A week and a day. I'm not counting, but if I were, there are only a few days left until Lexi's mommy and daddy come home. I am in a suburb of Seattle babysitting my granddaughter, Alexandria. Lexi's mom and dad are in Italy, so I get to stay, and we get to play.
My granddaughters have permanent hooks into my heart. I tell the little darlings, "Anything your heart desires, Sweet Puss."
They teach me new worlds. My formal re-education began the first Friday afternoon (day three). We were headed out to visit cousin Toni and her family in Tulalip for the long weekend. I made 42 trips to the car with clothing, necessities for every eventuality, toys to entertain during the trip, and a tray of chocolate cupcakes, made (with Grandma's help) and decorated by Lexi. I strapped Lexi into her Big Girl car seat for the trip of an hour-and-a-bit from Issaquah. Lexi sang to while away the time and brighten the trip. I soon joined her. This is the song she taught me: I used to be hot, hot, hot, And now I'm not, not, not.
This from the sweet mouth of my beautiful 4-year-old. For an hour we sang. I thought about the meaning of those words. I thought about it a lot, lot, lot. Horrors! I was singing rap music. Her dad likes rap music; he probably corrupted his own child. Finally, I asked, "Where did you learn this song, Lexi?"
"From the Cat in the Hat." My first conclusion — as usual — wrong.
Toni, now 6, and Lexi played beautifully 96 percent of the time. In between their play and laughter, we adults heard variations of "You're not the boss of me," "Quit following me," and "Don't touch me."
On the way home after our first weekend visit, Lexi taught me another song, this one crowded with creative animals, all down by the bay, where the watermelons grow and bears comb their hair, mooses kiss gooses, bees sunburn their knees and whales have polka-dot tails.
Day 6, Labor Day Monday, we walked to the ice cream store, down the hill in the shopping center, for a treat. This was our second visit to the ice cream store. I did not intend for us to go every day. I asked Lexi, "How often do you get to go to the ice cream store?"
"Only on Hollow Days," her honest answer.
Day 7, Lexi, bouncing like Tigger, started back to school. I learned the route with Lexi telling me where to turn. I entered the wrong street only once, when I failed to ask her first. She dutifully reported the error to the delight of Mom and Dad when they called.
Day 8 began woefully. Mom and Dad made their daily visit via Skype. Lexi was not ready to blow kisses and say goodbye. When they cut short the call, way too soon for her, Lexi had her first minor meltdown, curled on the couch, refused to put on her shoes and declared she would not go to school. I called the school, said we might dawdle a bit and would be late. I left Lexi, generally a joyful child, alone for a while to feel her sadness. Then I wheedled her into her shoes and manipulated her out the door. After all, I am smarter than a 4-year old.
I lost track of time. We spent weekends with cousin Toni. We picked blackberries. We went to a "50s-60s" dance, in costume. We baked bread. We canned sweet-potato butter. We celebrated an occasional Hollow Day at the ice cream store. We took a jammie walk (not my idea), a stroll around the block after we brushed our teeth and wriggled into our jammies. The evening air was mild, neighbors were out grooming their lawns. The big kids played ball or rolled past on scooters. Once one gets past the initial discomfort of walking around a suburban neighborhood in night wear, it is quite relaxing. Try it some time.
This much fun is hard work. If I were counting the days, I would tell you that I'll be home none too soon, exhausted, my eyes like pinwheels, with my world greatly expanded. If I were counting.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little different. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)