot not write. It's a part of her as irrevocable as her blood type and eye color. I'm hoping that she's imprinted herself on you and touched you in some small way. If so, please drop by the 2006 Weblog Award site and give her a vote. It's good to be appreciated. Look for her in the Best Parenting category; that definitely includes raising canines.

The 2006 Weblog Awards

This has been a non-paid political broadcast. Just gettin' the word out. So what are you waiting for? Go. Vote. Make a mother happy.