My sister sends me a t-shirt years ago.
It said, “I don’t know if I am the good witch or the bad witch.”
I burst into tears and put it in the trunk of my car. I never wear it. I am the designated bad witch for half my family. We won’t go into that.
She gets a shirt too. Hers is the green one. Mine is black.
She is dead, in 2012, breast cancer. It’s hard to describe the fallout. Toxic and radioactive. But… I have decided not to be a witch.
Instead, I am a practicing grandmother.
Really I’ve been one for a while. There was a young couple who lived down the street with two children. This was in 2014. I was a Facebutt friend, so sometimes noted what was happening. The father has to travel for his job. The mother is trying to care for two kids and work and so on… been there.
In 2014 I am recovering from my third round of pneumonia. This third round it takes six months before I can return to work. Short of breath and coughed if I talked. The state medical watch doctors went to disable me but I fight them tooth and nail. I win.
I wander down to the neighbor and offer my services. She already knows me. She is instantly grateful and two year old T is introduced to me, again. He doesn’t really remember me. She explains that he is coming to my house for a little while and then back home.
T and I walk towards my house.
A nuthatch calls.
I stop and reply. In college I took ornithology and the teaching assistant could do a barn owl call so well that the barn owls would do a territorial fly over at night to see who had the weird accent. Marvelous.
The nuthatch and I went “enh” back and forth. T is amazed. This woman talks to birds. Then we see the nuthatch! I point out how nuthatches come down a tree head first. “If you hear that call, it’s a nuthatch. Look for it.” The nuthatch is very cooperative. Magic.
We get to my house. T is clutching a book. “He’s taking it everywhere,” sighs his mother. “I’m not sure why.”
So first we read the book. It is a board book about a farm. Each page has a central picture and then there are pictures around the edges with the word under each picture. On one page T says, “Haaaaay.”
“Oh!” I say, delighted. “You can read HAY!”
His face lights up. An adult who gets it! Yes! He can read HAY!
On another page he says HAY. “Oh,” I say, “That is straw. Straw is a lot like hay but it’s not exactly the same.”
He is very serious absorbing that information.
I show him my closet. There is a stick horse. Only it isn’t a horse: it’s a unicorn dragon, with a forehead horn and wings. When you press a button it’s eyes flash and it roars.
Ok, that’s pretty scary. He wants the closet door closed and he does NOT want to play with the dragon.
Next is pouring. I get out a towel and put it on the kitchen floor. I get out a rather nice expresso set. Bright colors. Orange and green and yellow and blue. I fill the coffee pot with water and invite him to sit on the towel. “You can pour the tea.”
He looks at me with surprise. He picks up the coffee pot. He looks at me again. “Go ahead. It’s ok.” He starts pouring into a cup. He pours until the cup overflows and the saucer overflows and he keeps pouring. The coffee pot is empty. He looks at me a little warily. This is technically spilling and he knows it.
“Would you like more in the teapot?”
I refill the coffee pot with water and he starts again, with a different cup.
When I return him to mom, after two hours, he’s damp. “Sorry, he got a little wet, but it’s just water,” I say cheerfully. Mom is too harried to do much more than look resigned at a change of clothes.
Next time he comes with a change of clothes and his large stroller, in case he goes down for a nap.
And first off, he goes to the closet. Time to hear that dragon roar again.