Saturday, April 17, 2010

Measure Once, Cut Twice -OR- One More Turn

I loved my grandfather very much.  He was my role model for many reasons, but, as a kid, he was shelter, security, and warmth.  He possessed large, thick hands that enveloped me when I needed him.  When I was very young, I used to think his warmth came about because he was slightly overweight (my mother will groan over that part...right, Ma?).  At times, he did sport extra padding, but the warmth seemed to stick around even when he dropped the extra 20 lbs (anytime he chose).  I never really knew why he carried the extra 20 - must have been for storing that warmth, like a capacitor storing charge?

Warmth in his hands, warmth in his eyes, warmth in his heart, he was brilliant with people, brilliant in general (I mean grab-your-shades brilliant), and I miss him.  So naturally, being a curious (and at times, irreverent) trickster as a kid, I looked for imperfections in this giant of a man.  After all, no one's perfect.  I remember beating him at chess for the first time:  his impenetrable armor had a crack.  I whooped around the house the first time I stumped him with my very own impossible-to-answer-by-anyone-except-me trivia question; the crack widened.  Most of all, I crowed over his, "Now, just one more make it (whatever it was) tighter..."

Evidence of "One more turn" lay in ample evidence around my grandparents' house, which blended pictures of my ancestor magi, including one of a relative who I thought was God for a long time (actually, I still think it's a picture of God) with painted white brick, a black wrought iron ?fence, wallpaper, a giant cabinet record player and other arcane furniture and mystical flatware.  Like this - sort of:

Honestly, I don't think I was needling him when I asked him the first few times why there were pointy bumps in the kitchen table.  At every meal, the 3 bumps greeted me at my appointed spot (they were overzealously tightened screws).  I suppose I might have been  tugging on his cape a tad when I wondered aloud why the bottom of the hassock had just a few more screws, staples, and nails than it should have, and or why some spots had really big screw holes but no screws.  He'd just grin and hug me. 

The other day, Claire (of the Batman villain camera angle)

stood at the bathroom sink.  The ditty she sang had no words, and seemed to repeat the same notes...over and over again.  During the period of silence that reigned PRIOR to the song (that silent tune that sends parents running to see what conflagration their kids have sparked), Claire had painted the entire bathroom sink and counter with a thin coat of water, and she now busied herself cleaning it up.

Claire:  Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy!
Me:  (in the other room.  big sigh) Uh, yes Claire?
Claire: DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADDY!  (Claire could not hear me over her own din)
Me: (big sigh) YES, Claire?
Claire:  Come in here!
Me: (loving being summoned with no clue as to why my presence is required.  Arriving...)  Yes, honey?
Claire: (palms pressed to sides of face, squishing cute cheeks slightly.  This is Claire's self-conscious pose OR her "Look what I did" pose)  Look at what I did!
Me: (seeing evidence of not-totally-cleaned-up-water and sopping wet towels) What did you do?
Claire: (ascertaining that I walked into her trap, looking very pleased with herself) I CLEANED UP after myself!
Me: Oh, great.  Thanks, kiddo! (congratulated Claire for her cleanup, asked her to wash the sink with only a slightly damp washcloth the next time the urge to clean washed over her like a tsunami.)

Could be this incident, could be the "made bed" of sheets scrunched at the bottom of the bed with the rumpled covers, could be the clothes put in the hamper, but with socks rolled into the inside-out pants...but I find some similarities between my daughter and my grandfather.  I see the doctrine of "one more turn" and that of wet sinks, piled clothing, and messy beds as lovely imperfections.  "Only" human?  Thankfully human.

The grandfather angle files into the endearing personality trait folder, but I think the kid angle is pretty important.  Sometimes parents will tell me that their 4 year-old just won't put away all of her toys (i.e. all 462), or that their 6 year-old can't seem to clean the kitty litter up without spilling it, or that beds and rooms are not as neat as they'd like.  Maybe the bed isn't made up to army-grade flatness, or the dusting a bit short of the white glove standard, but the kids are trying.  Is it reasonable to expect a kid to do things perfectly?  Shouldn't we expect them to do kids would?

Celebrate the made bed - don't always mention the messiness.  Applaud the effort at greatness - omit the "that's great...for a kid..."  I'm not saying that kids everywhere should get a trophy for participating - I loathe trinket-dusting - and I think we should grab teachable moments when we can, but I guess it's more important to acknowledge that SOME mastery itself sometimes is worth a standing "O."

Peter Pan:  Every time a child says, 'I don't believe in fairies,' there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.

Every time a child's balloon thbpthbpbpbpthbpbpbp's across the room for lack of attention to their deed, or worse, for having their triumph critiqued, some spark of magic winks out.

How does all of this apply to my grandfather? Well, for one, I doubt that Bob Vila would have featured us in his shed-building episode, since my own cutting often eclipses my measuring.  For another, as my grandfather generated warmth, so did he generate magic.  No fairies died on his watch:  a child speaking to him had Sun and Moon rotating about them.  Lastly, not that lopsided sheds are to be celebrated, but a little recognition that perfection (including parental perfection) grows on the same tree as the Golden Apple.  Aspire for it, but unless you share genes with Greek gods or star on your own TV show with your 12 person staff behind-the-scenes, take a bite out of the Gala in your hand, and if you happen to eat a seed, heck, it's fiber.

Or an apple tree in your belly.

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