Tuesday, February 12, 2013

MARDI GRAS WITH ALEX…


Alex packing for trip
 It’s a gray Mardi Gras day in Louisiana, and if revelers in New Orleans don’t get wet, they’ll be lucky because the sky is hanging so low that when the rain breaks through, it’s going to be a frog strangler and a root soaker.

My Mardi Gras celebration didn’t include a parade and catching beads – I "passed a good time," as they say in Cajun country, with my two-year old great grandson, Alex, who has to be the brightest kid on the block. As you’ll notice, above, Alex is packing. When told by Martin, his father, (my grandson) that he was going to Nana’s house (my daughter Stephanie aka “Neeny”), Alex, without any provocation, ran into his room, got out his overnight bag, and started packing three important items – Woody and Bud LightYear of Toy Story fame, and his sleeping partner, a lamb security blanket that he calls “Lovey.” Alex already knows where his bread is buttered, where he’ll receive sweet indulgence, major tolerance, unconditional love, and undying attention –I’m speaking of Nana’s house because, sadly, mine isn’t “kid proof.”

When Alex comes to my house, he already knows where the good stuff is; i.e., the electric train that we ran only once for him at Christmas. Yesterday, he ran into the hall, located the closet where the train is kept, and beckoned for me to follow him. “Train, please, Momow (aka Great Grandmere).” He fluttered those long eyelashes imploringly at me, but I had to tell him “no” because I want the train to survive until he understands that you don’t snatch cars from the train while it's whizzing around the track.
Alex and train

A few days ago, I read that children his age have a basic vocabulary of 25 words, and if the child can say 50 words and string a few of them together, he’s going to be a good communicator. His dad says he already speaks over 100 words, knows his colors, recognizes some of the alphabet, and, in general, shows “promise.”

I have high hopes for Alex – hopes that someone in the family besides me will be a writer. I like to write, but the time is nearing for me to retire my pen and welcome a new scribbler. I tried reading Mother Goose to Alex, today but he is a boy. He was more interested in my wooden train (the only toy I have left in the house) and succeeded in removing a part from a freight car; however, he attempted to attach the roof to the engine that another grandchild had pulled off, each time saying dramatically, “Oh no!” and batting those eyelashes again. Maybe he’s going to be an actor So far, his skill with words is the feature that overwhelms us.

Overwhelms indeed! I remember when a librarian friend of mine told me, “Wait until you have grandchildren (and I’m past that). Fred and I used to watch television in the living room in the evenings. But since we’ve acquired grandchildren, when they come to visit, they get on the floor in the middle of the living room and all we do is sit and watch them.” She didn’t tell me how fascinating great-grandchildren would be.

Yes, children are mesmerizing, particularly when they learn to speak, which Alex has been working on for the past year. Here’s a poem from my chapbook, Post Cards From Diddy Wah Diddy that I wrote to commemorate those first sounds from Alex we thought were formed words:

ALEX TRIES TO TALK AT YEAR ONE

because we are eager for conversation,
quick to translate his babble.
We hear “want it” bubbling on his tongue
when a fragment of ice is thrust at him,
the inchoate language of what we think he says,
a sign he has moved from solitude
to expressing desire for something,
the gymnastic voice of an infant opera singer
lifted, applauded,
the secrets in his mind expressed at last.

Mardi Gras is over, and I can’t boast about catching strands of purple, gold, and silver beads , but thanks to my infant Mardi Gras king, I do have a cow figurine with a broken leg to show for the celebration – “Oh no!” 

P.S. I'm only kidding -- his father saved the cow from injury several times during the visit.

Photos by Daddy Martin

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