I know, I know, no more Vampires. You mention the word and everyone groans and makes some crack about the Twilight series or Bela Lugosi, but I just spent three days with my nose in a book–a 766 page turner, The Passage by Justin Cronin. It’s a great read. Even the invented slang is entertaining. Vampires are smokes, dracs, virals. Children are Littles. Slims are the dessicated left over bodies (think carcass after Thanksgiving). Cronin is clearly a graduate of the Iowa Workshop, and occasionally you feel like you’re swimming through unending descriptive passages and each of the dozens of characters have a complex back story, but give the guy his due, they were all interesting and well written. And the whole premise for the novel, an apocalyptic pandemic, a virus that turns well intentioned humans into blood sucking exo-skeleton monsters, I mean what could be better than that? Borrow it, check it out, buy it on Amazon or at your local independent bookseller, but read this book. It’s so much fun.
You will be delighted to know that Charlie and I have reversed the aging process. Through an amazing discovery Charlie made at Costco, we are now the proud owners of a Vita-Mix Machine and drink copious amounts of raw fruits and vegetables twice a day. Tomatoes, mixed berries, apples, grapes, bananas, carrots, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables get tossed into the machine and pureed into a concoction the consistency of a milk shake. We are virtually aglow with anti-oxidents. Our age spots are fading, our memories are improving, and our aches and pains are less vocal. Of course, the qustion we are frequently asked is “What about chewing?” We strain the seeds with our teeth, but not a lot of chewing is involved which is good, because we are also into joint conservation.
The update on our children is not, unfortunately, as exciting. Pete is working at a pharmacy, Betsy is working too much, Andy is working in Ohio, and Charlotte is working on completing her last year of PA school. They are a tax paying, student debt reducing, energy conserving crew of liberals, moderate consesrvatives, and conspiracy theorists who play scrabble on holidays and remember their parents’ birthdays and anniversaries. So far no one has run away to join the circus.
The grandchildren are much more engaging. Ben has lost two baby teeth spontaneously and not as a result of playground mishaps. He rides the bus to kindergarten and thinks he scores all the goals on his soccer and basketball teams. Charlie tried to tell him that goals in basketball are called baskets, but the logic isn’t consistent. After all goals in soccer aren’t called socks.
Lucy is fifteen months old and is a girl with a mind of her own but not much hair. She has started to talk. Her first word was “ya-ya,” but actually it sounded more like, “yeah, yeah.” It’s a response I frequently make myself, and I was delighted, after five years of fruitless searching, to discover my genetic thumbprint on one of my grandchildren. When adults make the ridiculous, obvious remarks that adults make, “Lucy, what a pretty dress,” or “Lucy, aren’t you a big girl,” she responds, “Yeah, yeah.” I’m sure that next year she will perfect rolling her eyes. She’s an adorable child, a diminutive, happy cynic. All she needs now is a small set of car keys and a baby doll to throw over her shoulder.
Charlie and I are not worried about getting older. We just toss back more glutinous fruits and vegetables and devise our escape plans. We’ve rented a flat in Paris for a month next fall to mark our continued existence. Betsy is going with me, she refers to herself as the vanguard. Charlie is coming at the end of the month to ensure my return. Pete, Charlotte, and Andy and Nollie are coming as the mood strikes them.
If you happen to be in France next October and see an elegant ex-pat wandering the streets, searching for food that hasn’t been pulverized, it just might be moi. Please say hello; the chance that I’ll recognize you is greatly improved.
Happy New Year.
I never know which version of my grandson will come down the escalator to hug me (and knock me down) in baggage claim. The aficionado of Thomas the Train and Cars seems to have been replaced by a karate chopping five-year-old pouncer who breaks into elaborate dance moves when the music, any music, reaches his ears. The first morning he was here, we were awakened at five o’clock (seven, Ohio time) and were at the play ground at the elementary school as the sun was coming over the mountains. After several days of pleading, “Please, no chopping” or “Grandmothers are fragile,” I have learned to just tuck and roll.
This little boy, who has been in perpetual motion since he deboarded the plane, sat perfectly still to have his face painted like a terrifying blue dragon at Lagoon. His back-to-school haircut had to be gelled and spray-painted green. Not being able to tie a bow was not a deterrent to the purchase of electric blue Converse All Stars. He sped around the shoe store–lightning speed. What is it about new shoes?
In two weeks time, it was only the ride up the tram at Snowbird that proved traumatic. In fairness to Ben, it was terrifying, like a trip to the surface of the moon. We landed above the timber line, no birds, no wild flowers, just gravel and a grim landscape. Ben had been hopping from one foot to another for the last five minutes, but the operator assured me that a porta-pottie would be available on the top. A very nasty, cold, smelly convenience, and Ben sat there for several minutes while I stood guard at the door. This little boy has a bladder the size of a peanut and a pressurized stream that could blast paint off concrete, but the chill wind drowned out the absence of noise. Two minutes into the return trip, two hundred feet in the air, Ben made his announcement. In spite of the tram being jammed with sightseeing vacationers, we sang, we danced, we jumped up and down. I cajoled, I encouraged, I failed. I couldn’t imagine even such a small bladder reloading so quickly. Quarts of urine spilled down his small legs and soaked his socks and shoes. Aghast, people pulled away, turned up their noses, and grimaced at being confined on a tram with such trashy people. We were both humiliated and glad to take French leave from the rest of our party and hide out in the public restroom rinsing out Thomas the Train underwear, shorts, and socks and drying them with the hot air machine next to the sinks. There is much to remember about little boys that I seem to have forgotten.
I’ve considered pinning a warning label on the front of his Levi jacket for his Kindergarten teacher, Caution Pouncer. Instead, I’ll hug him tightly before he leaves me at security and wonder who will meet me at Thanksgiving.
I was robbed. My usual oblivious self, I walked into our house and didn’t notice all the drawers and cupboards in the living room were opened or see our Halloween and Christmas decorations spilled all over the floor, but when I walked up stairs, I knew. The trays from my dresser drawer were face down on the floor. I turned around, grabbed the phone, and left. It would be easy to strike a very virtuous pose and say that things are just things, but those little bits of jewelry were portals into my past life. My grandfather’s tie clasp with the little 1916 AOA emblem attached, that he wore every day of his adult life, was something I noticed–and it reminded me of him–every time I reached into my jewelry box. My grandmother wore a lovely aquamarine ring, and when I was a little girl, she would always tell me, “When you grow up, this will be yours.” She never mentioned that she would be dead, and that thought never occurred to me–the ring was just something that we shared. Now it’s gone, along with a pretty pearl ring my husband gave me before he left on his mission, my sorority pin, the engraved locket from the cast of the school play, a few pretty baubles from an appreciative husband, and other things that don’t have any value to anyone but me. I’m sure most of those little bits of my life have been discarded or are gathering dust in a pawn shop. I truly do feel robbed.
My engagement ring and a large diamond earring were not at home. That diamond is waiting for my oldest son to find a worthy finger. My grandfather was a small town general practitioner, and in the late 1930′s a carnival came to town. Someone, perhaps the fortune teller or the ticket taker or the tattooed lady (imagine that being a novelty) needed medical assistance, and the carnival owner brought them to my grandfather. At the end of the consultation, the man brought a dirty handkerchief out of his pocket, opened it on his palm, and displayed a handful of diamonds that were available for a quick, quiet sale. Knowing a good deal, my grandfather bought the lot. Over the years, the diamonds were set in pieces of jewelry for my grandmother, including the earrings. There would have been a sense of symmetry if that stolen diamond had been stolen from me, but it remained safe. Irony is lost on thieves.