The Fourth Star on the Left


I added a star to the tattoo on my ankle yesterday in honor of my sixth grandchild, Lee, now 9 months old and definitely star-worthy. It was a little hard finding exactly the right position for star #6 and then it ended up slightly bigger than I expected, which is the kind of thing that happens to me, but nevertheless I’ll be taking my six-star ankle to the grave, unless of course a seventh star comes along, but what the heck, let’s just put the whole damn galaxy on grandma’s foot.

Today five-year-old Cosette called several times saying we needed to go to Target right away so she could show me what to buy for her birthday, just around the corner next September. I felt guilty saying no until she said, okay then, she had to call Auntie Jessica, goodbye. Her brother Toddler Bret calls me regularly as well. For some reason he always seems agitated on the phone. He left me a happy birthday message recently that sounded like he was being attacked by pirates.

On Thursday I drove for an hour through snow and sleet to watch Christian’s wrestling match only to find it was cancelled due to the weather. (It’s almost May, for cripe’s sake.) Now eight, he just started wrestling and takes it very seriously. He came out of his first practice and told his mother, “I can’t show you any moves, Mom, because I might hurt you.”

A few Saturdays ago, 12-year-old Maria came over to get help building a model of the Eiffel Tower for a school project. I have never built the Eiffel Tower before, but apparently my expertise in this area is legendary. We made it out of shoeboxes, of which I have an ample supply. Well, not really out of the shoeboxes but from hundreds of little pieces cut out, glued together and sprayed heavily with black paint. I figured the Eiffel Tower was easier to build than some other famous structures I can think of. Her friend Madeleine chose the Colosseum in Rome, which her father helped her build out of a laundry basket and I’ll bet that was no picnic.

Which brings us to seven-year-old Grace. The last time she was at my house, she watched me applying face makeup with endless questions about what different products were designed to do. I explained, for example, that due to some unfortunate over-tweezing in my youth, I have to pretty much draw on eyebrows now, and that should be a lesson to her not to go around mindlessly plucking at things, and anyway her eyebrows are perfect so it shouldn’t even be an issue. Always take advantage of these little moments to teach, that’s what I say.


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I’ll Meet You at the Station


Thank God, Cosette’s birthday finally arrived. She turned five last week. For the last three months, I’ve received almost daily phone calls reminding me of her pressing need for more Thomas the Train engines, available in Aisle 2 at Target and if I wanted she would give me directions to the store.

The list was endless. Gordon, Henry, Rocky, James, Emily, Toby, Percy, Annie and Clarabel, Cranky the Crane, Donald and Douglas… “Have you got your pen, Grandma? I’ll wait.”

Of course, her birthday was all about Thomas. The cake, the plates, the decorations, the games. Somehow she ended up inviting every single child in her preschool. I think about 22 showed up; counting the tag-along siblings and cousins, there must have been over 30 kids. They all got little engineer hats and bandanas and, in an effort to maintain order, were divided into groups in the backyard and chugged from “station” to “station” by energetic helpers.

I was assigned to the face-painting station. I don’t ask for these jobs. They just turn up, along with the necessary tools and false encouragement. The boys all chose pictures of snakes and Spider-Man; the girls went for balloons, flowers and Hello Kitty. Unfortunately, the paints were more like crayons, which worked fine when they were sharp but quickly wore down and/or broke, so by the end, the snake was mostly just a green squiggle and Hello Kitty a white blob with a pink bow. They’re preschoolers. They didn’t care.

As for the other grandkids…
Toddler Bret bumped his head that morning and refused to get out of the armchair until he had received an acceptable amount of sympathy. He wouldn’t wear a hat or a bandana and had to adjust to the fact that, yes, there were a lot of presents and none of them were for him. He isn’t all that flexible.

Baby Lee didn’t get a hat or a bandana and slept through almost everything.

Christian helped the “little kids” at the makeshift obstacle course. He has turned into a sensitive, kind, helpful boy and I have no idea when it happened. His friend Gus was at the party too. I figured Gus was somebody’s big brother, but there’s no way to keep this stuff straight.

Grace was my assistant at the face-painting table, where she held the colors and the mirror and offered general instruction and encouragement to the clients.

Maria took a nap. She went to a football game the night before, followed by an all-night lock-in party at school marked by the usual controlled mayhem and little sleep. So now we’ve come to that.

We had a family birthday party after all the tots left, with more food, more cake, more presents. So basically just a full day of fun. I drove home and fell in bed about eight o’clock.

You’d think Cosette would have had enough locomotion for a while. She phoned me on Monday. Toddler Bret hadn’t given her a present yet, she said, so maybe I should take him to Target, as she was missing Cranky the Crane. I told her I’d think about it. She called me on Tuesday. Christmas is coming and she wanted to let me know: she doesn’t have Cranky, Spencer, Elizabeth, the Troublesome Trucks, Bertie the Bus, Bash and Dash, Harold and… “Are you writing this down, Grandma?”


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Odd Notions


It occurred to me recently that some very odd ideas pop into my head at times. It worries me a little. I start to speculate on what’s causing them – cells flickering out in my neocortex, say, or overloaded circuitry from having too many grandkids to worry about.

Usually it happens when I’m performing some mundane Chore of Daily Living, when I’d rather be somewhere else doing something else. Last Sunday I had to go to Target to pick up groceries and other sundries. As I walked in the door, I had a sudden urge to check out other shoppers’ carts. If someone had already picked up a lot of the things I needed, I reasoned, I could just casually grab their cart while they were thumping the melons and my job would be half done. Even if I was caught, they’d just mistake me for another distracted shopper. (Ha, ha, silly me! Why would I want your things?) And it isn’t really like stealing if they haven’t paid for the stuff yet, right? It’s just inconveniencing.

I didn’t do it, of course. I do have a conscience. “What would Jesus do?” I asked myself. Probably he wouldn’t walk away with someone else’s shopping cart at Target. Then again, Jesus could just pick up a loaf of Wonder Bread and a package of fish sticks and be good for a month.

When I got home from Target, I went out in the yard to kill weeds. I detest killing weeds, which is why they get away from me. Come August, the crabgrass arrives as if out of nowhere and spreads like the ebola virus. I was spraying away when I started to fantasize that I was an unfeeling killer, spraying poison gas as the weeds begged for mercy. “No, no! He’s just a baby!” the big weeds screamed, as I blasted a little guy just poking its head up. “She’s a bad ‘un,” the old-timers warned. “She’ll hunt ’em down, every last sprout.”

“That’s what you get!” I thought, spraying Ortho Weed B Gon with abandon. “Go live in the wild somewhere!” And don’t start writing me about the evils of lawn chemicals and the virtues of organic lawn care. I recycle. I drive a little economy car. My yard is a war zone and I need the hard stuff.

Where was I? Oh yes, odd notions. I don’t know, maybe everyone has crazy thoughts at times. I don’t think I’m abnormal or anything. I don’t dream about stabbing an old woman in her kitchen or anything. Well, just the one time.

Photo: Google Images,
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Inflation and the Price of Popcorn

My grandson Christian, who is six, came over to spend the night last Saturday. I like to have the grandkids over individually now and then in order to study them more closely. So far I’ve learned that I have next to no control over my own actions let alone theirs. There appears to be some force within them that saps my will. I think it’s situated behind their eyes somewhere, as that is usually what does me in.

It is not my intention to spoil the grandkids. It just works out that way. Thinking frugally, I took Christian to the cheap-seat theater, where two tickets to Despicable Me cost just $5. Then I paid $18.50 for two small popcorn, two small drinks and a box of Dots. He didn’t touch the popcorn and ate about three Dots, although when we were standing at the concession stand, Dots had been indispensable to his happiness. We now know he doesn’t like Dots. Then you can’t escape the theater without passing the videogames in the lobby, where weak people will pay $3 in quarters for two rubber bands shaped like familiar household objects.

Nevertheless, I was grateful Christian didn’t suggest going to Chuck E Cheese, because I would have had to take him. Chuck E Cheese should be avoided at all times but especially on Saturday afternoons, when the children run free like animals on the Serengeti. You lose track of what you’re spending at Chuck E’s, because you have to change your cash dollars into Chucky coinage, which is all the arcade games will eat and faster than you can say Vegas slot machine.

The next morning I had to drop Christian off at church, so on the way we stopped at Target to buy a toy. Because that is what we do. I was thinking something from the $1 Spot. Christian was thinking giant LEGO Star Wars set for $99.99. Negotiations ensued, as they always do, and we settled on one “big” toy for $19.99 and one “small” toy for $9.99. Also four toys from the $1 Spot, two for each sister. Can’t forget them.

Got lost on the way to church, which happens sometimes when you drive to St. Paul. People from Minneapolis can wander for days over there searching for a freeway entrance. So we were at least a half-hour late for church, where my son-in-law Lynn was waiting unruffled on the steps. He’s pretty easy-going about things like that. Also, he likes me.

Christian and I had a good time. He was happy, I was happy, money is replaceable. Next up, Maria. She doesn’t come cheap.