Here’s the (completely inappropriate and rather obscene, really) song reference.
Deedaw was in the mood for the chaos of our companionship yesterday. After the girls had finished the bulk of their schoolwork, the tribe and I bustled out to the van to meet her at Toys R Us, to spend the rewards dollars that were about to expire (there is a certain pleasure in walking out of the store with new easel pads without unlimbering my wallet) and help her find a suitable birthday gift for Nephew, who will be two years old next week. Beanie and Mr. Man helpfullly demonstrated nearly any toy that could be demonstrated for their paternal grandmother, and Bugaboo willingly offered her best advice on what might delight a two-year old boy.
We separated for a short time; Deedaw headed for the grocery store to procure a gallon of milk and some cookies, while we braved a drive-through window for some unhealthy, but no less welcome, lunch selections from the kids’ second-favorite fast food establishment, Big Yellow M. After gathering around Deedaw’s dining room table for chicken nuggets, fries, and burgers, Baby Guy took a nap, Bugaboo and Beanie set about finishing the rest of their schoolwork, and Mr. Man careened from room to room, unable to decide whether he wanted to snuggle into his sleeping bag for a nap or have a tea party without his sisters. Once the girls had finished the last of their math drills, the three of them headed outside to play. It’s been a remarkably mild winter so far, and the gift of a sixty-degree January day was one our three eldest intended to fully enjoy.
While the tribe swung on swings, made forts under bushes, and played hide and seek among the trees, Deedaw and I restored a little order to the kitchen table, then set up a pair of paper shredders. She had a number of boxes of old documents that needed to be shredded, and figured the work would go a little faster with two pairs of hands and some conversation. Since Deedaw and I share a love of old-school singers like Doris Day and Frank Sinatra, I added a Pandora station created just for the two of us to the mix, and we passed a few hours shredding old papers, talking, periodically bursting into song, occasionally bursting into tears as we shared memories of Nonno, and plying the occasional curious small person with heart-shaped cookies. Baby Guy awoke a couple of hours in to our task, and, after he satisfied his curiosity about these strange black machines that had the magical power of making paper disappear with a clatter, joined his siblings for a romp in the yard.
As the sun went down and the temperature dropped, the tribe returned to the great indoors, one by one. Since they had been rather good about following instructions and helping when asked without overmuch grumbling, Deedaw and I decided to grant them TV privileges, and turned on Sprout for their viewing pleasure. We probably should not have been surprised when they all found the paper shredders to be far more interesting than television, and we found ourselves surrounded by four very eager assistants. After a quick discussion, we decided that in the interests of not burning out the shredder motors, we could only handle one little helper at a time, plus Baby Guy to jump up and down and clap his wee hands every time a sheet disappeared into the wastebasket.
Every so often, I had to break from shredding detail to tend to dinner; during one of those intervals, Mr. Man was assisting Deedaw by feeding papers into one of the shredders. He was, by far, our most enthusiastic helper, and the best at redirecting Baby Guy’s hands from the power cords without causing him to wail. As I stirred the ziti, I heard Deedaw admonish her oldest grandson, “Wait a minute, Mr. Man, we don’t grind everything up. That’s something Deedaw needs to save. You have to let me look at the papers before you grind them.”
Those who have known me best and longest know that there is a perpetual soundtrack running through my head, usually involving popular music from the 1980s. Random words will trigger memories of random songs, and her reference to shredding as grinding produced one that was utterly, completely, horribly inappropriate to the situation. I couldn’t stop the laughter that bent me double and made me grasp the kitchen counter to keep from falling over. Baby Guy had no idea what had struck me funny, but he decided that if I was laughing, he should laugh, too; Deedaw and Mr. Man smiled somewhat puzzled smiles at the two of us, and I gaspingly explained to Deedaw that I’d had sudden recollection of an album that had completely horrified my parents when I was a teenager.
We all returned to our work, Bugaboo and Beanie periodically wandering in to relieve Mr. Man, until it was time to put dinner on the table. As has become our custom, we remembered Nonno in our grace before the meal.
After we had eaten and dealt with the majority of the dinner dishes, we gathered in the kitchen to see if there was any other help we could offer Deedaw. All of the tiny people were pleading to be allowed to run just one more sheet through a shredder.
The Pandora station was still playing, and a song came on that made Deedaw fall silent for a moment, then softly remark, “That was our song. That was Nonno and my song.”
At that, Bugaboo burst into noisy tears, sobbing, “I miss Nonno!”
I gathered her to me and cried my own tears into her hair before releasing her to Deedaw, who had been gently exhorting her to come over for a hug. Beanie, round-eyed and solemn, looked up at me and mumbled, “I miss Nonno, too,” collecting a hug of her own before wandering off into the family room to look at the old pictures; Mr. Man stood close by Manie, and Baby Guy clambered up into my lap, touching my tears with his little fingers and snuggling close, as he always does when someone is sad.
Deedaw, for her part, held Bugaboo close, smoothing her hair and drying her tears, and whispered to her how precious she had been to Nonno, how much he had loved her, how much he had loved all of us, and how terribly we all missed having him here with us. We grieved together, the seven of us, but even in our tears, we remarked how blessed we all had been to be loved by a good and gentle man.
Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for the family You have built among us, and for the wise counsel of Nonno, who sought always to teach and do what was right and good in Your eyes, who sorrowed when those for whom he had the care chose to disregard You and rejoiced when they returned to Your ways. Thank You for the soft hearts of Your little blessings, who saw You in Nonno’s face and in both his playfulness and his correction, for their burgeoning understanding that the way to You is through simple acts of love and sharing. Lord, please help us teach them that the way we are to love one another is to share the very best of the undeserved blessings which You have given us, even if the best we have to share on a given day is but the honest sorrow of a grieving heart, nimble fingers to feed papers into a shredder, or a reminder that You promise eternity with You to those who live in Your friendship. Please help us remind them that showing love to one another more often looks like the small, everyday things done with great joy and care than the grand gesture, and that authentic love does not need to aggrandize itself, but reflects glory and honor back to You.