Child watching is supposed to keep us grandmothers young. If this is true, and I suspect it is really a Big Fat Lie, then why is it that all my bones ever want to do at the end of the day is pile up in a heap in some quiet corner? And why, at noon, do I crave a gin? Every day.
And why is it that I don’t rise sylph like from the floor after a session of playing cars or trains or whatever. Instead, this rising gets uglier and uglier, and needs more and more leverage. If I actually succumbed to the gin, I could understand this difficulty with rising, but I have restraint.
In a gym, if all this upping and downing is the elixir of youth, why doesn’t it work the same in a toy strewn living room? These, and many other deep philosophical questions, are what I ponder daily. Here, to illustrate these ponderings, is a narrative of a day last week, taken straight from my diary:
The Moose, his Mother and the Appenzeller Sennenhund (hereafter known as The Hound) slept over last night. The Son is traveling for business, and the Daughter-in-Law had to be at a training the next morning 40 miles away by 7:00 a.m.
The DIL tapped on the bedroom door at 5:30 a.m. and I joined the procession going down the hall – the DIL, followed The Moose, followed by The Hound. And suddenly, just like that, everyone was in my care.
By 8:30 I had already vacuumed up two canisters of dog hair, made the beds, put in a load of laundry, been out on a run with a defecating dog, made breakfast for one little guy, one big guy and one dog, and tried to tidy up because The Moose’s autism therapist (whom I think of as Mary Poppins – I wonder how much it would cost to bribe her to stay all day?) is due at 9. In the meantime, I have 40 pounds of two- legged craziness, 50 pounds of four-legged craziness and a Farmer/Hunter who in his third alter ego as a management consultant, is heading out to see a client, thus abandoning me to my fate. Come 5 p.m. I should have been able to look forward to a G&T as a just reward for all this, but at 6:30 a.m. The Moose rifled the fruit drawer and ran off with the only lime in the house. I searched, but it continues hiding in some secret spot, and The Moose is not telling. I must have done something perfectly dreadful in a previous life.
Immediately after The Farmer/Hunter/Management Consultant left, the landscapers showed up for instructions on trimming the shrubs. The Moose denied all knowledge of his shoes (which are probably in the same secret spot with the lime) and I couldn’t leave him alone in the house. The grass was soaked from all the rain last night, so I had to carry the young hooligan – all 40 pounds of him. I had no interest in also managing a barking dog on a leash or re-introducing a wet one back into the house, so The Hound was left alone inside where she barked and howled for her peeps. As I circled the property The Moose in my arms and landscapers in tow, The Hound’s protests drifted out of the open windows, mirroring our progress. I half expected to see the local ASPSA pulling up.
When we finished, the landscapers said they would be back later in the day. The Moose who had been trying to get down, finally succeeded. The cold, wet grass hit his toes. He changed his mind. I scooped him up and we went back to the house. Whereupon he flopped on the porch because he wanted to stay out. The Hound let us know that we would never be allowed to go anywhere without her again. While she is a lazy, pampered suburban thing, her ancestors herded sheep in the Swiss mountains and she can dig deep for those moves. I was blocked at the steps to the kitchen by a protesting Moose and a needy Hound, until all of a sudden, The Moose sat up and requested cheese and crackers. The Hound sensing an opportunity here led the way inside.
I put some crackers and cheese in a bowl, Mary Poppins arrived, I went to let her in and The Moose fed the lactose intolerant Hound the cheese.
The Moose went to work with Mary Poppins, and The Hound took the opportunity to bark the mailman off the property. Mary Poppins is also good with dogs and The Hound knew she had to be quick before a firm “no thank you” came her way. At snack time, The Hound found a further unexpected opportunity in making a temporarily unguarded snack disappear. That dog, never one to let a good opportunity slip, should probably teach a course on entrepreneurship.
After Mary Poppins left, The Moose put himself down for a nap. His normal view is that naps are a waste of time and he actively plots to avoid them. But this morning was an early one, and that combined with Mary Poppins’ agenda left him exhausted. When I found him snuggled into the guest bed, I applauded his good sense and immediately lay down beside him. The Hound is not the only one around here who can spot an opportunity. She, of course, joined us, and in less than 10 minutes we were all out.
It was wonderful for an hour and a half. Then the landscapers came back to start on the shrubs. The Hound sprang into action. I dragged her out of the bedroom and into the living room, but her blasting away woke up The Moose. He slipped out of bed and being totally dazed and confused found a corner behind the door from where he waited to be rescued. I had a panicked moment when I saw the empty bed before I found him.
It took two popsicles and a Hoodsie cup and a grandma’s lap, administered over the course of about 45 minutes to get him sort of awake.
The rest of the afternoon was pretty much downhill from there. The sun came out which started the world broiling; the house got hot; The Moose stayed tired; he missed his daddy; he missed his mommy; and he let me know this by doing every naughty thing he could think of. The Hound was hot and more determined than ever to go bald. The merest touch would trigger an atomic blast of hair. When I forgot myself and gave her a good ear scritch, the results were appalling.
With the fans going, hound hair tumbleweeds moved briskly about the place, adding to the general specialness. The afternoon stretched from about January to July, but eventually The DIL came and collected her brood. They went off to meet the Son, who was due home that evening, for dinner
I vacuumed for the third time that day and collected another full canister of dog hair. I put away toys. I put the dog covers in the wash. I was too tired for a gin. I simply lay on the sofa and wondered how soon I could go to bed. And where that lime had got to. And why some days are eight months long.
On Sunday, three days later, I was still virtuously (or obsessively) vacuuming and still coming up with a canister of dog hair each time. I moved the bench in the kitchen to get at what I hoped was the last of the tumbleweeds. And there was the lime. All wrapped up in a black, white and brown fur coat, masquerading as an Appenzeller puppy.
It was only noon. But as I washed off the lime, it struck me that the best thing I could do was perform a series of introductions: First the lime to some gin, then the gin to some tonic, and finally that G&T to me. Why risk another separation? The Moose is due again at 8 a.m. tomorrow.