Egg Salad

“Do you want to talk to your grandpa?” the woman asked her daughter.

The woman sat next to her aging father, recently discharged from the hospital. His once-grey hair flowed from one side of his head to the other in a sea of white waves.  

He peered into the screen of the phone with bleary eyes. Deep lines around his mouth and eyes gave away his sickness. His heart was broken. He was broken. Without the woman who made up his other half, he was not long for the world.

Obviously, saying no was not an option.

The woman’s only daughter hated when her mother asked her a question with an obvious, single answer. She had just called to verify the ingredients of her egg salad recipe.  

What could be more New Years-ish than a slurry of hardboiled egg and mayonnaise?

“How are you, Grandpa?” the granddaughter asked with an immediate sense of regret.

“Not good, not good.”

This was moving day; the day he was to leave his house, his independence and the place where he spent the past sixty years with his wife, from whom the recipe for egg salad originated.   

It was eggs and mayonnaise with a pinch of salt.

Just a pinch with the extra tossed over one’s shoulder.

For flavor, for luck, forever unmeasured and never forgotten.

Was it really ever just a pinch?   

The Smoky Babysitter

“I didn’t tell her that rattlesnakes don’t hibernate,” the man whispered.

The couple watched from the window as Grandma stomped down weeds and pulled out branches to add to the already raging fire. She was supposed to tend to the flames and keep them under control, instead, she continued to make the fire bigger and bigger.

Flames licked the sky as dark smoke billowed over the house. It was only a matter of time before the fire department arrived, tipped off by an angry neighbor or two.

“Good thing we dropped off those cookies,” the woman said.

Last week, they took a family outing to the nearby fire station. The woman put on a mask and carried a tin of cookies to the front door. A German Shephard guarded the entrance until its master, a gigantic man with messy hair, lumbered to the door and collected the cookies with a grunt.

Service with a smile was for other people.

Delivering the cookies was like buying an insurance policy. They hoped it was an investment on which they never needed to rely. However, with the ever-growing fire, they were glad that they were paid in full.

Grandma dragged another load of branches towards the fire. She dropped the contents of her arms and gleefully rubbed her hands together like a mad scientist about to give life to a monster before adding more fuel to the flames.  

Her goal was clear.

Burn everything. It was therapeutic to work with fire, watching branches, limbs and leaves go up in smoke and dwindle down to a pile of grey-white ashes. She felt control in the destruction, a power seemingly denied to her from the recent loss of her mother and failing health of her father. Here she had access to an entire wood and was limited only by the clock, ticking away the minutes until her grandsons were up from their naps.

The Last Music Class

Music class.

It is supposed to be a joyful celebration of time together, just the two of us, snuggling, clapping, singing and dancing in a half-circle with other moms and their babes. Instead, it has become a battle ground of the wills with boundary pushing and general naughtiness unique to the toddler demographic.

Last Tuesday, Little Legs sat in my lap for half a second before bouncing up and into the center of the group to start twirling into a dizzy delirium. Then he dashed off for the Christmas tree in the corner to pull the ornaments off, one by one.

“Grabby,” he explained.

I whispered, “No, no,” into his ear as I ushered him back to our spot to shake a tambourine while another toddler boy got loose and ran behind the curtain that separated the room into two.

Inspired by the dash of freedom, Little Legs undertook the same trip. He sprang to his feet from my lap and darted for the curtain, wrapping himself in it.

“Mama, hide.”

“I can see you baby, and this is not the time to hide.”

He peeked out with one eye to see the other toddler boy race across the room, with his mama in hot pursuit and of course, he made the same mad sprint.

This repeated itself no less than twelve times.

Another mother tried to intervene on my behalf by grabbing Little Legs, he escaped, and she said, to my horror, “I’ll get him next time for you.”

The threat of time-out beaded up and dropped away like rain on the wing of a bird. Spanking was not an option and yelling would reveal my true nature as a crazy, stressed out mother which would not do anyone any good.

I chased my Wilding around the room until the end of class. At the end of that long hour, I gathered Little Legs up in my arms and gave him a big squeeze because last Tuesday was the last music class.

We are going back into lockdown and will figure out how to act in public once we re-emerge, hopefully sometime in Spring.

Ba Tat, an uninvited guest

“He’s back.”

Daddy Longlegs stared intently out the window and beckoned us over with an empty mug in hand. He was surprisingly alert for having had only one cup of coffee.  

“Shhhh…” he hushed Little Legs preemptively without looking at the toddler stacking blocks.

“It’s the bobcat.”

Little Legs squealed and shouted, “Ba Tat!”

He grabbed a block and banged it against the window in excitement, scattering the birds at the feeder into a mad flurry of wings.

The bobcat was crouching low with its tufted ears and wide eyes barely visible through the weeds and bramble, using our bird feeder as an extension to its hunting grounds. It watched its brunch plans disappear into the air, stood up and glared at us through the window before bounding away into the woods.

It knew we were inside watching. Or at least, it did after Little Legs alerted it to the fact. When the watcher becomes the watched, it creates an eerie feeling, a prickling on the back of the neck and a good reminder that the window works both ways.

“How in the world did you see him?” I asked.

“I thought it was a bunny because I saw his tail moving against the rocks.”

Meanwhile, Little Legs demanded, “More ba tat, more ba tat,” as though the ghostlike feline could be magically summoned for the king’s court.

With less territory to roam, the prey and predators are getting closer and closer and closer until they are in the backyard deciding whether to join us or eat us for their next meal.

No, sire. The ba tat will not be joining us for lunch.

Baby Up At Night

The monitor lights up, glowing red and green, sensing activity and noise where there should be neither.

I drag my head out from underneath of a pillow and hold the monitor close to one open eye, hopeful to quickly return to the Land of Nod.

It is only recently that I have started to dream again, after five long months of multiple interruptions, we are down to just one or two nightly meetings and my brain can actually complete an entire REM cycle every few nights. I assume this is unhealthy in the long term but manageable for now.  

The monitor reveals a shell-less turtle stuck on his back, with all four appendages waving in the air, crying for help or company or milk. With both eyes open, I glance at Daddy Longlegs in amazement that he is still sleeping through the wails coming from the next room.

His cries are loud enough that they come through the air and the monitor simultaneously, a double request for room service from a patron who is certain not to tip.

On this night, I have a tip for him, I whisper, “Sleep! Please, for the love of your mother, sleep.”

The crying only intensifies, the tip is not taken well. 

As much as I love sleep, I love that my baby needs me, just me. Soon there will be no one crying for me at night. Unless it is me, crying over the loss of our special time as my baby becomes a boy and then a man. So, I won’t grumble as I crawl out of bed and shuffle to the nursery where a bright-eyed third shift worker awaits my visit because I know it is just for a little bit longer.

A House of No Secrets

Little Legs and I were in the laundry room, working side by side.

I carelessly tossed dirty clothes into the washing machine, while Little Legs pulled clothes from the basket and made his own pile on the floor. I was about to throw in the last pair of jeans when I discovered something hard in one of the pockets. After a few seconds of feeling around, I found the source, a flat carpenter pencil.

I extracted the mostly useless writing utensil and placed it on the counter where it was received by a small hand.

“Grabby,” he said.

He didn’t examine the pencil to notice that it wasn’t round, or to see the peeling blue paint or the crudely sharpened end, shaved to a passable point by a knife instead of a pencil sharpener.

He just stuck it right into his ear and said, “Ow,” with surprise in his voice.

“No,” I shouted and confiscated the pencil.

“Why would you put that into your ear?” I asked.

“Dada,” he replied.

I shook my head, obviously, he didn’t understand the question.

Later that day, Daddy Longlegs called to check-in on the inmates of the madhouse.

I explained, “Everything is fine except that Little Legs stuck a pencil in his ear.”

He replied without surprise, “I guess I taught him that. I tried to teach him how to put it behind his ear, but he kept putting it into his ear.”

“Well, I guess you did,” I said with a tone that indicated that there were better things to teach the tiny monkey.     

The little boy was always watching and waiting for his opportunity to test out new skills. To that end, he might not be able to get the pencil to do exactly what he planned, but he sure could tell on the person who tried to teach him to do it.

We were now living in a house of no secrets.

Creature of the Crib

Perhaps the monitor is picking up the sound from another dimension?

Surely, a pterodactyl is not shrieking in the baby’s room. However, if my ears are to be believed, an otherworldly demon-creature has taken over, and I can only assume it is sitting on the changing table, lovingly gazing down at the baby, squalling and shrieking with delight.

What else could be making such a high-pitched, unhuman like noise?

A quick check of the screen reveals an angry baby, rocking back and forth. He, indeed, is the tiny the creature of the crib.

This comes as quite the surprise as I hoped that he would stay as a baby a bit longer before becoming this being with a voice of his own who wants to crawl and walk and run and play.

Of course, what is not shocking is that it happened in 2020: the year of the pandemic, the election, and now the creature of the crib.  

What comes next in this time that feels like a science fiction novel?

Flying pigs, self-driving cars, healthcare for all?

In a few more weeks, this will be a year to remember and tuck away into history. Gone for good, thankfully. A year we never have to relive unless we still can’t get the virus under control. And in that case, I wouldn’t put the hand sanitizer away, not quite yet.