by Nancy Orans Eder
Most people like sunny warm days without a cloud in the sky. Most people aren’t me. I prefer pouring rain, hail and snow so that I can be inside with Ani and Eliza.
Anya had her first sleepover in my apartment a long time. She is five and three quarters, almost six she informs me, but still holds sway over all my time and energy when I have her alone.
The thought of a sleepover was amazing. Actually it was one of the most exciting things in the last week of activity. Neither going to MOMA with a friend, out to lunch with another, the gym and exercise class, nor the late night Oscar party can compare to a day with the little girls.
Eliza, now eight and a half, was invited to a sleep over birthday party and I think her parents wanted to have their own night out. Anya, I was told, wanted to sleep over at my apartment. I was thrilled. What could be better? A night and possibly the whole morning with my youngest granddaughter makes headlines in my book.
“Would that include dinner beforehand?” I innocently asked my son. “Yeh, sure,” he said. So I went out in the pouring cold huddled under a black umbrella hunting for hamburger meat of a sufficiently high quality that I could rationalize giving her this dubiously healthy meal. Hamburgers and spaghetti with no sauce. Parmesan cheese. Dessert. Something else I don’t indulge in, but let’s not let diet concerns of my own intercede here, when it comes to my granddaughter. I spy a box of Rocky Road Klondike bars in the store freezer. That will definitely appeal. Laden down with food I myself would not select, I trudge upstairs discarding my wet things.
I go to bed planning thoughts of what to make for breakfast. And it’s only Thursday. Friday is sleepover night.
Tossing and turning sleep is delayed with thoughts and plans. Saturday must be pancakes for breakfast. There’s a Bobby Flay recipe which I’m going to try which is more nutritious and interesting sounding than the standard flour and egg combo. And blueberries. What five-year old could resist a pancake with a face made of blueberries eyes?
But first comes Friday night dinner. The phone rings and Anya’s mother calls to say they are delayed and Ani is now having dinner with two little girl friends in our building. Ani won’t be up until 7:00 p.m. I’m VERY disappointed. Annoyed actually. Convenience. Ani wants to eat with her friends? Fine. So who cares what I want!
I swallow it. There’s nothing to be done. Soon she’ll be here. I wind up eating a burger and spaghetti alone, shoving the Klondike bars in the freezer for another time.
7:00 p.m. comes and goes. I call to find out what’s keeping Anya who is probably having a great time. They’re on their way. Finally she arrives, bubbly and happy and so who could be angry.
And after two games of Old Maid and one story of Curious George getting a job, it’s off to the couch and bed for Ani. The evening ends quickly and too soon. But tomorrow is another day.
Saturday comes soon since I’ve not slept well. I woke to check to see that she wasn’t falling off the couch. I woke to check that she was covered and that it wasn’t too cold in the room. I checked to look at her serene sleeping little face framed in golden curls.
6:20 a.m. and I hear Ani rustling in the living room. I’ve laid out paper and markers which have become the crayons of the 21st century. I doze and the next thing it’s 7:10 a.m. and I’m now fully awake, happy that I’ve had this extra bit of sleep time. So, I call Anya to come into bed with me so that we can snuggle together. She brings with her a huge unlined drawing pad from the shelf. “Let’s play make a story. Will you help me illustrate it?” Before waiting for an answer she hops into bed with a large drawing pad and proceeds to draw a vertical line down the page marking each portion page 1 and 2. And then, “Once Upon a Time there was a seahorse. . .” starts the writing and illustration of what becomes a six-page book about said seahorse and her friend the crab. Anya writes the words down sounding out each “K-K-K-K” sound for “crab” and “R- R-R-R” for the second letter . She gets stuck on the a but gets the B.
And so it continues with the discussion of what to write and where to write it. She insists on the cover page include “written and illustrated by Nana and Anya” When I point out that she has done all the illustrations, she insists that I helped her.
Somehow it’s now 8:30 a.m. We’re in the kitchen measuring flour, cornmeal making whole wheat batter. Anya wants me to crack the eggs, but is eager to mix all the ingredients in the bowl. She greedily downs two big pancakes drizzled with real maple syrup. And before I can finish washing up, she’s on to the next activity: can we play Old Maid? Can we play “SORRY?” Five games later and it’s time to knead the no-knead bread which I put up the night before and plop it into the waiting hot covered baking pots.
Time for you to take some time alone and build something with the blocks. Anya has learned how to make a palace for the animals, a school for the playmobile people and the road for the cars and trucks to go between each. She amiably talks aloud to her imaginary family of plastic creatures as she composes each structure, and I wash the batter bowls, sticky silverware and measuring spoons.
Can we play restaurant? Sure, say I. This is a favorite game in which she plays the part of the cook and waitress, and I the disgruntled customer. She enjoys it if I complain about the matzo ball soup burning my tongue. She loves it when she pretends to be too busy to notice that I, the customer, am trying unsuccessfully to get her attention, while she busily waits on other customers. The order gets “written” down noting today’s specials, and the cost of each food item. She dutifully hands me the pad of paper for me to sign on the dotted line for the cost of the meal. I pay in marbles from the Chinese checker set, but I’ve also paid by credit card by signing my name.
Would you like to hear a story? Either it’s a made up story about when her father was a little boy, or in this case, a reading of “Imagine A Day,” this is pure relaxation time as she again snuggles up beside me on the couch. We’re both still in pajamas and unaware of how quickly the time is fleeting.
Snack time and I chop up some red peppers, carrots and cucumber from the refrigerator. It’s almost noon and the parents call to see if Ani wants to go outside. No she wants to stay with me.
She’s five and three quarters, and I’m in heaven.