Because I was in Alaska when news came of the Sweet Baby’s arrival, I got to watch Lady Baby see the first photos of her new cousin. With the sweetest expression of curiosity and awe, she said, “She’s so tiny. She’s the size of Pink Baby, right?” (Pink Baby is a soft doll clad in pink terry cloth, a long-standing, cherished member of the family.)
At Downtown Abbey now when I’m with Lady Baby, it’s like visiting with a really good friend. We enjoy each other, laugh at old jokes and memories, and share new experiences. Her dad came home one day and said, “You two are thick as thieves!”
He’d found us sitting at the top of the basement steps with the door closed. (It’s always closed and has a cat flap because the Ladies Cora and Winnie aren’t allowed in the basement where the Lords Cromwell and Wolsey spend a lot of time.) I’m not sure why we hunkered on the top step chatting. Well, actually, (as Lady Baby often begins a sentence), she had requested we sit for a “meeting,” because of some “concerns” about Baby Boy. (He likes to skate but fell on the ice. I said: “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” She replied: “It’s OK, he’s a doll.”)
We spoke of other matters, the weirdly painted stairway walls (my doing long ago), more “concerns” (not serious ones because I can’t remember them), questioned how bulky Wolsey clambers up to his perch high on a shelf, and I told her the story of how Frances came to live with us. Lady Baby loves stories, and ones grounded in reality work just fine.
We only broke up the meeting because we’d discovered her bike in the basement where she showed me her steering and braking skills. We realized we could take it outside! (A miracle if you live in Alaska and only know bike riding in the basement.)
It’s a purple bike with training wheels, and must be really hard to pump, but she rode the whole way to the bakery, bike wheels spinning out a little on snow patches. Liberation – a bike to ride in springtime.
Muscles grow stronger with daily rides around the block, and one day we rode to the nearby school playground. We stayed a record two hours, sliding, swinging, and watching a family hide Easter eggs.
Whether Lady Baby rides her bike or we both walk, we’re fond of singing loudly “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor….” Lady Baby doesn’t know Mr. Rogers yet, but she surely knows the first part of his song, and sang with lusty enthusiasm while tromping the gritty sidewalks.
This time I suggested the ancient Johnny Horton hit “When It’s Springtime In Alaska…”, but couldn’t remember any words. So Lady Baby sang, “It’s springtime in Alaska, and the birds are nearly singing!”
And that works just fine.
Previously on “Friends for Frances,” when we last saw Frances (pages 8-11), she watched helplessly as Cromwell and Wolsey, her not-so-welcome gentlemen callers, made themselves at home in her house and garden. She hissed and spit and deterred them not one bit. We return to the story: