Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Morning Games

Since Sooby was born six years ago today, I have discovered and re-discovered a lot of ways to have fun.  But I have to say that, right there at the top of that list, standing head and shoulders above everything else, are the morning games.

Unlike most forms of entertainment, the morning games require no money.  They don't require tickets.  You don't have to get dressed up; in fact, you don't even have to get out of your nightgown.  You don't need to comb tangles out of your hair or brush on mascara to make your eyes look like they are open.

Our best morning games have taken place at Sooby's house. They often transpire not long after daybreak during an overnight visit.  On game days I will awaken while the house is still quiet, lie there, and wait.  I am never disappointed.  It is never long until my fellow player pads up alongside my bed, pulls back the blankets, and snuggles in beside me.

Sometimes she pulls up her nightshirt so I can scratch her back.  She may drowse a little longer before starting the first game, or she may launch right into it.  I caution her to be "a little bit quiet" so as not to wake up everyone else.  The morning games will still be fun when the other players arrive, but right now they are best when it is just Sooby and Googie.

Yesterday was my last opportunity to play the morning games with Sooby as a five-year-old.  It was six years ago today that she came screaming into our world, and she still has the volume.  She still charms me and amazes me and keeps me pretty well wrapped around her pinkie.  She still holds my heart in her pudgy little hand.

The morning games usually grow out of some conversation that eventually arises when both of us realize that neither or us is going to sleep anymore right then.  Yesterday, in a conversation about the highlights of her past year, I asked her, "What's the best idea you've had while you were five?"

She thinks hard a couple seconds and then says, "It was an idea I had that I was a real princess."  She went on to tell me about the castle and its four inhabitants--Queen Julie ("because she wore a lot of jewelry"); King John; Prince Johnson ("because, of course, he was 'John's son'"); and herself, the princess.

She talks of a lavish ball (Cinderella influence, I'm guessing), at which she dances with all the young fellows in the kingdom while Prince Johnson dances with all the young ladies ("womens" and "mens").  The music playing in the royal ballroom is from The Nutcracker.

We are about to cast ourselves as the princess and Queen Julie in one of our dramatic improvisations, when Bootsie arrives on the scene demanding to be cast as "the baby."  Since there is no baby in the castle, Sooby and Boots suddenly become a mother and her baby who are in the hospital. 

Our dramatic enterprises demand spontaneity and versatility.  Just when I am about to be promoted to queen, I become a lowly nurse who, it seems, has to administer a lot of medicine and shots. 

And so it goes for a bit, until Pooh jumps through the door brandishing a scowl and plastic baseball bat, with which he (a "bad guy," of course) engages in some serious bashing and smashing.  By now, the morning game has pretty well morphed into chaos, and, in order to save innocent lives (mostly my own), it is time to promote breakfast.

When I left the kids' house yesterday afternoon, Sooby's mama was making a strawberry birthday cake, and Sooby was painting a papier-mached balloon red for a strawberry piñata.     

Happy Birthday today, my strawberry girl.  It was six years ago today that you made me Googie.  I cannot even remember an identity before that.  That was many, many morning games ago.  



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Zoomba's Surprise Birthday Present

Happy Birthday, Zoomster!  You now have a year under your belt, or should I say, under your onesie.

Pa-pa and I are looking forward to seeing you in a few days for a proper celebration of this momentous occasion.  But for now, this birthday blog will have to suffice.

Just look at that toothy little grin, those big blue eyes, and that headful of blonde curls!  How could any self-respecting Googie not fall in love with those?
I did my birthday shopping yesterday following my usual two-ingredient formula: something to wear and something to play with.  Since you can't read yet, I think it is safe to show our friends what I got for you.  Then, when you are older, you can look back at this and know what your first birthday present from Googie and Pa-pa was.
First is a pull-along frog who can serve as your faithful companion as you learn to walk.  Your cousin Beenie is just learning to walk too, so you guys and the frog should be able to have yourselves a good old time before long.
Next is a Batman outfit.  Your brother Pooh is big into the preschool superhero culture, so I think it is time you were initiated too.  Now you will have the proper apparel to join the fray along with Wonder Woman, Naked Man, and Bat Baby.
In years to come, little Zoomie, you won't remember this day or these presents from Pa-pa and me.  And, fortunately, you won't recall the little present your siblings have given you and with which you observe your first birthday.  We can never know exactly which one of the three is responsible for this little "gift," but we suspect it might have been a team effort.  Most things in your full, busy household are. 
Anyway, we wish as happy a birthday as possible to a cute little guy with a toothy grin, big blue eyes, a headful of blonde curls--and patches of splotchy, blistery bumps.  You won't remember it, Zoomie, but the rest of us won't easily forget that you spent your first birthday with the chickenpox!  
By the time Pa-pa and I get there this weekend, the worst should be past.  Then, we will open up the pull-along frog and try on the Batman duds.  Meanwhile, hang in there, little guy, and whatever you do--try not to scratch! 


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Riding Sandy

The old gray mare may not be what she used to be, but you really can't say that about Sandy.  Sandy is a coin-operated mechanical horse that has galloped and whinnied in the entryway of my hometown grocery store for well over fifty years now. 

As a child in the '50s and '60s, I stepped up into the stirrup and swung my leg across Sandy's saddle many times, as did my own children in the '80s.  With Pooh's discovery of Sandy last week, the tradition reaches down into another generation like a sweet, old cowboy campfire song.

Here's how it works:  You slide a quarter into Sandy's slot, give the coin box a little jiggle, and hold your breath for a split second to see if the old horse will lurch into his full, jerky gallop one more time.  Then, you stand back, enjoy the accompanying "William Tell Overture" ("The Lone Ranger" theme to us '50s kids), and watch the eyes of your grandson light up for the duration of the minute-long ride.

The sign on Sandy's coin box, lettered by a store employee, is a testament to the fact that his performance may be a tad irregular.  This close-up of the sign explains it all:

A store manager recently told me that their company's two stores, both named Bing's, opened their doors in 1952, the year I was born.  In the late '50s, they bought a Sandy horse for each store, and they both remain operational to this day. 

Clearly, the machinery that makes Sandy go hails from an era in American workmanship when things were built to last.  But with the technological changes of the past half century, the parts that trigger Sandy's mechanism have become obsolete. 

Thus, there will be no replacement parts when Sandy balks on his final rider or when his saddle finally wears out.  The leather reins that I used to pull back to make him buck a little harder are already gone.  As a result, Sandy's saddle horn is shiny from the grip of hundreds of little hands.

A few Sandys remain available on the internet, but only for the kind of big bucks clearly out of reach for a small hometown grocery business.  There will come a day when a local welder can no longer wield his soldering magic.  At that point, Sandy will have to be put out to pasture for good.

But for now, at least, Sandy rides relentlessly on, charming a sixth decade of riders with his novelty and his simplicity.  And when Pooh came to spend the week with me last week, the Sandy Fan Club gained another enthusiastic new member.

On the day of our last grocery store visit of the week, Pooh, who is not especially open with his expressions of affection, bade Sandy a fond farewell.  "I love you, Sandy," he said as we walked past.

Sandy's face didn't register much expression.  I imagine he has heard this before.



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Just the Birds

It is quiet at Googie's house this morning.  Pa-pa is off at a conference, so at the moment, my cup of coffee keeps me company and does a pretty good job of it.

The morning lends itself to reminiscence and a somewhat pensive state of mind.  I think about my aunt who has just passed and contemplate the events that, this weekend, will honor that life lived long and well.

It is also the calm before the sweet storm of summer grandkid visits, which Sooby will kick off in a couple days.  The end of the week will bring a whirlwind, no doubt.

As I sip the last lukewarm drop of coffee, I look down at my mug and smile.  The mug advertises our local poetry group, SpoFest, organized just over two years ago by a friend and former creative writing student of mine.  Once again, I marvel at the fruit of this man's vision despite his physical blindness.  I lean back, close my eyes, and wonder what it would be like to be blind.

And so, out of all this, comes this short lyric poem, with which I will bid you good morning on this gorgeous late-spring day.  I hope you like it.

                   Just the Birds

I close my eyes, and I hear just the birds--
a solo first, and then a chorus swells,
a redbreast maestro setting tone and pace
from his director's stand upon a branch.
With open eyes the music fades away
to only faint and random background notes--
the neighbor's yellow cat stalks prey so loud;
her laundry flaps so noisily on the line.
I close my eyes against these raucous sights,
and when I do that, I hear just the birds.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Office

It happened quite by accident, but the fact remains:  Sooby now has her own office here at Googie's.  Strangely enough, the office came about because it was time for a change in sleeping arrangements.

Until now, Sooby has slept in a daybed and Pooh in a toddler bed in their mama's old room.  Bootsie had taken up sleeping quarters in a pack-'n'-play in son Teebo's old room, which Pa-pa and I converted into a home office when Teebo moved away from home.

But recently, in the game of musical beds, a couple of the kids were needing more night-time space.  So Pooh has moved over into the trundle stored under Sooby's bed, and Boots has moved into the toddler bed.  Because the trundle requires space formerly occupied by the kids' play table, the table has been relegated to the bedroom-turned-office in a special spot between Pa-pa's bill-paying desk and my computer station.

Almost immediately, Sooby laid claim to this as her own "office."  Last time she was here, she spent quite a lot of time sitting at her little round green table making sticker pictures and a nursery rhyme book.  When she left, it was with an admonition not to move her office--so I haven't.  But I have been working on a surprise for when she returns by herself later this week.

In her absence, I have scoured drawers, cabinets, and shelves all over the house, collecting a duke's mixture of writing tools and art supplies into a plastic basket to stock her "desk."  With the collection I have amassed, she will be able to make posters, bookmarks, booklets, pictures, and whatever else her imagination dreams up.

I am anxious to see where Sooby's creative energy takes her given these and other resources at her disposal.  I am expecting her to spend quite a bit of time in her office while she is here, and maybe she will generate some creations worthy of sharing here on the blog.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Clydesdale Birthday

As I write this, it is nearing 8:56 p.m.  In just a few moments, when the big hand gets just past the Number 11, I will turn another year older.  I will always remember this birthday as the day I met the Budweiser Clydesdales.

The majestic Clydesdales, known nation- and worldwide for their appearances in parades and, of course, Budweiser Superbowl commercials, inhabit 300+ acres at Warm Springs Ranch about an hour northeast of where I live.  Today we were able to get up close and personal with the Clydesdales in the state-of-the-art facilities where they mate, foal, and nurture their young.

The Clydesdales, of Scottish and Flemish mixed heritage dating back to the 19th Century, are tuft-footed "gentle giants" who like people.  Here, Pa-pa and I are making friends with a huge specimen of horsehood named Duke.

To qualify as a hitch horse, a Clydesdale gelding at least four years old must stand six feet tall at the shoulders and tip the scale between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds.  The ranch web site will tell you that he must have a bay coat with four white stockings, a black mane and tail, and a blaze of white on his face.  Clydesdales not meeting these qualifications are sold; only those with the perfect features get to pull the Budweiser wagon as part of an eight-hitch team.

Now that I have seen the ranch, I am anxious to take the grandkids there one day.  They will especially love the babies.  This baby, named Stars and Stripes, was born on Memorial Day.


The kids will also love watching the babies nurse, like this one.

Warm Springs Ranch has been in operation since 2008.  It has been just down the road from us all this time, but this was my first opportunity to visit.  At any given time it is home to over one hundred Clydesdale foals, yearlings, mares, geldings, and stallions.

So, Sooby, Pooh, Boots, and baby boys--some day Pa-pa and I will try to take you to see the Clydesdales for yourself.  For now, you will have to be content to look at my pictures.

Meanwhile, it has happened.  The clock over on Pa-pa's desk has ticked its way past the time I was born. Next time I write my age on something, I will have to add a year. 

That's OK.  The Clydesdale birthday was great.  Good-night Duke, Stars and Stripes, and all you other gentle giants just down the road at Warm Springs.  You are beautiful creatures, and you made this birthday one to remember.