Friday, September 4, 2009

Hide and seek

It is often difficult to describe someone to other people with accuracy. So often our own bias creeps in to distort the picture. At best we can only capture little glimpses, snapshots in time. If someone has accumulated more than 80 years of life then any description is sparse but I’d still like to share a patchy fragment.

Nonna is wildlife’s best friend, always has been always will be. She has never paid hard cash for a pet, they simply deposit themselves on her doorstep in the sure and certain knowledge that they’re entitled. Thus far, they have proved to have made the right choice. If you asked her, Nonna would tell you that hers has been an ordinary little life of no great import. She’s quite accurate of course, because I’ve seen the photographs of her and her chums. Old sepia photographs of her with her group of fellow mountain climbers as they sit at the bottom of the mountain, resting. I think you would need a rest after fitting planks of wood to my boots to ski down en masse. It would have been tough to keep up with all those fit young men, the only woman, or maybe that’s just me? These days she would tell you that she doesn’t like crowds although I suspect that is influenced by her hearing loss. You can see how she copes with crowds when we take the children to a theme park. There are fewer older people at most theme parks than one might think. There are lots of grandparents but so many of them are merely middle aged. There are fewer octogenarians. Of the octogenarians that are there, they are mostly observers. Our octogenarian is most often found squished into a plastic helicopter next to her grandson, attached to a pole, forty feet in the air, waving to the ground, laughing. She’s the sort of person that will pinch your M&M’s when you’re distracted, especially when she’s the distraction, such a tease. Of course these days it’s so much easier to get in and out of vehicles designed for the under 11’s, now that she no longer needs a cane, now that her hip replacement has mended, now that one leg is an inch shorter than the other.

The shorter leg taps the bar under the table in the garden as dinner draws to a close. Her hearing aid is in her pocket as we spoon feed two yelping children, nearly the last spoonful over a period of more than 40 minutes. Nonna’s plate is empty, it’s been empty for 35 minutes but she has no complaints as she comments on squirrels and hummingbirds, strokes the cat imprisoned on her lap and feeds the dog morsels by hand, because she is exempt from all the rules. I pass the spoon to my eldest daughter, a hand over so that I can address Nonna directly and loudly over the ambient level of noise, “want to play hide and seek?”
“Hide and seek?”
“You want me to ide or you want me to seek?”
“I want you to seek the tortoise, Fred.”
“Oh no. Eee is lost again, Gawd dat creature is a menace.”
“No. He’s in the pen. See if you can see him.”
“In dah pen? Out ere in dah garden?”
“Yes. Come on.” I lead her unsteadily over a couple of yards to the edge of the house where we have a make shift pen for Fred, because he is so small and can’t be given free reign yet. She peers into the two by four square foot of grass, shaded by a towel as we don’t want to accidentally cook him in the Californian sun. She reaches down to search with her hands to no avail. She steps into the pen and then gingerly crouches down on all fours to hand search the blades of grass. “Am I getting warmer?” she asks with the evening sun on her back. “Bit more, keep going.” Her fingers brush his shell and she parts the grass to reveal a very small tortoise. She pulls him out backwards from the hole that he’s dug himself into, “well look at dat! Wot a pretty little ting she is!” she beams with delight.


Niksmom said...

I think I may have said this before but Nonna reminds me a bit of my late Nana. Both Italian, spry, funny, smart and loving. Treasure these moments with her as long as you have them.

You are a wise and loving woman, Maddy. That, too, shines through in the tender, funny and respectful ways you always talk about Nonna —no matter how frustrated or concerned you are. You are a gift to her as much as she is a gift to your family.

Ami said...

I just have to tell you once again, because it's been ages, that I love, love, love the way you write.

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Such a beautiful vignette. You described the scene - and Nonna's background - so vividly.

Osh said...


Anonymous said...

Hi Maddy - I found you via Squidalicous, I think, a few weeks ago.

Just had to delurk (as much as an Anon commenter can) to share how much I enjoy your writing. I can just see Nonna wandering about looking for your turtle. You write with such love.

Lorrian in Long Beach, CA

cat said...

Oh what a beautiful piece of writing! You paint the perfect picture.

Jazz said...

Again a beautiful post Maddy. I almost feel like I know Nonna...