|she's in the middle|
"Grandma, don't say shit," she's three years old and is perched on my couch watching Dora the Explorer do the chicken dance on my laptop over and over. I am talking to Susan back in San Diego and I always cuss a lot during our conversations because it is the right and authentic thing to do. "You do know how much Grandma hates that video, don't you?" I ask. "I do know that, Grandma."
My own Nana was a joyous, devil-may-care flapper who tossed down her beers with a Pall Mall cigarette jauntily held between fire engine red polished nails and who told me not to wear underwear to bed because "women need to air themselves out." This was heavy stuff to my eight-year-old self, product of a Catholic education and a mother who insisted I clean rooms that were already clean and yes, wear underwear to bed. Nana's daughters told me she was not a good mother, multiple affairs, even the taxi driver who brought her home, but damn, she was a great grandma and introduced me to my first Chinese restaurant, a dive frequented by lower Main street prostitutes. We had ice cream for breakfast and she said "shit" a lot and "sugar" when my father was in the room. And whispered confidences sometimes ended in "don't tell your mother." I know my daughter's antennae just stood at attention and I comfort her by saying, nothing serious, go back to work.
Parents of young children have no sense of humor. And if they do have one then they're not paying attention. If they're smart they are busy growing eyes in the backs of their heads and this is the best advice I can give to unfortunate people experiencing a child entering adolescence. Hoo haw, you have some interesting years ahead and I am not just referring to drivers' education and all that it implies. I spent a lot of time on the passenger's side of my car, my knees jack-knifed into my chest, a reflex protective action, a result of children driving up and over the curb and thinking nothing of it.
I can't imagine a life without children. There would be much less noise, less laughter, the bellyful kind with tears streaming down my cheeks, bathroom humor can be fun coming from a cynical nine-year-old with an arid dry sense of humor. Rules are different the second time around, thank god, because they sure weren't much fun the first time and in the autumn of my life, the overrated, overly mature autumn of my life, I question the necessity of some of those rules.