Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Conversations with Adaline

Adaline, the elder of my two granddaughters, turns four next week. One of my favorite things about spending time with her is listening to her and getting to see the world from her perspective.

Adaline has a surprising vocabulary - people who meet her are frequently surprised to learn she's only three - in part because she wants to know the meaning of every new word she hears. On the bus yesterday, she said, "Grandma, do you know what a stampede is?" I said that I did. She nodded and went on to explain it to me. "It's when a lot of animals all start to run togather."

"Yes," I agreed. "Like cows and horses." She nodded vigorously. "And unicorns."

That thought silenced us, as we both smiled, picturing a unicorn stampede.

There was a birthday party for Adaline at pre-school the other day. Her dad and I attended, and we stopped at a playground on our way home. Adaline was busy playing on a new glider swing, when I noticed her watching a girl of about ten playing nearby.

"Grandma," Adaline said. "Did you know my friend Maya is a bigger girl now?" I assumed she meant Maya, like some of her other friends, had moved up to the kindergarten class at school.

I was mistaken.

The girl who had been playing nearby came over to us. "I'm Maya's big sister," she said. She stayed and chatted with us for a few minutes before going back to play by herself. "My name is Ava," she called back to us.

Adaline looked thoughtful. "She's Maya's big sister."

"She does look a little like Maya," I said.

"But she's a bigger girl."

I love that in her world, seeing an older girl that looks like her friend doesn't necessarily mean that this person is a relative. She didn't see any problem with the idea that Maya just suddenly turned into an eight or ten year old, instead of a three year old. I guess everything is magical at that age.

Adaline and I had a special lunch at the American Girl (Doll) Cafe in Chicago to celebrate her birthday. There was a bowl on the table filled with question cards, in case we needed help keeping a conversation going. One question was, "Would you rather be able to fly or to be invisible?" Adaline didn't hesitate - she wanted to be able to be invisible. "What's your biggest dream?" She did think about this for a minute - I'm not sure she understood the question. Then she smiled. "A horse! Or a unicorn."

I'm kicking myself for not writing down all of her responses. Next time we go there - maybe for her birthday next year? - I'll bring a notepad and pen.

Adaline says something memorable at least once a day, and I try my best to remember her comments. At her school birthday party she explained that it wasn't actually her birthday that day, but she was going to Portland to see her other Grandma on her real birthday. That got all the kids talking about their multiple grandparents. Suddenly Adaline said, "My Grandma Patti isn't feeling very well." She frowned. "And she isn't ever going to get better." Grandma Patti - her great-grandmother, my mom - died on April 9. When some of the kids started asking why she wasn't going to get better, I was curious how she would answer. But another little boy at the table said, "My grandma died, too."

Adaline first heard the word "died" in reference to her family dog, who died last summer after a severe illness. Every once in awhile she'll say, "Winston was my dog, but he died and he isn't ever going to come home again." She says it seriously, but also matter-of-factly. And recently she's begun to add, "And one day we're going to get another dog!"

I have another granddaughter, Diana, who is 15 months old. Her vocabulary is growing - she can now say "bubbles," "cup," "ball" and "thank you" as well as Mama, Daddy, bye-bye, hello, more, no-no-no, kitty and doggie. She's trying to say her big sister's name, too, sometimes calling her "Ada" and sometimes "Ine". It's sad in a way but also exciting to watch these little girls grow up. I'm glad that in another year or two I'll be having interesting conversations with Diana, too.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Blast from the Past

I haven't posted in quite awhile. One reason is that my darling granddaughter, Diana Audrey, started walking at 9 months. I am significantly older than that and while I love her to the moon and back, after a day of trying to get to the bathroom before she is able to drop any toys into the toilet, I'm ready to crash. Adaline, on the other hand, is nearly four and the older she gets, the less work she is. Her favorite thing is to hide under the quilt on our bed while Marty and I (and occasionally Diana) pretend to be dragons, badgers, owls or foxes and pounce on her. :-)

Anyway, April has always been my favorite month. Spring is in the air, flowers are starting to bloom - what's not to like? Well, this year it has taken on new meaning. It's now the month my mother died. My mom had been fading for the past few months, but the end came faster than any of us had anticipated. We're all still trying to take it in. My sisters and I all made posterboards to bring to the funeral, made up of a gazillion pictures of our mom taken over the years. We also brought framed pictures of Mom, plus any memorabilia we could find. I brought Mom's high school yearbook and a photo album she put together when I was born. My sisters brought family-related papers for us all to browse through, including a memory book we put together for Mom and Dad's 50th anniversary. (They would have celebrated their 65th anniversary in June.)

One of the papers my sisters brought was something I'd written years ago and had totally forgotten. I wrote it after reading an essay called "Studying Students" by Roger Rosenblatt in the May 12, 1997 issue of TIME magazine.

I titled my piece, "On Reading, Writing and Remembering." Here it is:

Three events in my life converged this week, overlapping and eclipsing each other until they briefly became one. The first was a physical event - my first book, SMALL GARDENS, was published. The second was a week-long "happening" at the elementary school my son attends where, as P.T.O. president, I helped organize daily events to help celebrate Right to Read Week. The third hardly seems to classify as an event at all: after spending the day telling five classes of fourth-graders what it's like to be a freelance garden writer, I collapsed into my favorite comfy chair to read the issue of TIME magazine that came in the mail today. On the very last page, an essay caught my eye. Written by Roger Rosenblatt, a teacher - a professor, to be precise - the essay zoomed in on a moment when his students had each been given a flower with instructions to describe its scent and to follow their noses into the past. The students were lost in thought, in the stillness before the pen hits the paper.

Rosenblatt's essay crystallized the moment so clearly that his students, with pens poised and childhood memories of rose bouquets and lilac-bowered rectories flashing across their intent faces, were as vivid to me as if he had encased their images in a paperweight. Stumbling across a well-written essay is a secret delight, like a sudden whiff of honeysuckle on a sultry summer day. I imagine teachers feel this way when, amid the daily repetition of earnestly pencilled, ragged lines, a spark ignites. A turn of phrase, a carefully chosen word, a picture neatly painted without a brush. The moment when a child with a pencil in his hand discovers he has the power to create something where nothing was before.

To anyone who has the urge to write, I would first tell them to read. In my family reading is an obsession. My husband, daughter and I read everything we can get out hands on. My son was slower to discover the joys of reading - when I found books wedged between the slats of his bunk bed, where he could pull them out at night, it was a cause for celebration.

I read whatever I can, whenever and wherever I can. Before I had my own books, I read the backs of cereal boxes and random books I pulled off grown-up bookshelves, which is how I came to read A Berlin Diary at age eleven, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at twelve. My joy at discovering an author whose words can transport me to magical places is hard to describe. I'm a book lover, not a book collector. If there are gilt-edged, leather-bound books on my shelves it's purely by accident. My most treasured books are worn and dog-eared from being read over and over again.

I find it hard to narrow my favorites down to a Top Ten or even a Top Hundred. Thinking of favorites takes me back the same way Rosenblatt's students were transported by memories of flower scents. I was home with the Asian flu at age nine, feeling sorry for myself as I struggled to keep down a cup of cream of tomato soup, when I burrowed under the covers and read - in one sitting - Scott O'Dell's ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS. I remember how my throat thickened with tears, the first time a book made me cry. Reading the same book aloud to my son years later, we both got so choked up at the same part that we had to take a break and finish reading it later.

Before I could read, my parents and grandparents read to me. I still love THE TALL BOOK OF MAKE BELIEVE. If it was still in print, I'd buy copies for every child I know. My grandfather always read to me from his copy of "THE TALES OF BRE'R RABBIT." I knew how to find it - it was in the bookcase to the right of the fireplace, a red cloth-covered book with a black crescent on the binding. In the same way, my granddaughters - ages one and almost four - know just where to find their favorite books. It's important to know where the good books are.

I remember the excitement of exploring shelves of books in the Elk Grove Village library, when it was housed in a ranch house behind the IGA back when we'd watch the planes take off over the cornfields near O'Hare. It was such a thrill to come across a Nancy Drew book I hadn't already read. Those silhouettes inside the covers assured me of high adventure within.

In middle school, I discovered poetry, from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Blue Flag in the Bog" to e.e. cummings to Ferlinghetti to Amy Lowell and back. Around that time, I ventured outside the world of mystery, into other genres. The first time my husband and I read Charles Morgan's SPARKENBROKE, we started a decades-long cycle of casting and re-casting it for film. No one seemed to read it anymore, so we debated whether to send our cherished first edition to Sundance Films. (We kept it.)

Books like Sylvia Plath's THE BELL JAR and Amy Tan's JOY LUCK CLUB sucked me in to the point that reality didn't seem quite real, while James Thurber's MY LIFE AND HARD TIMES and Sue Townsend's ADRIAN MOLE'S DIARIES could make me laugh so hard I momentarily couldn't breathe.

For a long time, mysteries were all I wanted to read. A woman I babysat for, the awesome Mrs. Murgle, gave me a box of battered Agatha Christie novels that fueled my addiction to the genre. I've had those books for nearly half a century, and they've been read countless times over the years.

Reading and writing are about as personal as you can get. They are both hard experiences to share (my husband never seems to appreciate it when I read aloud brilliant passages to him), although it is very cozy to pull up a couple of chairs in front of a fireplace, with a handy table nearby, stocked with pots of tea, biscuits and paperbacks. If you should doze off, there's no worry about missing the end of the show. Books will always wait for you. Writing is scary, like taking a shower on a street corner. But how can anyone who loves to read NOT want to write?

I'm grateful that I had parents who kept books around the house - books bought or borrowed from libraries, and many that had been passed down through generations. I'm grateful to the school district that offered typing in summer school, so I could get the words down almost as fast as they tried to escape from my head. I'm grateful to Kerry Huffman Erickson, my first friend who was obsessed with books as much as I was, and to all the teachers who enriched my life. Mr. Crail, fifth grade teacher, read "boy" books like OLD YELLER out loud to us and had us so enthralled we didn't want to leave until he finished the chapter, even after the final bell rang. Mr. Crail also made us recite "The Gettysburg Address" every time we said "yeah" or "ain't."

Mr. Richard Striker, seventh grade English - He couldn't get me to like CATCHER IN THE RYE, but when he gave us a snap essay assignment, I was glad I'd browsed through it enough to remember there was a dog. When you haven't read the book, I figured, be creative - so I wrote an essay about the dog. Mr. Striker, who undoubtedly realized I hadn't read the book, still gave me an A for originality. That encouragement kept me going for years.

Mrs. Vervia Pratt - eight grade and freshman year English - started each day by writing a saying on the blackboard and having us discuss it. One I remember is "Good fences make good neighbors." She introduced me to the war poets and explained PRO PATRIA MORI so clearly it can still make me rage and cry. She forced us to read MY ANTONIA ("The accent is on the A") and surprised us into liking it. Everything she said was defined by her two-fingered "quotes."

And then there was Marjorie Schaller, junior year English, who believed that if something deserved praise it might as well be "Sterling work! Grand and glorious!" There was no boring "Good job!" on her papers, and I strove to receive her colorful flourishes.

Joe Wellman and Judy Sawicki had to deal with high school hormones as well as my tendency to run long, teaching me to write concisely, at least, when the need arose. (They should get extra points for having me and my future husband in the same class. My husband was the trouble-maker who liked to write headlines with sly double-entendres.)

I'm glad my kids were blessed with creative teachers, too. When Keiko Orrall had my son's second grade class act out variations of Tomie de Paola's STONE SOUP, she opened a world of possibilities.  My son was inspired to write both stories and plays after that. And Gene Fisher, Jonathan's third grade teacher, used to joke about going off on tangents. The kids LOVED his tangents! That's how they learned about Annie Oakley, for one thing. And after he played THE SINKING OF THE BISMARK for the class, Jonathan checked out a stack of books about battleships, sunken ships, sunken treasures and the TITANIC. Every tangent was a learning experience.

When my daughter, Jessica, was in third grade, her teacher dubbed her "a walking encyclopedia." That gave her a badly needed burst of confidence. When she struggled a bit years later, I mentioned in a teacher conference that she liked poetry. Her teacher encouraged her to prepare a journal of her favorite poems, which helped her grades and bumped up her enthusiasm for school.

Three events in my life converged this week, taking me on a journey back through my childhood and my school days, when I was just discovering the joys of reading. (I even liked the DICK AND JANE books!) Right-to-Read-Week might seem like a faux holiday, but don't dismiss it lightly. Words are the keystone of our society, and the ability to use them is a key that can open almost any door.

I'm picturing students, chewing on pencils as they think about flowers. I see their teacher, watching them and then writing about students thinking about writing. It gives me hope for the future.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Toast to Treasured Friends

You know how some friends remain steadfast, even when you sometimes go five years or more without seeing them in real life? You know how some friendships encompass not only your friends but their entire families?

I'm lucky enough to have some friends like that. I met Pat, who I used to call Patsy, when I was 11 years old, and she went on to become my best friend during high school. She was matron of honor when I got married, and I was maid of honor in her wedding a few months before mine. 

Pat even came to visit when Marty and I moved to England. She and her cousin Pam and I were a triple dose of trouble when we were teenagers. Pat's little brother Jimmy was a good friend of my younger brother Thom. And Pat's older brother Howie and I were pen pals of a sort when he was stationed in the Pacific.

Pat's dad died many years ago, but her mom is a more recent loss and we all miss her. Every New Year's Eve I think of her dad and his potent, steaming glug and I can't hear of a Polish food without thinking of Pearl, Pat's mom. I'm sooo glad I got to see Pearl again a few years ago. She had health problems, but she still had a great smile and a wonderful sense of humor. (She needed one, to put up with our escapades.)

Jimmy is an artist extraordinaire and a fabulous banjo player. Pam is also an artist - one of her paintings hangs on the wall next to my desk. Pat's talent is dancing, and I'll never forget her 16th (?) birthday, when her mom gave her a big dancing ballerina doll to celebrate her accomplishments in Orchesis.

That's the backstory, leading up to my wonderful, wonderful day yesterday. The weather was perfect when I went to meet Pat and Pam at the Art Institute of Chicago. (When my daughter called it a museum, I disagreed. "What would you call it then," she demanded. "A house of art." She thinks I'm nuts, but I still think that describes it better. However you describe it, people like it - a lot. (Okay, so maybe it is a museum.)

We enjoyed the Degas exhibit, and the always-breathtaking Monets, and then we had lunch outside at the awesome Art Institute restaurant, Terzo Piano.We ate outside with a view of Millennium Park and a nice selection of Chicago's skyscrapers, remembering when the Prudential Building was the tallest building in town.

We took a stroll through Millennium Park after lunch, took some pictures by the Bean (real name: Cloud Gate) and then Pat and I sat at a sidewalk cafe and reminisced about old times, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and killer seagulls in Cornwall while Pam, Howie and Jim took a 2 1/2 hour Segway Tour. Pat and I, fueled by memories of our spectacular klutziness, kept a safe distance from those wheeled behemoths. Pam said it was fun, and by the end of the tour she said maneuvering the Segway had become second nature, but I think Pat and I made the right decision. 

The first time I saw New York, it was with Pat - well, and with my husband, too. First time I saw New Jersey, Pat was there. And Fort Lauderdale, too. Pat has seen every house Marty and I have lived in, except one, and we've lived in a lot of houses, all over the place. 

As teenagers, Pat and I knew each others' houses as well as we knew our own. She could stroll into my house at any time and be sure of a welcome - well, apart from That Night. I must have slept soundly that night, because when I woke up, every bra I owned was frozen solid in the freezer, I'd been pummeled with silver dragees (cake decorations) and every picture in the house was ever-so-slightly crooked. I don't remember how I got back at Pat, but I'm sure I did eventually. And then there was the mystery of the fried chicken under the bed, but that's another story.

I could drop in on her at any time, and I often did. I'll never forget the time Jimmy let me in and said, "She's in her bedroom." I followed the sound of typing, but couldn't find Pat. I finally figured out she was in the closet. Pat was the fastest typist I knew, but I don't think I ever did discover the attraction of typing in a small, enclosed space.

We've met up occasionally - in New York, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Chicago, London and Las Vegas. No matter how much time has passed, we always have a blast.

Back to yesterday. Pat and I met up with Pam, Howie and Jim at The Betty, near Chicago's Fulton Market, where we were joined by Jim's son and daughter and more family and friends. I think there were ten of us altogether. We polished off a stack of pieroges and cringed at memories of czarnina (duck's blood soup, a Polish specialty). We had a little alcohol and a lot of tapas, some of which were out of my comfort zone - octopus with the tentacles clearly visible? I don't think so! The tapas-style menu was a fun way to feed our large group.

I hadn't seen Jimmy since I was skinny and had red hair. He's no longer the little curly-haired banjo virtuoso, but he's still in many ways the person I remembered - only now he's a grandpa of twins! Howie, who had a full beard last time I saw him, is now a very talented dancer, and he regaled us with stories of his recent cruise to Spain. It came as no surprise that he basically danced his way across the Atlantic. It was a lot of fun getting to know the younger generation of Pat's family, too.

It was hard to say good-bye after such a fun day. When Pat and Pam dropped me off outside my condo building, I saw my daughter coming up the street. I had a weird moment of déjà vu as my past and present collided.

I hope we won't have to wait years before getting together again - next time hopefully our husbands will be able to join us, and maybe my kids will come, too!

Getting old(er) isn't always easy or fun - we griped some about blisters, bunions and the impossibility of wearing high heels anymore. Things change, inevitably - loved ones lost, illnesses endured, blood pressure to be watched, and the occasional frustration of forgetting a name. I'm no longer the skinny redhead, but I remember enough of our "golden youth" to recall it wasn't all sunshine and roses even then.

But it's nice to be able to look back and remember good times with old friends. And it's even nicer to create new memories with the same friends. Here's a toast to you, my friends - new and old. Thank you for making my life so much richer because of your friendship.

*Pat and Jimmy took a bunch of pictures yesterday. I don't like getting my picture taken, but these will have historical value. I'll share some of the pictures later.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Summer in the City

Recently, I was kind of surprised when a couple of people asked me how I was adjusting to life in the city after living in the suburbs for so many years. I was surprised because there really wasn't any adjustment period for us - apparently we're city people. It just took awhile for us to figure that out.

It's not like we're strangers to the city. Marty and I both worked in London and in downtown Chicago, and for awhile he even commuted to New York from Northern New Jersey. We still kick ourselves for buying a house in Kent, in what was described as Greater London, instead of getting a place right in town back when we lived in England.

When we bought our house in Cincinnati, we liked the idea of a big back yard for the kids to play in, and we purposely left part of it wooded and wild. We enjoyed all the wildlife and we especially enjoyed our big deck, although we never really used it to entertain. In a relationship with one extrovert (mostly) and one introvert (mostly), we rarely did adult entertaining, although there were always lots of teenagers around.

We'd been thinking of downsizing at some future date when we were informed that we'd soon be grandparents. Neither of us could imagine living five hours away from our grandchild, so we instantly began the daunting project of clearing out and renovating our house. It was a big job and we have minimal talent as rehabbers. We can handle paint and wallpaper but our project included painting the entire house inside and out AND removing wallpaper that had gone out of style several years ago.

Marty and I have recently become hooked on Fixer Uppers, the Property Brothers and other shows of a similar nature. We feel pretty good about everything we did to fix our house up for sale, but if we'd been watching these shows back then, I think we would have done more drastic updates.

Anyway, we got it done. And by the time we were finished, we eagerly looked forward to moving into a 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo in the city where we wouldn't be tempted to save everything. That's the danger of a two-car garage and a full basement. There's room to store all the kids' kindergarten drawings, all the Christmas decorations, all of pretty much everything.

We gave away thousands and thousands of books, yet still managed to bring 65 cartons of books with us. And now I'm shopping for a bookcase again, after giving away several of them before we moved. At least I'm only looking for a small one this time.

The biggest adjustment, once we settled in, was realizing parking was always going to be an issue. Theoretically, parking is available with our building, but there are limited spaces and new ones only become available when someone moves or dies. Our number may come up for a parking space in 15 years or so. So we decided to sell our car.

This shocked some of our friends, but since there is a Zip-Car lot right across the street, a train station less than a mile away and bus stops to the city only two blocks away, it's not as if we were stranded.

We live in a building with front desk security, neighbors who've lived here for years, and friendly shop owners all around. We also live 5 minutes from our daughter and less than a mile from our son, daughter-in-law and our two beautiful granddaughters. We're two blocks from a nice sandy beach and about the same distance to the Museum of Science and Industry. There is ALWAYS someplace to go and something to do.

Yes, it was hard to give up my garden. But there is a courtyard garden in our building and a nice, private garden in the back with a decorative water fountain and places to sit and read. And, yes, I miss my friends in Cincinnati. We haven't been back for frequent visits, as we assumed we would, but hopefully we'll stay in touch and get back when we can. And sometimes our Cincinnati friends come up here.

And one HUGE plus is our wonderful view of Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan, which is awesome at all times of year and in all kinds of weather. We loved our yard in Cincinnati, but it's hard to top our view! (Even in this picture, which was taken in frigid November.)

If we feel like going out to eat, there are places nearby or, if we're feeling adventurous, we can go into the city and try someplace new.

Oh, and one other thing - we didn't have to shovel any walks or driveways last winter. Okay, I'll admit it. Winter in Chicago is not high on my list of favorite things. But the summers here are pretty glorious. It's a decent trade-off.

So - how are we adjusting? We're adjusting just fine, thank you. Kind of wishing we'd tried the city life years ago. :-)
Dear Google,

Thank you for all the posts to my Blogger dashboard informing me of European Union requirements to post details about cookies. You go on to say this is for people who live in EU countries. Since, as my profile states, I live in Chicago, IL - which is still in the United States - I don't understand why I am being inundated with these notifications. Your Help Topics don't address this issue.

Confused in Chicago

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Question of Balance

Early on, I knew I could cross one potential career choice off my list. Sadly, I'll never be a tightrope walker. (I can barely even watch tightrope walkers!) It's something of a miracle I never broke any bones in the years I enjoyed ice skating. When I put on roller skates, everyone else in the rink risked injury. Notice a pattern here? When it comes to balance, I make Inspector Clouseau look like a prima ballerina.

No two ways about it: I'm a klutz. It's like walls are a magnetic force, drawing me close so I'll bump into them as I walk through a doorway. I am super cautious while walking on ice, walking up stairs, walking in general. I've fallen flat on my back, fallen down more stairs than you can shake a stick at - and I have the wonky knee and broken blood vessels to show for all the times I sprained and/or broke my ankles and tore ligaments in my knees.

I slipped on wet marble steps while wearing smooth-soled new shoes the time I had the worst break. A cat shot past me while I was carrying a load of laundry downstairs another time. And then there was the time I stepped out of the car smack onto a patch of black ice. My feet flew forward, the rest of me flew back - I think for a second or two I was suspended in air before I hit the ground with a very un-Lipizzaner-like thunk.

My mom blames it on my crawling, or lack of it. I was an early walker - I went from horizontal to vertical at about 8 months and I never looked back. Skipped crawling altogether - even then my knees were probably squealing, "Hell, no!" My mom read someplace that we develop our sense of balance as we learn to crawl, so she blames my general clumsiness on the whole no-crawling thing. Too late - I'm not going to try and rectify that now.

In this clumsy manner, I'm leading up to a related topic - finding balance in other aspects of life. Writing, for instance. I have a love/hate relationship with writing. On the one hand, I get antsy if I go for any length of time without writing SOMETHING. Once I get in the routine, I usually enjoy the process, even if the result rarely turns out the way I hoped/planned/intended. I have a slow learning curve, and I have a lot more experience in writing non-fiction than fiction.

Also, my brain is a little weird. I'm pretty sure all writers have weird brains, some more than others. To the extent that weirdness can lead to unusual story ideas, that's a good thing. Reining in the weirdness to keep an unusual story from sliding into the what-the-heck-was-she-thinking zone requires a fine hand and a sense of balance. I have to wonder - if I had learned to crawl, would I have an easier time keeping my stories on the somewhat straight-and-narrow?

One editor gently mentioned an issue of consistency in one early story, while another story had issues with tone. When reading thrillers - and when watching taut, suspenseful movies - I appreciate a shot of humor to give me a break from the tension, however briefly. The trouble is, when I try to do that in my own stories, the brief flash of humor tends to become a short trip to Bizarro World. I'll start yo-yoing back and forth between dark, sometimes even gruesome scenes and humorous (hopefully) antics that leave the reader going, "Whaaaat the...?"


I'm happy to say I haven't walked into any walls for some time now. Haven't broken or sprained an ankle in thirty years or so. Haven't even fallen on the ice in about five years, despite the many opportunities for that to happen. Maybe I'm more cautious now, or maybe I've developed a sense of balance after lo, these many years.

I hope this means there's hope for my writing. God knows, I have a way to go before I reach the level of proficiency I'm aiming for. (Don't get me started on grammar! Spelling? Nailed it. The rest? I do my best, and pray for a sharp-eyed and patient editor.)

Meanwhile, I'll take it in stride when my two-year-old granddaughter handles those slippery sidewalks better than I do. She did learn to crawl before she walked.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Adaline's Treasures

I have a tote bag that I originally bought to use as a diaper bag for the times I went out with my infant granddaughter. Now she's almost 2 1/2 - and potty-trained - so I use it to carry extra hats, gloves, scarves, an umbrella, and other odds and ends.

When I cleaned the bag out recently, I found a lot more oddities than I'd realized. Somewhere along the line, my tote bag has become Adaline's treasure bag. As we walk along, she picks up little treasures and says, "I'll just put this in your bag, Gwamma, so we don't lose it."

The treasures she's collected include:

*a broken purple balloon

*a fairly large stick (suitable for dragging along iron fence rails in order to make a lot of noise)

*a pine cone

*a couple of crabapples

*a maple leaf (that she picked up and said, "Look, a maple leaf!" Good guess!)

*broken graham crackers (remains of school snacks)

*a variety of barrettes she's removed from her hair

*two packs of Curious George fruit snacks

*a battered box of yogurt raisins

*a vintage Smurf figure

*a small rock

*the remains of a "kitty cat tail" - from a container of ornamental grasses

*a penny she found on the bus

My own kids treasured their blankies above all else. Adaline has a couple of blankies but they never held her interest for long. In addition to the collection described above, Adaline is never without a baby doll - she has some nice dolls, but her favorites cost about five bucks at Walgreens (I'm pretty sure Walgreens and our small local toy store are her favorite stores in the whole world).

As the Biblical saying goes - sort of: "Where your treasure is, there is your heart."  In the eyes of this little girl, there are treasures everywhere. I hope she continues to find joy and magic in the little things.