Today was pretty much an ordinary Monday with dishes to do, sheets to change, library books to return, and a quick run to Target. I was on the lookout for a slice. Nothing felt right.
Even though the cherry blossoms have burst open; even though daffodils are shouting their joy to a blue, blue sky; even though it felt wonderful to be back inside the library and to walk out with a stack of books; the stories wouldn’t come.
But then, ding! ding!
The miracle of technology allowed me to share in this big event. A huge event for this just-turned-six Kindergartener. I love her enthusiasm and irrepressible joy in life. She’s a special one.
Maggie loves to draw, paint, and color just like many Kindergarteners do. I wanted to encourage her so I brought her a sketchbook when I came to visit. This morning, she had her sketchbook and pencil all ready for our outing to the zoo. This was totally her decision. I thought, “I wonder if she will really use it today.”
I was delighted when she stopped to draw the cougar, the monkey with the baby on its back, and the turtle swimming in the aquarium. She was serious and working hard to draw what she saw. I hope that she will not lose confidence in her drawing and will continue to work at observing and noticing.
Tonight I told her about my friend who started keeping notebooks at a young age and now has 89 notebooks. Maggie’s eyes got big. Perhaps she’s starting to identify with being someone who writes and draws in a notebook. I couldn’t be more pleased.
My love affair with my granddaughter, Maggie, who is almost 6, is real and unexplainable. Maybe it is that she is the first baby of my last baby. Maybe it’s that I adore the name, Maggie. Maybe it’s that she is exuberant about life and makes me laugh. Maybe it’s that she talks so fast she can barely breathe and can always think of a fun game to play. Or maybe it’s that we have grown our relationship this past year with talking bitmojis, FaceTime, cards, and letters.
Those of you who know me, know that I am not a morning person. However, today I got up at 4:30 a.m. so I could be on a 7:00 a.m. flight to Texas to see Maggie, Johnny, and their new baby sister, Molly. (Are you also thinking of the e.e. cummings poem “maggie and milly and molly and may?” For your enjoyment, you can read it here.)
After a quick lunch at the local “Whataburger,” we drove to the Whistle Stop playground in Temple, Texas and played hide-and-seek. I pushed the kids on the swings until I thought my arms would fall off. It was a glorious, sunshiny day to be outside. A really, really long train rumbled past which gave some credence to the name of the park.
May I tell you how Maggie won my heart today? Well, there are a number of ways. She is starting to read. She knew th is called a digraph. She gave up her room for me to sleep in and left a love note on my pillow. And so sweetly, during the blessing on the food at dinner, she gently rested her head on my arm. What more could a grandma ask for?
She opened her red and white striped canvas tote. Gently, she lifted a bright array of colors, prints, rickrack, and ribbons. It was a riot of color and joy. You see, my sister has always loved to sew. It is her love language, I believe. She expresses herself in fabric, the way others might on an instrument or page. She touches fabric the way a mother strokes her baby. She can envision what it might become.
Evelyn had made 3 little sundresses for my new granddaughter, Molly. I’m leaving to visit them tomorrow, and Evelyn wanted me to bring her gift with me. I could cry when I think about the time she spent, the creativity she unleashed, and the pure delight these summer dresses will bring. They are perfect for hot summer days in Waco, Texas. She even gave me extra ribbon for Maggie, Molly’s older sister, to wear in her hair.
Tomorrow, I’ll be writing from Texas, which just might feel like heaven.
In September, I started teaching my granddaughter to read over Zoom. It’s one of the blessings of being retired. I have the time to build a relationship with Alice that I missed with her older siblings all the years I was working full-time at school. Alice has come a long way from not knowing all her letters and sounds to this week’s lessons using -nk.
Some of you may recognize this drill for teaching students word parts. Alice and I have been working with this pattern. She was ready to give it a try in a book called Stink Bugs.
We were reading along and Alice was decoding very well. She decoded rostrums which was pretty impressive. Did you know that a stink bug has a rostrum which is like a long straw for a mouth? It can stick its rostrum into berries and flowers to drink. When not eating, it tucks the rostrum under its belly between its legs. Pretty handy.
Next we read about the life cycle of the stink bug. The pictures were vivid. I was having a great time learning about stink bugs (which have migrated to Virginia only recently). Alice clearly wasn’t having as much fun.
“Excuse me, Grandma. I don’t mean to be rude, but why are we reading THIS book?” She was so earnest. I had to chuckle a little as I explained that we were reading it to practice -nk words. Then I mentioned that it’s good to read nonfiction because we can learn cool stuff. “But Grandma, stink bugs are gross and icky!”
Feeling somewhat depleted, I absent-mindedly scrolled through Facebook for the umpteenth time. I stopped when I saw that my granddaughter’s kindergarten teacher had posted a new photo. I always love seeing Maggie no matter the setting. Today’s picture was celebrating “Colorful Day.” Mrs. S. is a young teacher in her second year of her career. I have been so impressed with how she has navigated this school year so that Maggie is happy and having a great introduction to school.
I touched the picture and spread my fingers to get a closer look. Where was my Maggie in this crowd of kindergarteners? “Ah, there she is!” I thought and smiled.
Then, imagine my delight when I could see that Maggie was holding hands with her friend, Kenzie. Is there anything more heartening than kindergarten friendships? It just made me so happy. For a moment, I wasn’t afraid she would get sick, or that she was breaking a rule. For a moment, I saw only kindergarten love.
I had finished teaching on this blustery first day of March. I knew chores and bill paying awaited me at home. Considering the time, I texted my daughter to see if she was at home. She was.”Yes!” I said to myself.
My daughter’s apartment is on my way home from teaching. I was there in 2 minutes. As I walked up the steps, my heart felt light. I didn’t mind the wind or cold.
When I opened the door, I smelled the delicious aroma of homemade minestrone soup. We greeted and she handed me her Peter, now 5 weeks old. I sat down in the rocker. He fussed a little, but then he settled into my arms. He held my finger and was soon asleep. I couldn’t help but stare at his eyelashes, his little hands, his soft cheeks. We rocked, and I chatted with my daughter. I waited until he gave up a big sigh, knowing that I could hand him back without waking him.
Every now and then, it feels good to know that you can still give what a baby needs, and by that, receive what you need. It was exactly what I needed today. Thirty minutes of Peter.