On a quick, early June visit to Downtown Abbey, Lady Baby greeted me by taking my hand and asking if I wanted to see some new things in her house.
A play kitchen is the standout – dishes, pots, pans, food – a stove with oven and a sink – everything needed to prepare a meal (wooden tomatoes make pasta sauce, a frilly fabric lettuce is salad) and serve it on her tiny table.
These meals take place in a much-enhanced playroom. One wall is now completely covered with an evocative wallpaper scene – it looks like an 18th century etching of trees in landscape with sky and clouds, all black and white and gray. A new spindle daybed sits under the big windows (with a little stepladder for Lady Baby easy access). A worn Persian rug stretches from wall to wall, and a lace tablecloth gracefully covers another window.
The look is a surprising setting for play – both calm and prepared for whatever excitement takes place in the center of the room, a perfect backdrop for imagination. And there is plenty of imagination on offer! I heard updates about Nick and family, though Baby Boy spent my whole visit in a little cradle covered with a blanket (I’m not sure why).
Mostly we had fun with friends – or outdoors. My painter friend invited us to tea and got out a treasure stash of toys – an old village with little people and vehicles, a cash register with coins and levers that provide much entertainment. My young friend and her mother came to a park with us and allowed themselves to be directed by the captain of a whale-watching boat. (I was the whale). We visited a park where a tall slide emerges through the mouth of a polar bear, each of its legs a tricky sort of ladder.
Daylight madness reigned in June Alaska – excess sunshine at crazy hours. Naps and bedtime became a bit of “our struggle.” (“It’s not time to go to bed, the sun is still up!”) One naptime (still a necessity) Lady Baby simply said “no” about getting into her crib. She told me her “baby brother” was sleeping in there, and she would sleep on the floor.
I agreed, and that night her parents put the crib mattress on the floor with favorite stuffed creatures, making a cozy nest. Recently I asked Mrs. Hughes about the current sleeping arrangement, and she told me that after several nights and naps of floor sleeping (with baby brother in the crib), Lady Baby now sleeps in a big girl bed.
We were always aware of sand running out on this short visit. On my departure day Lady Baby began summer “camp” with little friends – and that distracted. But her mom told me that, when talking about feeling sad that I was leaving, Lady Baby said, with palms turned up in a sort of exasperated and questioning gesture, “I’ve never known anyone who just leaves a house like Granna Katy.”
I’ll be back.