Saturday, June 30, 2012

"I Am Five Today"

Happy Birthday, Sooby!

This marks the fifth anniversary of the day you made me Googie.  It has been a joy to watch you grow and learn, and our lives are all the richer for this blonde-haired, blue-eyed bundle of energy and imagination that has become a part of our family.

Everyone marvels at how much you look like your mama, and I myself marvel at how much you think and act like she did as a little girl.  That is most often good, sometimes not quite so much, but the resemblances are undeniable, and I love you both immeasurably.

Today I share this poem with you, but first I have a confession to make.  I did not write it for you.  I wrote it a little over twenty-five years ago when your mama turned five.  On her fifth birthday, we made copies to share with Miss Carol and your preschool class along with the cupcakes we baked in honor of such a momentous occasion.

This is a momentous time for you, too.  You are big into dance class, soccer, T-ball, and swimming lessons.  You have your first loose tooth, discovered rather painfully in the course of eating a brownie at Googie's house week before last.  Just five days ago, you gained another little brother.  In September, you will go to kindergarten, which I predict will afford an endless collection of treasures for "Googie's Attic."

I hope you enjoy this little verse for years to come.  It is as relevant for you today as it was for your mama in 1987.  Happy Birthday, sugar plum, from Googie and Pa-pa.

        I Am Five Today

I'm going to sing a birthday song,
Taking Teddy Bear along,
Happy that we both belong--
     And that I'm five today.

I'm gong to help my mama bake
A twenty-layer birthday cake.
Chocolate fudge is what we'll make--
     For I am five today.

I'm blowing all my candles out,
Going to go outside and shout.
Tell you what it's all about--
     I am five today.

I'm reaching for the cookie jar,
Making wishes on a star,
Wondering how it shines so far--
     I am five today.

I'm wondering what could be inside
Those gifts with ribbons gaily tied?
I couldn't peek although I tried--
     'Cause I am five today.

Ir was tired of being four,
Couldn't reach the cupboard door
(Not a problem anymore)--
     "Cause I am five today.

Next year when I'm turning six,
I might try some magic tricks,
Maybe learn karate kicks--
     But I am five today.

I thought today would ne'er arrive,
Sweet as honey in a hive.
Gee, I'm glad that I'm alive
     And that I'm five today.


Monday, June 18, 2012

"Fun That Is Funny"

Sooby knows what it means to have "Lots of good fun that is funny."  She learned this last week while taking a summer Kids' College course, "Dr. Seuss on the Loose," at our local community college.  For three hours every day, she and four other children ready to enter grades K-2 were immersed in that wonderful singsong world created by Theodor S. Geisel.

When I went to pick her up on the first day, she met me at the door wearing a tall red-striped, cat-inspired hat made from a paper plate rim stapled to a paper sack.  As I waited for her on another day, I pondered a chart posted outside the classroom door indicating how all the kids in the class preferred their eggs to be cooked.  Of course, everyone claimed to like green eggs and ham, but "scrambled" ranked a close second. 

Yet another day, she came home with green under her fingernails and a baggie containing a blob of homemade oobleck, that wonderful squishy substance that defies classification as either liquid or solid.  What child this age wouldn't have a field day with these ageless stories and these imaginative ancillary hands-on (or, in the case of the oobleck, hands-in) activities?

I know I would have if I'd had the chance.  However, Fun with Dick and Jane was really not that much fun, as I recall, and when I was Sooby's age, my reading repertoire consisted mainly of the traditional children's stories that usually involved three of something--bears, billy goats gruff, mittenless kittens, architecturally challenged little pigs, and so forth.  Then, there were those scary stories designed to send preschoolers straight into therapy with their giants ("Fee-fi-fo-FUM!"), big bad wolves ("Grandma, what a big MOUTH you have!"), and witches (Never, EVER trust a trail of bread crumbs.).

As a former teacher, I can't help thinking what it might have been like to take a class based on, say, "The Three Little Pigs."  Let's see, now.  On the first day we would build our cast of characters.  We would mold our little pigs out of balls of pink clay and Elmer's-glue squiggly eyes and felt ears on one of our dads' old brown socks to make a wolf hand puppet.

On Days 2, 3, and 4 we would construct little houses out of straw (which would not only be very difficult to stack but would also make us sneeze), twigs (for which we might substitute flat-sided toothpicks if we wanted something that looked a little less like a bird's nest), and Lego bricks (Did those exist then?  Hmm, I may have to google that--but I do remember playing with a set of plastic Lego precursors that came in a round box with a metal lid like Tinker Toys and went by the name "Block City."). 

Then, on each of those days we would use the hand wearing our sock-puppet wolves to grasp a little battery-powered personal fan to imitate the huffing and puffing needed to demolish all houses except the ones built with Block City bricks.  By now, there would most certainly be a point made, and we would all know what it was.  Unfortunately, right now I don't-- but let me see this thing through anyway.   

On the final day, for the grand finale, we would heat a kettle of water to the boiling point (taking advantage of this teachable moment to introduce the word "Fahrenheit" and learn first-aid for burns) and throw our wolf puppets in to drive home the point (which we will believe until we are disillusioned as teenagers) that good always triumphs and evil gets its just desserts.  On a more practical and less theoretical note, the boiling water will also melt off the glue, whereupon we can return the socks, clean, to our dads' bureau drawers before Sunday comes around and they need them for church.

Nope, I have to admit, this is not a scenario that would have worked in 1957 when I was the age Sooby is now.  I remember my own early grades as being pretty traditional and pretty structured.  If you ask me, we could have used a little more "fun that [was] funny," and I'm glad, thanks to "Dr. Seuss on the Loose," that Sooby got to have just that.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Process

My son Teebo, usually sporting a laid-back, country-boy sort of demeanor, is the king of understatement.  I know this because of a comment he made on the night Beenie, his firstborn, arrived nearly three months ago.

Let me set the scene: Beenie's mama has been in labor a good twelve hours at least.  Teebo has not issued forth with an update for a couple hours, and the several of us keeping vigil in the delivery waiting room, having long ago finished our deluxe fish sandwiches from Hardee's, are beginning to wonder. 

Finally, Teebo saunters out of the delivery room and we all prepare to jump on some kind of news.  A shake of his head tells us there is still no baby.  His comment on the situation:  "That's quite a process."

Quite a process?  I am sure Beenie's mama, given the opportunity, would have welcomed the opportunity to add a few comments of her own on the nuances of this "process" from the position of someone somewhat more personally caught up in the throes of it.  At this point, the epidural had pretty well worn off, and, although I don't know this for sure, I imagine her comments may not have been couched in her usual style of grace and tact.

Ever since that night, I have been smiling to myself at Teebo's use of the word process in this particular context.  The experience has caused me to recall the anxiety and agony of my own two processes, both which Teebo, with his hatural Hemingway flair, might have referred to as "kind of a long day."  Of course, he was not around for the first one when his older sister, Cookie, was born, and for the second, well, let's just say he was maybe preoccupied with his own agenda.

With four grandkids born in less than five years, I have had many occasions of late to contemplate and to be privy to various conversations about the process.  I am thinking about it a lot right now as Cookie counts down the weeks to her fourth such process, which will bring Baby Zoomba bounding into our hearts and lives.

I am juggling my calendar and clearing out the first two weeks of July, preparing for another stint as nanny, chief cook and bottle washer, and general overseer of chaos.  This is a process in its own right--that of facilitating the lives of a young family as they welcome a new member, shuffle the pecking order, and establish a new dynamic.

The New Merriam-Webster Dictionary says a process is "a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result."  They pretty well got that one right, whether you are talking about the process of physical birth or the process of adaptation and adjustment that follows.

In the next couple weeks, another natural phenomenon will occur, and Baby Zoomba will take his rightful place among us.  I will be blessed nearly to the point of overwhelmed by the perspective I will have from being right there in the middle of it all. 

At some point, the baby's Uncle Teebo will appear on the scene to give us his assessment of the whole thing.  "Well," he will say with the deliberate drawl so characteristic of his speech.  "That's quite a boy."

Quite a boy, indeed.  We are ready for you, Zoomba.  Let the process commence.



Friday, June 1, 2012

A Birthday Rainbow

Today is a red-letter day.  I will henceforth and for some time now, Lord willing, be filling in the blanks that ask for my age with a "6."  Fortunately (I suppose), that sounds a lot older than I feel.  My parents were ancient at age 60; I am not.  I have neither a gray hair nor a bottle of Clairol stashed under my sink. 

The other day I walked six miles along the Missouri River with a couple of good friends, neither of whom are using the "6" just yet.  Somehow, they talked me into singing both verses of "The Missouri Waltz" at a scenic lookout spot there.  When the lake warms up a little more, I have every intention of popping up behind the boat on one ski.  These are not the kinds of things people do when they are old.

I am proud to claim the same birthday as Andy Griffith, and have toyed with the idea of having somebody whistle that wonderful theme song at my funeral.  Don't get me wrong--I'm not making those plans just yet--but I hear that tune and suddenly I am time-warped right smack into the heart of Mayberry where Opie pedals his bike down the street in high-topped tennis shoes and Aunt Bee peeks in the oven to check her apple pie. Truth be told,  I am a die-hard Andy Griffith fan.  But I digress here, and Andy deserves his own blog post sometime.           

Luckily, most of my friends and family will miss my birthday again this year.  This is because it occurs on June 1, and, still recovering from the food, drink, and road miles of Memorial Day weekend, people have not flipped their calendar page over yet.  When they do, my big day will have slid obscurely into history, lost in the flurry of plans for summer fairs and reunions and barbeques.  It used to make me mad when this happened, but this year, I don't think I am going to mind so much.

Still, there is something about a birthday that invites reflection, and I am finding this to be even more the case today since I am actually rolling over a whole new decade rather than only a single year.  So humor me.  I want the spotlight for just a little longer here.

For me, this past decade has delivered a fair number of those milestone-type changes.  Eight years ago, I retired from a career of teaching and learned what it is like to go to bed without a stack of papers to grade.  Last year, I saw my dad through a terminal illness.  In March, I had my first major surgery.  Though they were certainly significant, I would not call these events redefining.  Rather, what has redefined me, my life, and the whole essence of my being is becoming Googie nearly five years ago.  Here, we are talking about a transformation in the truest sense of the word.  It is nothing short of a whole new identity that I am excited to carry with me into this new decade that begins today.

This past weekend, we put the kids in their swimsuits, turned on a lawn sprinkler, and listened to them squeal with the shock and the delight of cold water squirting forcefully in every direction.  We watched them revel in the excitement and promise of a new summer.  "Look!" one of them shouted.  "There's a rainbow in the grass!"

The kids are themselves a kind of promise.  We look at them and anticipate the people they will become and the world they will create anew.  Because of them, I can look at my life, even if I write my age with a "6," and always see a rainbow.