Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Norah 1 Month . . . from Grandma Alice

Anticipation…that moment after the plane lands and before you see the first family member….

The luggage still hadn’t started its spin on the carousel when I stepped outside the Delta terminal to spot Marita and the kidmobile. I stole a quick look at darling Norah then whisked Logan and Liliana back into the airport to help me find my suitcase while Marita fed the baby in the van. Logan and Liliana were generous with their hugs and their help as they took turns schlepping my oversized suitcase (half filled with books and toys of course!) It was the start of a great week in Seattle.

Updates on all the kids: Logan is the big guy, and sometimes it’s hard to remember he’s only three. That’s true in ways that probably make his life harder—you just expect more of him than he can possibly deliver. But it’s true in really terrific ways, too—he’s so smart and capable, so logical and competent. Great Grandpa Ben sent the kids a set of Magna-Tiles (if you don’t know what they are, trust me, they are in the same league as Lego) and Logan was entranced for the better part of an hour, building and rebuilding and creating incredible structures and designs. He’s also Liliana’s big-brother figure, a tease and tormentor at times as all big brothers are, but when push comes to shove it is Logan who has Lil’s back.

Kaya is the most changed since last I saw her—sturdily walking, steadily talking, a delicate beauty with an unmistakable little iron will. She seems to stay centered through the storms of the older kids and the squalls of young Norah (who she tenderly calls “No-wah.”) ‘Kai-kai’ stands her ground, repeating the same word or request again and again until she makes herself heard and understood. It is already clear: she’s never going to be someone who gives up easily.

And Liliana: what can I say? She’s a bright light who is both impish and compassionate; a chatterbox with plenty to say; a child who can’t walk across a room without exploring its every detail, who is starting to experiment with what makes things funny and practicing her jokes on the adults around her. Watching her consider new information is like being caught in an intellectual high beam; you can almost feel the intensity of her inward focus as she scans for references, and then the comprehension flashes on her face as she “gets” it. She includes Norah without hesitation; whatever is happening in Liliana’s world, baby sister is already counted in. She likes to handle things “by myself!” as she says; and she is adamant about her right to privacy. But she is also generous, kind, and astonishingly empathic. At one point when she and I found ourselves momentarily lost, she looked solemnly into my slightly troubled face and reassured me: “Don’t worry, Grandma, I will take care of you.”

Finally: Norah. Blindsided again by the power of love. From the curl of her sleeping body against the curve of a shoulder, to the amazing strength of her neck and head as she cranes for a better view of the world, she already occupies her own special place in the family, the household, the hearts of everyone, including me of course. Every day brought change and growth; by the time I left the smiles that earlier in the week seemed almost random and possibly accidental, were focused and definite and engaged.

This is the longest I’ve visited, and every day brought new adventures. The night I arrived I had the pleasure of seeing a performance by Ian’s band, “The Good Luck Number” at a little club called the Tiger Lounge. The music was great but the best aspect of the band, I think, is their joyful interaction, and the ease with which they invite the audience to share the good times. Even for an old lady like me it was fun to watch and listen, and I once again took pride in the values expressed in so many of Ian’s songs: justice and community and love. I’m especially proud of Ian for the husband and father and artist he chooses to be, and the responsibilities he carries so gracefully.

I took my first trip to the Seattle zoo! I sorted FuzziBunz! I became reacquainted with the literature of Tinkerbell (maybe a few dozen times.) I had the great pleasure of spending several nights at a beautiful hotel with my wonderful sister “Aunt Janet”, and sharing two of those nights with Liliana and her blankets and dollies and binkys (don’t lose the blue one, thank you. By the way, the hotel is a find—Cedarbrook Lodge, right near the airport but nothing like an airport hotel. Check it out at www.cedarbrooklodge.com. If I sound like a paid ad it’s because our every request was met with generosity and graciousness—and booked through Expedia it was one of the least expensive accommodations in Seattle, full breakfast included.)

I shared hours of conversation with Marita, marveling as always at her warmth and wisdom, the depth of her maternal devotion and her capacity to love. I experienced the kindness of Mike and Rachael as they truly went out of their way to welcome me. I can’t say it’s easy being so far away from the day-to-day lives of so many people who are so dear to me. But I can say that every visit, and this one more than ever, has made me feel part of those lives in a profound way; I feel known and appreciated and loved, and grateful beyond measure. Till next time…Grandma Alice

P.S. You should note that we will be taking monthly pictures of Norah in the same sock monkey and silly reversible outfit we made Liliana wear (we thought we'd better be fair and consistent here--though we did start on the blue side instead so that it wasn't exactly the same. Must avoid sibling rivalry).