My Best Portrait Ever

In the midst of a week when governments fiddled while the Amazon burned, and continual bad and crazy presidential behavior bludgeoned us, I received a welcome letter from Sweet Baby in the mail. It contained a penline and crayon portrait of me (she says) with long curly hair, a rainbow-skirted dress (with a tiny bow), an apple in a green tree, and a heart for love. Spirits rose!

Mr. Putter, Tabby, and Oberon, Too

If you have only two days for a visit with important people, you pack in all the favorite activities. So, no “Borrowed Flowers” today, because I keep thinking about Sweet Baby and her cousins and our time with them.

At ages seven, four, and two, abilities and interests vary, but affections seem of a kind. Elaborate train track set-ups interested all, and provided agility training for the grandparents with tracks and cars and engines scattered about. In a melding of super heroes and princesses, the three play well together (until they don’t, as Mrs. Hughes once said).

Little presents for the visit need to be equal in number and significance. This time, a book for each from Cynthia Rylant’s “Mr. Putter and Tabby” series (neither Tabby nor Mr. Putter have been cute or peppy for a very long time), worked, and led to many readings. Late on Saturday afternoon when Downtown Abbey became the “The Napping House,” Lady B and I sat at the kitchen table, and she, starting with Tabby, drew the characters from the books, while updating me on her life.

During dark times this winter I wondered if I’d ever walk in the mountains again. But, the road into Powerline Pass where we camped over night last summer, provides an easy way into a grand mountain valley for Baby Brother and his granny.

Encouraged by the fleet-footed girls, he determinedly walked the whole way! Whatever her older cousin does, Sweet Baby attempts. When they tiptoed out a fat log into a puddle and neared the end, she asked “Now what do we do?” before gamely splashing down in the leap from log to land.

An inbound hiker told Uncle Tutu that he’d seen a black bear cross the trail an hour earlier, so we walked a mile singing, “no bears, no bears, no bears today” and sat on the flank of Flattop Mountain in a patch of bearberry, to eat our sandwiches and peanut butter cookies. The cousins played in tunnels formed by the “gimme shelter” trees (black spruce bent and gnarled by the wind).

Walking out, luckily before spirits flagged, I remembered “Simon Says” – “take ten steps and do the hula” or “take 19 steps doing the skaters Granny Katy’s physical therapist taught her.” At the uphill just before the parking lot, Lady B took charge: “Simon says run up the hill!”

At breakfast each morning, Mr. Carson is doing a wonderful thing with his children. I didn’t ever get to ask him how or why this came about, but they work on their “lines” (from a Shakespeare play), now “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I nearly teared up listening to Baby Brother and Lady B recite lines from Oberon’s speech with such a sense of fun:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:

I loved it – and learned from them about oxlips (a primula found where cattle and oxen graze) and eglantine (wild roses! I never knew). Later that day, when we walked through the Alaska Botanical Garden, the three ran circles around the beds in the Herb Garden until Lady B came to an abrupt stop and shouted: “I found thyme!”

Oh, and another thing, Lady B opened that door to the world’s knowledge, adventure, and pleasure and has become an able reader. When I asked her if it felt like magic, she agreed with a firm nod of her head.

I’m beyond grateful to the surgeon and the physical therapists for putting my knee together to allow more shared experience with these children. When we got home, on a FaceTime call to check in, Baby Brother greeted us with a grin, saying: “Hello Mr. Poppa Jammy! and hello Mr. Granny Katy!”