Friday, October 24, 2014


“You seem a little bit mad.”

Words from a slightly worried spouse? Nope. An inquiry from a concerned friend? Nah. These six little words came from the mouth of my nearly-three-year-old grandson, Luca.  The setting: his bedroom. The task: getting him to take a nap. My response? Well, never mind what my response was. When he utters phrases that should be coming out of the mouths of much older--and perceptive-- people (I’m not naming names here...) I can’t help but fight back a chuckle. But quick as I think I am at masking my amusement at his constant pokes at my reserve, I know the jig is up. He’s on to me. He always has been. He always will be. I guess I’m just fine with that.

Let me back up. I began the day bathing with diaper wipes. (Honestly? It wasn’t horrible.) Luca had an in-school field trip at his school, but it wasn’t his regular school day so he was invited to come anyway and bring a family member of his choice. Me, obviously. We had to be out of the house by 9:45 a.m., hence the improvised shower.   Actually, my usual Wednesday toilette consists of a lot less attention because Wednesday (formerly known as Baba-day when Baba was my nickname) is the day I babysit Luca while his mom does her one full day at the office. Typically we start the day with a relaxing breakfast of chocolate chip cookies and milk served in a tiny espresso cup while everyone else scurries around us trying to get out the door. We stay in our comfies until an orange juice spill or the lure of digging for worms outside prompts us to change our clothes.

But I have to tell you, a day is about as much as I can do alone these days with this often non-stop toddler. I heard tell of a woman who is babysitting her toddler granddaughter 5 days a week and she is as old as I am. I don’t know how she does it unless she’s mastered the Jedi mind trick. (“These are not the toys you’re looking for.”) On a day like today, when I had to be dressed and somewhat odor-free in order to go out and be among other adults, it can be slightly draining. I can’t believe that we got out of the house, over to school for the Critter Caravan, ate a little yogurt in the car, made a quick stop at Canfield Corner for a bouncy ball, picked up Papa from work, drove to the playground for a few spins around the new playscape and headed back home for lunch.  So far, so good. Until I set a bowl of buttered pasta in front of Luca. He put both hands on it, swiftly raised it above his head and dumped it on the counter.  Suddenly it was naptime and he became the most intuitive child in the world. 
"Shhh...don't tell Mom I was in the front seat!"
However, I still don’t think I am as stressed as I was raising my own kids, because Luca isn’t my kid. His parents can stress about whether or not he gets into a good school (he better) or plays football (over my dead body).  Children need parents to set boundaries, make the right decisions and help them become fine, upstanding citizens. Grandparents, still parents by definition, have a certain latitude that is intrinsic to the kind of parenting that we get to do. I don’t think it’s simply aging that has changed my parenting energy; I still have boundaries and expectations, but I’m definitely more relaxed about it all. Luca and I have a kind of intuitive friendship as well that I cherish, and hope will continue on throughout our relationship.  So, when, from his carseat, Luca insists that I send a text to his Mom to come and rescue him, as I drive home the long way in an effort to get him to nod off, I realize that maybe a nap might be good for both of us.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

As Is

On Saturday our garage sale was a washout. We had to hold it anyway because we had signed up...and be included in the Town-wide Tag Sale announced in all the papers. It was apparently rain or shine. We decided to extend it to Sunday, which dawned cool and sunny; a brisk, early fall day. I took the first shift at 8am since I had been AWOL at my "day job" the day before. I pulled on my thick gray sweater and grabbed a mug of pumpkin spice coffee, my phone (of course) and stepped outside to the garage. I was on the job.  After a week of all kinds of more demanding work; day job, peddling my book, babysitting my grandson, this was a job I could handle. A responsibility with no responsibility, and it suited me just fine. I was "As Is." 

That's how we were selling all our stuff: As is. Meaning of course that we weren't going to repair the VCR or buy a lampshade for the brass floor lamp. I did go around with a roll of paper towels and a bottle of Windex to symbolically clean some of the really grimy stuff. The seatbelts on Luca's old stroller seat ("It's a travel system!" insisted Annie) had some unidentifiable schmutz on them, but it wiped away pretty easily. The bed tray needed two paper towels and several spritzes of cleaner, but the books looked just like almost-new with one swift pass. Here it is folks: As is. We took care of it as well as we could, but now we offer it for your consideration. Like it or not, take it or leave it. Well, buy it or leave it. 

It's kind of like how I think about myself these days. As is. This is how I am folks; take me or leave me. When I went out to the garage it occured to me that I should make more signs or rearrange the 400 shovels and rakes we have propped up against the garage wall. As I looked around I saw 10 different areas that needed 20 different fixes, all of which would require my attention, endurance and coordination. I took note of all the plastic crates that still needed to be sorted out and designated to yet another storage area or the trash and I acknowledged (to myself) that many of the projects I had started over the years now sit in various forms of completion in this very garage. It was a Sunday, I was up early and I had the day in front of me. There were dozens of things I could do. 

Instead, I did just one. I sat down in a chair (for sale), enjoyed my pumpkin spice coffee and checked my Words with Friends games. I watched nobody pull up to buy anything and I smiled as a couple of squirrels tumbled out of the long-neglected garden on the side of the driveway and scurry across the street, where they ended up yelling at us for the rest of the day for encroaching on their territory.  The rest of the family roamed in and out of the house throughout the morning; Annie put up more signs for our sale and managed the cash box, Luca set up his cookie and cider stand and Angelo and Tony started the fall clean up in the backyard. The sun moved around the house to shine a little more directly on the driveway, so I gave up the sweater for sunshine and found a different chair and I continued to be as is into the afternoon.

We made a couple of sales and then we packed it in for the day. There's only so much selling off of one's household that can be done in one weekend. (So we went to Target afterwards to buy more stuff.) I enjoyed selling off some of our unused furniture and household goods, but the best thing that happened was having that time to myself where I didn't feel beholden to some demanding task that only exists in my own sense of responsibility. I was able to direct my sense of responsibility to take a break for once and just be in the moment of the day. I'll be honest, it was a lot of moments, but being as is was nice for a change.