Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Turn, Turn, Turn"

On a morning not so long ago Baby Bootsie reaches high above her head to grasp my forefingers in her own tight little fists and tries her hardest to put one foot in front of the other.  Nearly eleven months old now, she is thinking seriously about walking.  She has watched her brother and sister do it, and she can see that it opens countless new possibilities, all of which appear to be great fun.

However, her legs won't quite cooperate.  The balance is just not there, and gravity apparently tugs too hard on her diaper.  Over and over, she lands on her bottom before pulling herself up to try once more.  After all, Sooby and Pooh make walking look so easy.

Later that same day, my brother and I each take an arm and walk our dad the short circle around 2SW.  This is code for the southwest wing of the second floor of the hospital where we were both born over half a century ago. Sporting blue PJs, Dad takes small, slow steps and pushes his IV pole along in front of him.  He is dying of lung cancer.  The cigarettes he and all the dads smoked with such carefree abandon in the '60s have come back to exact their vengeance on the unlucky ones.  He has not smoked for 36 years, but he didn't quit soon enough.

I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1, which I first learned not in Sunday School but in a song recorded by a rock band.  "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven."  The next verse mentions "a time to be born" and "a time to die."  Presently, our family is experiencing both of those seasons as, simultaneously, we rejoice in each new birth and witness the decline of our parents.

Before long, Baby Bootsie and her siblings will welcome a new cousin, and I will be Googie for the fourth time.  Although that birth will bring unmitigated joy, I am saddened to realize that Dad will not be able to meet his sixth great-grandchild, at least on this earth.  But as the Byrds sang so memorably in 1965, "Turn, turn, turn."  The world turns; the seasons come and go.  This life is not forever.  New life replaces the old in a cycle set into motion ages ago by someone much wiser than I.

"Turn, turn, turn," sang the Byrds.  Winter succumbs to spring.  In the midst of all the turning, a sick old man struggles with his final steps even as a baby girl strives to take her first.  I am here between them, holding on as tight as I can for as long as I am able.          


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fuzzy Wuzzy Lost His . . . What?

Today's CD's seem to spin around under a closed door at warp speed.  I am sorry for modern kids who will never get to watch the mesmerizing revolutions of those little yellow grooved 78-rpm records or their close relatives, the 45's, into which we either had to insert a plastic adapter to fit the spindles of our little suitcase-style record players or twist up an apparatus on the player itself to accommodate the 45s' larger center hole.  Fellow Boomers, you will know exactly what I am talking about.  Youngsters, you won't, but please keep reading anyway.  This is really not a piece about record players.

Rather, it is about little kids and singing and the fun things we can do with words to make songs our own.  Of late, Sooby and Pooh have done much to remind me of these simple joys.  What, for instance, might Old MacDonald have on his farm instead of the usual animals?  He could have a cactus, with a stick-stick here and a stick-stick there and, well, you get the idea.  Does Little Bo Peep have trouble losing only her sheep, or might she also lose, say, her flip-flop?  Sorry if I am disturbing those well-established and deeply implanted childhood images you have carried around in your head all your life, but I am trying to prepare you for what is coming here.

Call me demented, but one of my favorite childhood songs, which I listened to again and again as it spun around in front of me at 45 rpm, was "Fuzzy Wuzzy."  Maybe you have heard it.  It goes something like this:

          Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
          Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
          Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?
          Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his mop
          In a North Pole barber shop.
          Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?

Sooby and Pooh love this song.  But I had sung it to each of them only a few times before they insisted on changing the lyrics to reflect their unique little worldview.

Sooby, who heard the song first, simply could not stand the idea of a world in which a bear would be without hair.  Thus, her variation of the song had to correct this obvious deficiency:

          Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
          Fuzzy Wuzzy had some hair.
          Fuzzy Wuzzy was fuzzy, wasn't he?

As for the original song's details on how Fuzzy had purportedly lost his mop, she simply chose to ignore them.  We had to skip that part when we sang.  If a bear was not going to be hairy like he was supposed to be, she didn't want to hear about it.

The last time I sang this song with Pooh, however, it took on some new dimensions that the original songwriter could never have imagined.  It was Pooh's job to decide what new body part Fuzzy Wuzzy would lose next; it was my mission to find a silly rhyme that would make the new lyrics work within the established meter of the song.  Here are some of our variations of Lines 4 and 5 of the original song:
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his nose./Sprayed it with a garden hose.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his lip/On a big black pirate ship.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his mouth./He went north and it went south.         
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his knee/Climbing up an apple tree.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his leg./Found it in an Easter egg.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his arm/In the woods on Pa-pa's farm.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his chin./Found it, then it left again.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his ear./After that, he couldn't hear.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his head./Found it underneath the bed.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his eye./Baked it in a cherry pie.  (I know--gross!) 
I will stop while I'm ahead.  My point is that Pooh absolutely loved this silly game.  He loved thinking up new body parts for the song, and, as for some of those he suggested, I will leave them to your imagination.  Keep in mind that he is a boy, and even at age 2 1/2 this seems to influence his worldview.

I loved it too--the one-on-one time with him, the wordplay, the idea of our creating something unique together.  We began with a silly song and gained a rich and beautiful bonding experience.  As far as I can tell, the only one who lost was Fuzzy Wuzzy himself--and by the time we were finished, I have to admit, he had lost just about everything.     


Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Pooh-cabulary Lesson

The little toy barn with the carry handle on top becomes a briefcase.  The door to the playroom becomes the front door of a house where a little boy lives, and I quickly realize I am that little boy.  Pooh is my daddy.

"I have to go to work now," he says in the most businesslike tone of voice a two-and-a-half-year-old can muster.  "Good-bye, Sweetheart."  He pulls the door closed and takes off down the hall.

Sweetheart?  We replay this scene umpteen times, and each time I rollick inside at that particular word choice issuing from that tiny person and directed at me.  Let's face it: it is hilarious when a toddler heads off to work and calls his Googie "Sweetheart."

"Who calls him 'Sweetheart'"? I ask Pooh's mama later. "Where did he get that?"  I don't recall reading it in any of the bedtime stories or hearing it in any of the Disney movies.  I am stumped, and so is his mama.

Fast forward to some point later in the day.  Pooh is thirsty, and I hear myself say, "Here's your lemonade, Sweetheart."  A fluke, I think, until later yet, I hear myself call him that again.  Guilty.  Busted.  Pooh calls people "Sweetheart" because he has heard me do it, and I didn't even realize the word was a staple of my vocabulary.

Fast forward again.  It is dusk and we are outside chasing fireflies.  A particularly playful bug gives Pooh the wink-blink and hovers just enough ahead of him that, between the ever-flitting light and the gathering darkness, he can never really complete the catch.  Chalk up one for insect insight.  This bug is no dummy; he perceives danger lurking in those little hands.  And well he should.

Nevertheless, Pooh pursues intently and relentlessly, at last resorting to sweet talk:  "Come here, little fellow," he entices in a soft, high voice.  "Come on, little guy."  I chuckle to myself at the idea of my grandson using such terms of endearment to address a creature with compound eyes and six legs.  Again, I wonder at these things he says.  Where does he get this stuff?

Fast forward one last time.  Pooh has fallen asleep on my lap in the rocker.  I carry him to his bed and tuck the blanket around his shoulders.  I kiss his cheek and run my fingers across the stubble of his new buzz-cut.  The haircut makes him look older, and he is growing up so fast.

"Good night, little guy," I hear myself whisper.  Another day done.  Another mystery solved.