Let me get this elephant off my chest, figuratively speaking. You know how Mondays are? You want to start slowly, if at all. Your circumstances collude with your mood to trample over you like a herd of African bull elephants. It’s hard to breathe let alone think. “Go away Reality. I’ll get back to you when I solidify into a person; right now I am just a cast off gas like frozen carbon dioxide fog hovering across low terrain. Do not lean on me or you will fall through into the grave hole I am filling.”
It’s Monday at 7:00 a.m. and my granddaughter is jumping next to my bed, “Granpa, Granpa, wake up! Wake Up!” She crawled across the chest at the foot of my bed and jumped next to me, “Granpa, Granpa, wake up! Wake up!” Well, what do you say to that?
“I am awake, Leah Bediah. See? My eyes are open and I am talking.”
“No, you need to get up and play with me. C’mon.”
“Leah, waking up and playing are two different things. Let me persuade my left hip to move and I’ll get dressed. You go ahead and start playing with the doll house, okay?”
“You be the wicked witch, Granpa.”
“You can’t handle the wicked witch, remember? You got scared and ran off screaming the last time we played wicked witch yesterday.”
“I’m braver now, Granpa. You be the witch an I’ll be the little girl.”
“Okay…. Let me see your finger, child, to see if you are fat enough to eat yet.”
Cautiously she surrendered her trembling hand for my inspection.
“Oh no, too bony. I need meat on the bone. Where is that fat little brother of yours? He’d make a nice pot roast. Mmmmm, tasty.”
“Ahhhhh, no, you can’t eat my little brudder.” And with that she ran screaming upstairs and proceeded to lock the door against me. I didn’t even recall that the door had a lock until I was on the receiving end of being excluded from the first floor of my own house. I knocked politely. Fortunately, a non actor in this play unlocked the door for me. “Stop antagonizing your granddaughter,” my wife urged. “But, uh, I was hungry and Max would make a good sausage dish with sauerkraut and apples….”, which was followed by a banshee scream from Leah, hiding behind her mommy’s back, while Mommy changed Max’s diaper. “Don’t eat my brudder, wicked witch!!”
Off to the Snuggle Zoo. It is open from 8 am to 8 pm including weekends and national holidays. Located in front of the suede sectional couch in the living room, it features many throw pillows and several furry blankets that are good for snuggling and hiding under. After settling in to a spot on the thick beige carpet in front of the couch, I announced that the Snuggle Zoo was open to guests shorter than three feet tall. Leah hopped over to the Zoo with her toy figures. She brought along a plastic emperor penguin, a black dog called Ivy, a stuffed elephant named Celeste, and several other critters for the zoo.
Somehow it’s a secret world when we throw a blanket over the zoo and play with the animals in the warm quiet air. Leah whispers then, and it is the sweetest whispery voice ever. “Granpa, tell me a story.” I tell her stories about her mommy or Aunt Jess or Aunt Erin and she takes each one and buries it deep in the memory box. Long after hearing a story, she will ask about it again, which means you really need to censor yourself around her. Love is a great censor.
Yesterday as we sat at lunch or brunch, I rested my left foot on her dining chair. At first she objected. “Granpa, it’s not nice to put your feet on somebody else’s chair!” she said with all the authority of a TSA agent in a movie theater. “That’s not my foot, Leah. That is a worm named Carl.”
“Oh. Hi Carl.”
I wiggled my foot as I threw a high pitched Elmo voice at her. “Hello. What’s your name?”
“Leah. Wanna play with me, Carl?”
“I am playing with you. This is how worms snuggle with their bestest friends.” I moved my foot up her side, tapping playfully as I went.
“Carl, that tickles. Carl, this is my brudder,Max.”
“Hi, Max.” I waggled my foot toward Max. “Would you like to meet my brother?”
“Yes. Where is he?”
“Right here,” I said, as I put my right foot up next to Carl, I mean my other foot.
“This is Paul. We’re fraternal twins. He’s right footed and I am left footed. Our parents were ambidextrousauruses.”
“Granpa, that’s not a nice word.”
“No, Honey Pickle, it’s a made up word not a bad word. Like Honey Pickle. It’s not a mean word at all.”
” Okay. Well, let’s play, guys. Over on the carpet in front of the Snuggle Zoo.”
Off we went, which meant I had to maintain the worm dance and sort of wiggle/walk after my darling Leah. She was thrilled to have a pair of socks as her new best friends “chasing” her. However, wiggle/walking quickly at an inch per stride is comparable to a giant pedaling a tiny unicycle he can’t even see. Exhausting! as are many of the games she loves to play.
“Granpa, chase me.”
“Granpa, let’s play hide and seek.”
“Granpa, let’s play warm or cold.”
“Granpa, let’s do the necklace dance.”
“Daddy, I mean Granpa, I miss my Daddy.”
“Granpa, let’s play the doll house.”
“Granpa, let’ play Barbies.”
Still, I can think of no greater joy than the brief moments when we touch noses and look deeply into each other’s eyes. I hope she sees the wide blue ocean of love I have for her. I see endless promise in her pools of hazel green. A beautiful bride one day, perhaps, and a leader of her own Snuggle Zoo perhaps. For now, just her giggles will do.