“Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark!”
She is awake. I hear her. She is barking! She makes me smile as I hurry upstairs, turn on the light in her room and say, “Emma Grace, hello!”
She is standing in her crib, in her princess nightgown.
I tell her that I’ve brought her some new clothes that she can wear to school and that she can paint in them and that it will be OK if she gets paint on these clothes. I ask her if she wants to look in the box that I’ve brought.
She says, “Yes.” And I lift her out of the crib. She slept late this morning. It is nearly 9:00. She is moving from California time back to Indiana time. She’s been on vacation with her extended maternal family for a week on the west coast.
When I lift her down, she wants me to take off her wet nighttime diaper. She says, “I have to wipe my butt.” I hand her a wet wipe and she efficiently wipes her bottom and hands me the wipe. I cross the hall to dispose of the diaper and wipe and wash my hands. When I return, she has pulled a pair of underwear from her drawer. She holds them up and says “Monkeys!” Indeed, there are monkeys on the panties. She takes such good care of herself. She puts her underwear on and tells me to hold up the clothes that I have brought.
She looks at each outfit and chooses a purple tunic dress and blue leggings with little gathers at the hem. She has her own sense of style and even though she is so little, she seems to know that life is too short to wear boring outfits. I help her take off her nightgown and she dresses herself quickly. She is such a competent almost three year old.
I open the drapes so she can see the rain. It has rained so little this summer that rain seems exotic and rare. I say a little poem that I taught her last spring when she was at my house on one of the last really rainy days.
Rain on the rooftops,
Rain on the trees,
Rain on the green grass,
But not on me!
She joins me on the last line…”But not on me!”
I love this grandchild with a love and presence that I think can only come when one is a grandmother. Emma Grace is the last child of my only child. She is the last little kid I will ever hold that is related to me by blood and DNA. She is the last love of my own life and she breaks my old heart open in a new way.
And Emma knows that I love her madly and completely. We have had a special soul to soul connection since long before she could talk. I cared for her two days a week for one semester while she was in transition from a day care situation that didn’t work for her to a full-time nanny who loves her and appreciates her. And in those days we spent together we sometimes made each other laugh wildly just with funny faces and nonsense sounds. We looked so deeply into each other’s eyes that we recognized our true, hilarious selves. It was like we both saw how ridiculous it was for our vast spirits to be looking out at each other from these small bodily identities. It made us laugh ourselves silly.
And now, even though she has lots of words to use, we both still most enjoy a sense of the absurd. She is tickled by all things that are slightly “off” and unexpected. She delights in telling me, “There. That’s done!” when she puts the top of the box of buttons back on upside down. She smiles at her joke and looks to see if I get it.
She loves to paint at her easel. I tell her, “Emma, you and I are painters.” She nods. It is so.
In the afternoon, she tells me that the toenail polish is upstairs in her mama’s make-up box. She takes me by the hand, upstairs, and shows me the box. I take the box to the bed and she opens it. She picks one color for her toenails and another for her fingernails. She sits against the pillows and holds very still while the polish is applied and while it dries.
After I have spent the day with her, I fall asleep that night with Emma images in my mind. The way she laughed when she did a somersault, her deep concentration and dexterity as she strung buttons on a cord as a gift for her brother Jack. The way she talked back to Dora when we watched one of Dora’s adventures on TV. And just meeting her eyes and laughing together.
Emma needs a grandmother like me in her life and she is a grand gift to last all the rest of mine.
Veda for the Poplar Grove Muse