Monday, January 9, 2012

Diversionary Tactics for My Visitor, My 5 yr old Ukrainian niece

I am having a diminutive guest coming this Friday.  Only four days before the 'hellion' crosses my threshold.  The problem that must be overcome is the exhaustion I have by that time of day.  This is common to the demilinating classes, especially the uninsured like myself.  I have Multiple Schlerosis.

She is my 'Little Ukrainian.'  She is strawberry blond.  She is the daughter of my nephew that I wrote my last blog about.  She is plucky and doesn't back down.  She will insist on being called a 'great niece' if I am going to be her 'great aunt.'   She  probably does carry the blood of Kossacks.  She tilt's her head and and can give you an 'eye-lashing' like an Abbess of the snobbiest convent in any part of the Holy Roman Empire.  I hope to have much fun.  This is why I fear my exhaustion, even crankiness, at four in the afternoon.

 I saw Dame Maggie Smith in the new season of Downton Abbey only last night.  She seems to be mellowing this season.  What I fear is last season's Dowager coming out in me, withering glances and exasperated breathing..  And my lack of intercourse with society has left me free to voice my crankiness for so long, I only hope I can re-educate myself to enter polite society by Friday.  I was a child who never had a voice raised against me.  Only once did my mother break down and touch me to correct me, but I think I was an object of opportunity, and she already had a brush in her hands. I must have been that 'know-it-all' twelve or thirteen year old that just makes a mother want to smack you for your impertinence of being a thirteen year old.  It never occurred to me to consult my mother on anything.    Yes, I was swatted across the back of the legs.  I should say thighs, as I was in my first pair of madras burmuda shorts. And even then she didn't raise her voice, but rather whispered, "You  won't get away with it, whatever it is!"

I was stunned and I grabbed her hand, saying simultaneously, "Why did you do that?"  I know the nuns must have done it to her, as I  reflect on my own Catholic school education.  And she, poor thing, was actually in a convent school during the war, since the fleet had swollen to immense proportions during WWII, here in the largest naval base in the world.
So, looking back over 50 years later, I understand,  to some extent, that she was swatting at the 'temptress' 'future impudent daughter'  when she said:  "Nothing that I know about, but you have or will be doing something I don't approve of."

I am not kidding for one moment.  When I was getting ready to go off to University, she forced me to sit in her 'sherry drinking' chair, and brought me a can of beer, put it on a coaster on the marble topped table, that had never before had anything but sherry on it (or port).  My jaw dropped. She said:  "Drink that!"  Me:  "Beer?  You want me to paint the rod iron or something?"  (I associated beer with the awful job of painting the exterior of the house.  In the heat of the south, it was the only appropriate beverage to quench the thirst of a man up on a ladder, ensuring he would go back up and finish the job if he wanted another.  Even an Anglican bishop would drink beer under these circumstances. )  She replied that I was to drink that beer to the bottom.  Well, I couldn't.  Not fast anyway.  I hadn't acquired the taste at 17.  She went into the kitchen and came back a few minutes later and lifted the can.  "Drink it all up.  I am going to stand here while you do.  None of your tricks of giving it to the dog."  I finished it off to give my mother relief.  She took the can away, went back to the kitchen, and came back with another one.  "Drink this one as well.  I give you five minutes max."  "But mom, I just can't do it, it is so filling."  "Well, it won't be so filling if you are on a dance floor twisting and  fruuging.  It will be a thirst quencher.  Drink it up."

There was no way out but to do as she said.  It wasn't easy.  Now a gin and tonic, or a Manhattan was another matter.  I passed as a sophisticated college girl in Washington, D.C.  But she knew nothing of that.  Or did she?

Well.  I got it down and then she sent me down the hill to fetch a pail of water.  Actually, to pick daffodils for the dinner table.  She watched me the whole way from the dining room window.  It wasn't over.  When I brought her the flowers, she said:  "You must have eaten your whole lunch at school and snacked at the drug store."
" Mom," I whined, "what is this all about? " Her reply: " I want to have a picture in my mind about how you will be behaving at college."  I had no idea what she was talking about.  Didn't she know about spin the bottle?  I didn't ask.

You can't make this stuff up.  Maybe it was what all the mothers of Northern Virginia were doing with their graduating seniors.  I don't know what tag to put on this to get any views and statistics.  But looking back at the year, 1966, the world as she knew it was falling apart.  She knew an innocent girl like me was going to get plucked pretty quick.   And that I would be the seducer!   It tells me years later that she waited until my father came along.  When boys would come to pick her up for dates and dances, she refused to come down the stairs, and her sister would go out with these local guys.  She didn't know how to refuse and invitation, it seems, and my aunt did all the dancing with these guys.  My aunt would be dressed to kill, and ready to trot when these guys came to pick my mother up.  When my dad showed up, an officer in uniform, a Frenchman, Montreal to Chicago, she accepted right away.  And I was born ten months after the wedding.  All was well in their dancing paradise.

Now I have to figure out how to get back to what I was talking about originally, and how I got on the subject of the 'beer test."  Oh, I get it.  I have to preengineer the glide path of my five year old niece's eyes, and the available distractions, to keep her occupied until we can get acquainted and conversant.  Everything I have would qualify as an 'attractive nuisance' to her eyes, not to be found in any other space she had visited before.

If you must know, there is a pink chiffon scarf with a border of white polka dots hanging directly across from the front door.  I have decided to sacrifice this scarf for the cause.  I will not tie it for her.  I will insist she show me what options she had, and, believe me, she knows her scarf options.  These little girls today are raised on 'princess costumes' we would never have dreamed of. She likes the Genie costumes best.  Slaves in China and Indonesia make them for the market here.

I have a little foam cube, hollow inside, as it  was used to ship my neighbors diabetes medicine.  I have some fabric and some batting so she can make her own little princess stool.  She will be able to sit at my coffee table as if it were an arts and craft table.  (I have to open it up to map table size before she gets here.  She dare  not see my magical table's unfolding.  I would never have a moments peace then.)

She will have paper and pencil only.  No water colors or finger paints in my limited area.  I have some jello packages set aside, but only if she can sit and work on her drawings while I boil the water.  She must learn that I will not be rushed.  It gives me a 'stomach ache.'  That ought to be something she can identify with.  I will not use a whip and a chain.  I will bow and scrape and 'guide' her.  All this from someone who is known for not stopping kids, in giving them their natural movements, as I point out to parents,  "That child is not violating any law of nature."   (I can't stand hearing people yell at their children, saying No. Stop. or Be Quiet.  It is the parent's that make the most public disturbance.)

Now I have to be a real pro to keep my own tired, haggard self from doing it, too.  I have a real task ahead of me in the next few days.  And this child does not nap.  She is over it
We will not do the bath, either.  I just can't handle it.  Although I know that it is an age old  debriefing scheme of all parents.  It calms every one down; something necessary is being accomplished;  and it provides a real service to society.

I am breathless from anticipating this.  If it is a 'success', she will be here every Friday of the Spring Semester.  I can not put a child seat in my sport' car.  I mean, that back seat is not really functional, is it?  I know I can't put my Aunt's dog back there, because the dog, as all dogs must, hangs out the window. If he didn't have the air, he would be thru the seats and stepping on the gear shift.    He is so big, I don't know whether he would tilt the car.

Am I helping myself here?  Well, yes, I am being prepared, as best I can.  I am not so simple-minded, yet, to not know that there will be contingencies, and the unknown.  Dealing with the known is all I can expect of myself.  I know more than most.  But things will be forgotten.  And remembered in the reliving.   And  I was never a princess as a child. Maybe a Kossack, though.  No, I was Hemingway's nurse, helping the wounded, crawling to the injured as bombs flared overhead.  We were post WWII children.  Boomers.  We have made a mess of the world.

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