A couple of weeks ago, we traveled to our daughter’s and son-in-law’s house to babysit May for the day. Rich and I awoke at 3 AM, after a fitful night’s sleep, in order to arrive in time for everyone to get to their destinations, Eloise to Day Care and Nancy and Jeremy to work, leaving May in our care.
The morning progressed beautifully. After walking Mr. Woo, the family pug, I put May in her stroller and walked down the extremely steep hill by her house towards the bakery for bagels and a special good morning treat for May. Needless to say, the good morning treat, a chocolate and M&M covered pretzel, would be frowned upon by her parents, but how could I say no to that little face looking longingly from the bakery case to me?
We sat by the water eating our bagels and watching moored boats bobbing on gentle waves, and seagulls picking over the remains of food scraps within the folds of a McDonald’s wrapper, before beginning the long incline towards home. It was only 9:00 AM. The day was just beginning for some people, but we were already into our third or fourth activity. “What’s next?” I thought, and I am sure that May shared the same thought. It can sometimes be hard work trying to be the grandmother I always hoped I’d be.
Once again, I climbed the long, steep hill leading back to her house. May and I chanted the refrain from the story The Little Engine That Could as I struggled to push her in her stroller, stopping from time to time to catch my breath. As a former math “maven,” I can honestly say that the hill has to be at a forty-five degree angle and is at least a sixth of a mile long, very much like the hills in San Francisco. It is a hill that Nancy totally avoids during snowstorms, but I digress.
Immediately after arriving back at the house, we put May in her car seat and drove to a toy store for yet again another special treat for her and her sister. These little treats provide a valuable service. Besides the warm hugs from May that accompany each purchase, a new toy, however small, serves to keep May busy for a short while, giving my husband and me a little time to relax and put ourselves on pause (the method to our madness). May chose Calico Critters to add to her already extensive collection and a pull-toy for Eloise.
With purchases in hand, we headed towards Beer Works in Salem, May’s favorite place for lunch. While eating her pepperoni pizza, another of May’s favorites, we played with her Calico Critters and drew funny faces on the back of the place mat that seems to be a ubiquitous place-setting for kids.
Lunch ended and we headed to the Orange Leaf for dessert, a new and innovative frozen yogurt shop. When I first walked in, I was totally discombobulated by the scene before me. There were levers along the wall with a center counter filled with all kinds of toppings imaginable, kind of like an Automat of the fifties, but with frozen yogurt. “Where is the frozen yogurt?” I thought, while I scanned the pristine room. Fortunately the store was relatively empty at the time and a saleswoman came to my rescue and walked me through the steps. Had she not been available to help, I am sure that May could have taken over. There are times when I truly feel my age.
Toy store, lunch and dessert behind us, it was time to visit the playground. As I was pushing May on the swing, a group of high school girls came running towards us, obviously in training for some sport or other. Upon seeing their approach, May quickly asked to be removed from the swing. May loves to swing so I found her request rather unusual and asked if anything was wrong. She replied, “No, I just want to get out.” I was to find out later from my daughter that May was embarrassed to be seen by the students while seated in a “baby swing.” Four years old and already cognizant of being in a situation that might seem “uncool.” I was flabbergasted! I think that I was still in a crib at the age of four!
Playground checked off of our list of things to do, Rich and I felt the day was full enough and we all returned home to once again walk Mr. Woo and play with May’s Calico Critters. I am a master at make-believe and, if I must say so myself, I created all kinds of situations for imaginative play including one where I was a giant (once again my Brobdingnagian analogy-May is sure to be well ahead when she reads Gulliver’s Travels) resting near Calico Critter Town. I think I even asked May if she would mind if I closed my eyes for a few moments. You probably can guess what happened next. I fell asleep, a power nap, but sleep nonetheless. May never mentioned the fact that she was aware of my falling asleep so I convinced myself that it never happened.
A few days after our marathon visit with May, my daughter called to relate an anecdote. She told me how when she, Jeremy, Eloise and May were in the car, May asked her mother if she would play Calico Critters with her when they arrived home, to which my daughter answered, “Sure!” May went on to say, “And will you stay awake and not fall asleep on the rug like grandma?” Jeremy and Nancy laughed until they cried. I guess she deserved more credit for her awareness than I gave her.