TheGrandOther

grandother
"The conversation further degrades into the absurd
as I close the front door and head out into a chilling afternoon."

The Muse and I call her son's youngest TheGrandOther. Her older half-sister had already been labeled The Grand Otter and, in our search for a proper handle when Kylie was born, she became TheGrandOther. She's something else, which I suppose we could have reasonably expected no matter what name we'd hung on her. Now eight, she fancies herself a princess, though she reports that she's lost her crown. She's discovered lipstick, which she insists every princess uses, though not all of them smear it from halfway to their chin to halfway up their nose, producing clown lips. The clown lips suit me, though, because they seem to resonate the deep truth of her princess pose. It's pretend and we both know it.

Last week, she entered the living room after school to find the white china Buddha head in the middle of the carpet.
She's the one who figured out that the hammering on the opposite side of the wall must have inched that head off the high shelf where it normally sat. She also found the empty video box on the table below, and saw that the dent in the box perfectly matched the Buddha head's form, deducing the whole scenario then reporting it to her dad and me. I told her that if she ever wanted to drop the princess routine, she might make a decent detective, but she insisted that if she was meant to be a detective, she would have found her princess crown by now.

TheGrandOther was blessed with a smart mouth, which her grandfather duly encourages every chance he gets. Complaining that her teacher stole her backpack, she kind of accidentally admitted that she had been playing with toys she'd smuggled into the classroom to fiddle with during class time. Oh, I posited, then you'd broken a rule? No, TheGrandOther insisted, the toys did. She's become a near master of deflection, eternally the innocent party to any adjacent calamity.

Yesterday, having an odd hour or two available, I proposed that we walk to the park to swing. TheOther seemed to take forever to learn to swing, though, the prior visit, she'd finally managed to coordinate the complicated kick and pull to propel herself just as high as she dared. She loves to swing and I love to stand alongside her when she swings and listen to her self talk, which seems a picture window into this little princess person. Before we could leave for the park, she needed to repack her backpack, which she complained felt like it contained five large rocks. She also needed to ditch the glittery princess flats in favor of princess boots, and find a jacket for cripes sake.

Ten minutes later, properly outfitted, we left for the park. As we crossed the street, she began listing her backpack's contents, which included several notebooks, pencils, pens, and erasers, in case we needed to draw or write any notes on the way. I asked her if she was going to write a chapter book entitled Kylie Walks To The Park To Write A Chapter Book. She giggled in response, something she does a lot of when she's smart mouthing with her grandpa. I comment on how quickly she walks now that her legs have become long as rubber bands. She reflected that when she was littler, she had to look at everything because everything was still new to her, but that now, she knew most of what she was passing by.

Someone was singing a passionate aria inside one of the houses we passed and The Other reported that it sounded like somebody had poked her in the butt, giggling. About half of The Other's world seems to revolve around mildly out of context references to butts and poop. When I watched her one morning when she was home sick from school, she insisted that while she was not allowed to watch videos or play video games when home sick from school, she was allowed to watch educational YouTube poop videos including 'Who Pooped In My Soup?'. "They're very educational, Grandpa, but you have to promise to tell nobody that I've been watching them." I promised, but I have been making backward references to the superior educational qualities of Poop Videos, to which she conspiratorially rolls her eyes, shushing me.

I believe that every grandfather holds the sacred responsibility to maintain a few conspiracies against the established order with his granddaughter. I can draw firm lines around some suggestions, but a large part of my job seems to be to demonstrate that the whole of the adult world isn't conspiring against her feral nature, but that a part of it appreciates her wild side, even encouraging it sometimes. How else could any kid gain any respect for any adult? Or any adult world?

We reach the park and find the swings, newly upgraded since our last visit. The old swings were outrageously tall and, frankly, dangerous. Perfect things. The new ones, seem disappointingly more demure and doubtless much safer. The princess carefully tiptoes around the surrounding mud hole because "Princesses don't tromp through mud, Grandpa." I ask her what kind of kid she is, anyway. "A kid's supposed to wallow in any mud they can find!" She replies that she's a tidy kind of kid. I exhale noisily in reply.

She invents a competition, awarding herself points for how far she can jump out of the swing "like the cool kids at school do." She rather demurely, dare I suggest, princess-like, slips out of the swing, exaggerating the distance she covers, then marks a line in the bark dust. "That's one point," she decides, then draws successive lines between there and a concrete curb along the perimeter of the swing area. "That's four points," she announces, before slipping in the mud on the far side of the curb, soiling her princess butt and hands. "If I land in the mud, it's zero points," she laughs.

She manages to slide down the fire pole, but complains of stinging princess hands after, and will not remaster the courage for a repeat performance. She admits that the monkey bars are a lot trickier than they look. We eventually retire to a picnic table where she pulls out a journal book and starts drawing a picture with a multicolor pen. I'm supposed to guess what she's drawing, but I fail. I learn that she's drawn lunch, which she reminds me it's time for. "You could take me to the polar bear place for a grilled cheese and a strawberry shake," she suggests, but I'm carless and the polar bear place is on the other side of town, so we decide to head for the secret passage out of the park instead, though we will have to stop under an enormous locust tree to draw another picture in another notebook and to inventory her collection of erasers that smell good, none of which I'm allowed to touch. She holds them up to my nose instead. They each smell like princesses to me.

On the way back, an enormous yellow lab complains to us through a cyclone fence and The Other explains that we don't need to be afraid of that dog because he has the brains of a chicken. Later, once we're home, we conduct a little drawing competition on the front steps because The Other wants to draw some more "while in nature." I draw a picture of the dog with the chicken brain and she giggles. Her rose drawing's much better than mine, but she declares the competition a draw. "We both win!" Yes, we do.

I figure that The Other's here to help me see and to help me learn how to not take this life too darned seriously. Of course everything we do together amounts to the very most serious sort of work, but that alone seems to argue that we dare not take any of it all that seriously. This time, too, will silently slip away, leaving indistinct impressions of our life which so rarely intersects into such adventurous Saturday mornings. As I ready to leave, I appreciate her kitty sweatshirt, wondering if it might fit me, because I'm a kitty person, too. I ask if she wants to give it to me and receive an emphatic, "No!" She cautions me not to steal it either. "What if you loan it to me?" I ask. The conversation further degrades into the absurd as I close the front door and head out into a chilling afternoon.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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