Sunday, September 7, 2008

Grandparents Day and Fang Meets Willow

[First I’ve just got to share my surprise and joy—I’m almost afraid to write these words—because just today I noticed that the worm is gone! Yes! I had gotten so used to him being here, that I’m not sure when he died. Maybe 2-3 days ago? Just today I realized that he’s gone. And that’s after having to close his two obnoxious pop-ups every thirty seconds or so while on the computer for a couple of weeks. So… what killed him? I’ve got two thoughts: the prayers of Holy Saint George and Archangel Michael—thank you thank you thank you (as Anne Lamott says)—and maybe, just maybe, my new subscription to Norton finally got him. I remember a couple of days ago that a security scan showed a “high risk” item that needed to be fixed, so I clicked on “fix now” and then rebooted my computer. I’m wondering if that’s when the worm died. Who knows. But just had to share my good news before getting on with the subject of my post.]

So... did you know that today, September 7, is national Grandparents Day? On Friday, I was invited to my Goddaughter Katherine’s daughter Mary’s first grade classroom to celebrate the day. See, Mary’s grandparents live in Mississippi and Montana, so when her teacher said to invite them to Grandparents Day, she had to choose a surrogate. And she chose me! Here we are, in her precious room, all neatly organized and colorfully decorated.

The teacher had prepared a little packet of activities for us to do together, like this one, where the child traces their grandparent’s hand.

And then puts their own hand inside the tracing of their grand’s hand, and makes another tracing. Mary decorated the drawing with a ring and a few fingernails.

Then we did a few more pages of activities. One I loved showed three circles, which overlapped in the middle. On the left side, she was supposed to write down things about herself that are different from me. On the right side, things about me that are different from her. We had fun talking about how she likes dogs and I like cats, and she’s young and I’m old. And she’s short and I’m tall. And she has brown eyes and mine are blue-green. But you know, that was about it. The overlapping part of the circle in the middle, that showed all the things about us that are alike was quickly filled: we both LOVE the beach, swimming, dancing, music, and shopping. And we both have shoulder-length light brown hair and wear glasses. (She didn’t have hers on that day.) Oh, and we both like to kiss.

Other grandmothers (or surrogates) and grandchildren seemed to having fun, reading together and doing the activity sheets together.

It was kinda’ fun to sit back to look at the diverse crowd in her room.

But then, the teacher said there were donuts and juice for the grandparents only … that the children had their snack earlier and should not eat the donuts. Well, something else that Mary and I should have written in the middle circle is that we both love donuts! So, of course I got extra helpings and snuck them to Mary when the teacher wasn’t looking. Okay, maybe I wasn’t being a good role model but gee whiz—who would serve donuts and not let the kids have any?

Mary showed me her journal. They write in them most every day. Her mom had told me she wasn’t liking first grade, so I thought this would be a good time to see what was going on. (She loved kindergarten.) She turned to a blank page and said, “You’re supposed to tell me what you want me to write on this page.”

“Well, why don’t you write two things: first, write what’s your least favorite thing about first grade.”

So, she wrote, “My least favorite thing is stess.”

“Stress!?” What first grader even knows what this word means?

Mary nods and look at her journal page.

“So, what does that mean, exactly? I mean, what does the word ‘stress” mean to you?”

Mary shrugs her shoulders. Then she says, “There’s just a lot of work. But I'm getting used to it.”

“Oh, lots more than kindergarten, huh? Are you nervous about making bad grades?”

She nods.

“Are you nervous about pleasing your teacher?”

She nods again. “But I’m adjusting."

Adjusting? Getting used to it? To first grade?

And then she confides a few more concerns, so I dive into my lecture about how she should be having fun learning about new things, and that she should work hard to please herself, not just her teacher or to get good grades. I told her to work hardest on the things that she was most interested in, then when she was running low on energy or enthusiasm, she could just do enough to get by in the other areas. That all of life would be this way—this trick of balancing the “fun stuff” with the other things that just have to get done. I’m still working on that balance myself, I tell her.

Next I asked her to write what she likes best about first grade, and she writes “friends.” Here’s her journal page. Three of her friends from kindergarten are in her class, and she’s making new friends pretty quickly, I think.

I met her teacher and complimented her on her classroom. She seemed very professional, but maybe lacking a little in the “warm fuzzies” department. My first grade teacher was like that. In fact, when she got frustrated with me for talking too much, she put masking tape over my mouth, stood me out in the hall and called my parents. Compared to her, Mary’s teacher seems pretty sweet. I just realized that I forgot to tell Mary that story. I’ll tell her soon.

Mary gave me this certificate for coming to Grandparents Day.

And also this beautiful card she colored for me.

Later that same day, I was at her house because her mother was hosting our Memphis writers critique group that afternoon. When Mary and her brothers got home from school and the other writers left, we called my husband to come by after work for a glass of wine, and later for a spontaneous take-out supper. Meanwhile we got to know their new dog, Willow, who is really cute, for a dog. (I’m a cat lover, remember?)

But then I asked Benji (Mary’s older brother) how Fang was doing. Fang is Benji’s pet snake. Their dad, Hardy, said, “Hey, we haven’t introduced Fang to Willow yet. Bring him out, Benji.”

So Benji went and got Fang and brought him into the living room, where I HELD HIM (yes, I held a snake and didn’t faint or anything! He’s really beautiful and I petted his skin and talked sweetly to him and he’s never bitten anyone. Ever.)

Here’s Benji introducing Fang and Willow. Willow didn’t seem to notice that Fang is alive or anything. Pretty much ignored him. Which is probably a good thing, for both of them!

So a lovely day ended with supper on the coffee table in their living room, lots of tickling and giggling with Simon (he’s 4) and drawing with Mary and her markers, and a lively discussion of politics. Yep. I don’t think Hardy or my husband budged on their opposite opinions. And I’m fascinated by them both. Two really smart guys with completely different takes on many things. I’m listening. And yes, I know these things matter. Things like the war in Iraq and drilling for oil and pro-life vs. pro-choice and health care and all that. But I guess I haven’t spent enough time studying the issues over the years.

I think I’ve been too busy worrying about first graders feeling stress.


Prisca said...

I try really hard to mind my own business, but I have been plagued wanting to ask you about the dark nail polish which appears to be black. My 30 something daughter went through a Goth phase in jr high which carried through years after with black mascara. Luckily no dog collar or tattoos. She hasn't worn any makeup in years and could use some brow pencil and a little lip stick. (Who am I to comment, I put on lipstick in the morning and forget to apply more doing the day!)

Susan Cushman said...

I love this, Prisca. The polish is "Lady Godiva" by Essie. It's very dark brown, like you said, almost black. I've been wearing it for about a year now and I love it. Funny thing happened a few weeks ago when my 13-year-old Godson was visiting from Seattle. He looked at my nails and said, "Are you going through a mid-life crisis?" First of all, how does a 13-year-old even know about mid-life crises? I laughed and said, "No, I just really love brown." That Sunday at my church I asked a couple of darling twenty-something friends if they thought I was too old for dark brown nail polish and they assued me I wasn't. Green's my favorite color, and one summer a few years ago I wore lime green (yes) nail polish for about two months. I'm an artist. I just can't help myself! And yeah, I'm probably making up for years spent growing up in Mississippi when everyone tried to look like Preppy Barbie, whether or not that fit our personality. So now, at fifty-seven, I figure I can paint my nails any color I want to. I hope I'm not scandalizing anyone:-)Oh, and don't let tattoos scare you too much. I know quite a few respectable folks who have them, and I've been quite tempted myself. So when I was in New Orleans in May, I had a temporary one done on my leg. It was a peacock and it was beautiful and it wore off in a few weeks. I've never had any Goth leanings. Well other than liking me some Southern Goth literature from time to time. Thanks for writing, Prisca.

Jason said...

lol my mom wearing goth nail polish? i almost died laughing. but anyways, i thought i'd leave you a quick shout. i read your blog alot, but i don't comment to much just because it seems that most of it is a finished product and doesn't need to be deluded by comments. anyways, i already know dad's take on politics, and alot of it I agree with on my own take on the world but i'd love to hear Hardys and I bet i would put a new spin on the arguments that they must have. It is like religion, I have learned, political arguements are almost silly in a way because neither person will change their mind and all that will result in them is 2 mad people (gladly dad and hardy are more mature then that). call you soon, Jason