Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Best Christmas Present

Christmas has come and gone. Just one day after, I’ve already seen the first abandoned trees on street corners and it feels weird to hear Jingle Bell Rock or Silent Night. The boxes and wrapping paper are in the recycling bins and we’re searching for the receipts of the clothes that didn’t fit.

After a thorough cleansing of the front room (future blog coming on this fascinating subject), the lack of excessive gifts for me under the tree was a relief— few new things to file and store! As for gift-giving, after the initial stress, it does feel satisfying for me to look for things that add a little sparkle or opening door to my loved ones— a book, a CD, a new item of clothing, a ukelele. But perhaps the best gift I gave was helping Kerala and Ronnie go away for a night in Calistoga and leaving little Zadie in our care. And it was also the best gift I received.

After a dim sum breakfast, the parents-turned-lovebirds drove off and Karen, Aunt Talia and I took Zadie to a new playground. Talia took off just before the afternoon nap and suddenly there we were like in the old days— Karen and I in charge of a little one. But instead of the exhaustion of knowing it would be for 24 years, the sure knowledge that it was only 24 hours is the grand gift of grandparenting! Only the fun stuff and permission to bend or break a few rules!

Zadie graced us with a three and a half hour nap and then woke up ready to rock and roll. She began painting a fingerpainting with Karen and what a grand time she had! Then I brought up the Ghana xylophone and djembe and off we went for a rollicking jam session. She invented the game of playing and stopping on the xylophone, with me following her lead on the drum. Then we switched. From there, Karen and I worked on dinner while Zadie sang songs and told stories to her stuffy Eeyore and danced around perfectly content in circles. Such an independent young woman, able to effortlessly entertain herself without any help from electronic devices.

At dinner, we gave her a leftover green onion pancake heated up a bit too hot. A quick tear and then a healing song while it cooled down. The next pancake I served cold and she said, “Cold. It’s not hot.” Not something anyone would notice but a doting grandpa observing her thinking crystallizing into language, the way she made the connection of opposites. Later I sneezed and she said, :”Bless you.” And then, “Are you okay?” Up until this point, her language has been mostly repeating, but now it’s kicking into another gear of independent thought and surprising connections and observations. I don’t remember being quite this astounded with this stage with my own children, but then again, I was in the thick of the whole deal and probably didn’t feel the luxury of such detailed observation.

We all would have been happy to continue on with various activities after dinner, but having bonded with Zadie last May watching “Lady and the Tramp,” we decided to cozy in with popcorn and “Dumbo.” She made a running commentary on the rain and choo-choo train and elephants and “What happened?” and I was happy to revisit my own Disney childhood. And intrigued by the LSD-inspired (it seemed) Pink Elephant bit and the black-cultured crows singing and jiving to the “Did You Ever See an Elephant Fly?”

Then the bedtime routine of the bottle, book and night-night song and there it was, Zadie’s first night away from her parents. She saw them in the photos on the wall and commented and at one point nonchalantly said “Mama and Dada bye-bye,” but she is a model of the security that let her give herself over temporarily to Mima and Pop-pop, who turned out to be, if I may say so myself, pretty entertaining. We’ll see how tomorrow morning goes!

Meanwhile, keep these kind of Christmas presents coming!

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