Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Route 66

Katherine today.  

I'm bridging a gap between too many hours in the sun by a pool (yummy indulgence) and a Rockies spring training game tonight by thinking about our trek here on the remnants of Route 66.  The drive is rife with memories and tedium and nice little private jokes with Jim.  Jim contends that large numbers of private jokes are a prerequisite to a good marriage.  I'm not sure if he's being descriptive or prescriptive or ironic.  We are an interesting pair--I seek sympathy and need to vent.  He offers solutions and a good ribbing.  I love him.  I need him these days.

My mom has Alzheimer's.  My brother and I are moving her to assisted living memory care.  It's awful.  I am immersed in memories of her (wonderful and truly awful) and full of empathy and realizing all my fights to keep her independent have been wrong.  Her decline has been precipitous and I am a sad little girl.

In the midst of all this, I ran away from home to Rockies Spring Training in Scottsdale Arizona.  I'm a master at running away.  My mom is brave, but not me.  As a little girl I ran away to Stapleton Airport.  I got on a real live plane once.  We lived within a mile of the airport and I ran there often.  The stewardesses at the check-in gates learned to call Mom as soon as they saw me.

Even though I've been good and done my bit helping Mom,  I ran away from home and  I feel guilty and I am here in Scottsdale and enjoying the amazing sun (how I love it) and the Rockies and everything.  I digress.

I want to talk about Route 66.  It is an interesting road an a part of our journey from Denver to Scottsdale.  I've been on that road off and on since I was eleven years old.  I thought about it this time.

We have done this trip enough that I consciously try to think of a new way to look at it each trip. I decided I'd focus on Roadside Attractions this trip.  I was thinking about Mom and her adamant and forceful battles with Dad about stopping at stupid Roadside Attractions.  She always won.  I remember thinking how weird it was she wanted to see the Shoshone Ice Caves or the largest piece of lava in Idaho ("Lave is free--make your own soap!").  I learned as a traveling parent that moms and kids need to pee and move about and her fascination with the Roadside Attractions was more about parenting than curiosity.

I figured this Roadside point of view would be fun when we passed a place in Larkspur that offered miniature golf and goat rides.  But that was it until Santa Fe.  There was an Italian restaurant in Trinidad with singing waiters and since Trinidad is the sex change capital of the country, I contemplated the singing wait staff as a Roadside Attraction.  I decided not to go there.

The only other Roadside Attraction of note was the NRA Wittendon Center just south of Raton, New Mexico.  I don't think Mom would have battled for a stop here.

We stayed the night in Santa Fe and headed off on the highway that would begin to follow the Route 66 my childhood.

It wasn't long before I realized that there are no more family Roadside Attractions.  They are almost gone.  Grown-up things have taken over.  Kids watch movies in the backseats of cars and Roadside Attractions are casinos on Native American Reservations.  My least favorite Roadside Attraction was Knife City.  It had a ton of signs about the various lethal weapons they offered (high capacity clips were offered as well) and only one sign mentioned kitchen cutlery.

There was a 90 mile stretch of Arizona just after we entered the state worthy of note.  The roads in Arizona stink compared to New Mexico and Colorado.  I'm sure the tax rate is lower though.
Also, that part of the road is on the Navajo Reservation.  It was also one of the few parts of the road that echoed my memories of Route 66.  There were competing "Indian Villages" with jewelry and moccasins and tepees (one to smoke in), beaded belts, and fireworks.  The signs were bright and competitive.  I somehow wanted to stop.  Just for old times sake.  Jim would have stopped for me.  He'll do almost anything for me.  I couldn't even explain why I would and never said a word.  I don't want to stop on the way back either.  I'm pretty much over the Roadside Attraction thing.

In Gallup, New Mexico, we passed the El Rancho Motel.  We had lunch there once and might do so again on the way back.  It's where John Wayne stayed when he made movies with John Ford in Monument Valley.  It's really cheesy.  That's the point.  The burgers were okay.  That's the most I would recommend and that's iffy.

There's not much else to report.  We saw our first Saguaro near Bumble Bee Arizona (no services) and shortly after that there was a "Scenic View with Vending Machines."  What--no Wifi?

I have had a wonderful time in the sun here in Arizona.  I have seen a Rockies game and am headed to another tonight (this is when they seem to do their best) and yesterday I spent a day at the spa at the Camelback Inn.  I had dinner at the sports bar at the Four Seasons in Carefree last night.   When I run away, I run away.

My mom ran way from home because she was trapped at home.  I run away from home because home is hard and I need to take a deep breath before I face the next battle.

The Route 66 of my childhood was a road dotted with one-story motels.  Most of them had swimming pools and metal pool chairs that semi-rocked and parents who drove like madmen all day long to collapse in those chairs while they watched their kids use up energy in those pools.  I loved checking into the motels.  My mom would carry in a "beach bag" that was filled with gin and tonics for her and Jim Beam for my dad.  My brother and I were ordered to the pool and we dove in with glee and Mom and Dad got tipsy and happy and life was good on Route 66.

Travel well.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Responsible Journalism

You Have To Want It

I don't have to tell anyone that since the advent of 24 hour news cycles and screaming, ranting, venting ideologues masquerading as journalists, the news has metastasized into this self-referential monster that has almost no relationship to the Truth (whatever that is).  The sheer volume of the crap makes reading the Sunday paper a daunting task.

As an old journalism teacher, however, I do have some suggestions on how to pare down your reading to only the essential stuff.  You'll notice that there are two kinds of stories that appear on the news pages (We won't even talk about the op-ed stuff.):  stories objectively reporting things that happen in the world and stories telling us the reactions of politicians and pundits to those happenings.  For instance, the breeching of security at Benghazi and the subsequent deaths were serious things that actually happened in real time, but that only comprised a relatively small part of the coverage.  The main coverage of Benghazi focused on political reactions and fall-out.  In other words, it devoted a lot of air time, a lot of column inches, to meaningless political posturing and finger pointing, none of which had anything to do with the actual event.

In that spirit, I spent my morning going through my news web sites while waiting for my new paper delivery person to get the Post and the Times here before EIGHT-FUCKING-O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING!  I went through THE DAILY BEAST, THE HUFFINGTON POST, FOX NEWS, and POLITICO and simply wrote the headlines of all those stories that would, to my way of thinking, constitute a complete waste of time to look at.  I'm going to resist my natural impulse to make snarky comments about each item and just let the list speak for itself.

THE LIST (in no particular order)

"Ann Coulter Disparages Browning Of America"
"Sarah Palin Delivers Vehement CPAC Speech"
"The Right's Plan To Demolish Labor Unions"
"Newt's CPAC Blunder"
"Michelle Bachman Takes A Jab At Hillary Clinton"
"Bobby Jindal Gets A Much Needed History Lesson"
"Rand Paul:  Obama Is Shredding The Constitution"
"McConnell:  Congress Won't Make A Lot Of Big Important Things Happen This Year"
"Santorum Weighs In On Why The GOP Loses"
"Perry:  I Don't Think Nugent's Shocking Comment Was Racist"

I have to add a third category here:  all those lurid, leering articles about celebrities and their fascinating lives.

"The Absolute Worst Thing You Can Do With A Kit Kat"
"Justin and Selena Eat Breakfast Together"
"An Inspiring Tale Of Three Pussycats"
"Miley Cirus Needs A Teleprompter To Remember Her Lyrics"
"Why You Should Embrace Slow Sex"
"Selfies Of The Week"

After you get by all the garbage listed above (just the tip of the iceberg), you will discover some pretty good journalism, but you have to want it.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Growing Old

We Aren't Dead Yet!

I was putting off work on my latest project to idly scroll through all the lurid info, personality assessments, and random lists on Huffington Post when I came across an article by Yagama Shah entitled, "19 Reasons Getting Older Is The Best Thing That Can Happen To You."  Let me go through some of her reasons and explain why Yagama, obviously still in her twenties, doesn't know what she is talking about, because, in the words of my aunt, "Growing old is Hell."

SENIOR DISCOUNTS:  Okay, it's hard to argue with that.  I sometimes like to get out my lifetime national parks pass and just look at it.  On the other hand, it gets irritating waiting in line behind a bunch of fellow seniors digging through their fanny packs looking for discount coupons at the check out stand.

NOT WORRYING AS MUKCH ABOUT HOW THINGS WILL TURN OUT:  What?!  Would you mind explaining that.  The fact is that when you are a senior you realize early on that things are going to turn out a lot sooner than you would like.  I don't know about Yagama and her friends, but for me that is worrisome.

MORE MATURE RELATIONSHIPS:  As in look at that cute couple sitting over there on the park bench feeding pigeons.

LOOKS AREN'T EVERYTHING:  I hate to break this to you Yagama, but nothing could be further from the truth.   What you are saying is that when you look at me you are forced to the conclusion that "God, for that old geezer looks must not be everything.  How nice!"  My fellow old people still check themselves out in the mirror before climbing behind the bars of their walkers.

9:30 BEDTIME IS OKAY:  Hey, that's at least an hour past my bedtime.

DON'T CARE WHAT OTHERS THINK:  This one is a lot like the "looks aren't everything" reason.  Enough said.

FEWER MAJOR LIFE DECISIONS:  Get serious!  The decisions are still there, still as numerous, just more urgent.

DRESS FOR COMFORT:  Yagama must be referring to all those old people in jumpsuits, but that has nothing to do with age.   Jumpsuits are the best things to wear when sitting in front of slot machines in Vegas.

STABLE FRIENDSHIPS:  I would agree with that if it weren't for the fact that so many of my long time friends seem to be dropping dead.

CAN STOP KEEPING UP WITH TECH:  Jesus Christ!  We aren't dead and doddering yet.  See!  I'm writing this and I'm going to post it.  I would even make it look fancier if I knew how.

CAN SIT AT CONCERTS:  Perhaps, but I have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


A Noodle Joint

Katherine noted just a little while ago that eating in Puerto Vallarta was a much cheaper proposition than eating at home.  That of course is not technically true.  It we actually ate at home it would be different.  Not much, but different nonetheless.

Food in PV is simple.  Katherine fries up egg and bacon sandwiches for breakfast after our morning workout and walk along the beach.  The rest of the day we are either on a tour where the food and drink is part of the package, or we are hanging out by the pool and taking random bites of sliced turkey, ham, and cheese.  At night we eat out, but rarely at pricey places.  We eat at Pipi's, or The Sea Monkey, or take a great and relatively inexpensive food tour courtesy of Vallarta Eats.  The most expensive place we ate with Bud and Janet was Tino's on the Malecon and I ended up getting sick.  Kathie and I did manage to have one mid afternoon foray to Las Palapas, a great restaurant on the beach.  Even that wasn't too pricey.

Things got different when we got home.  First of all, instead of cold cuts, our mid-day snacking has become trays of great cheeses, salamis, and breads along with glasses of wine.  Since we've been home we've eaten at Bonnano Brothers (we were in the neighborhood anyway to pick up a parcel after hours at UPS), Lou's Foodbar (met Franny, Ken, and the kids there our second night back, a traditional meeting place), Ted's Montana Grill (took Kathie's mom there for a burger before the AFC championship game), Bones (stopped there on the way home from a handyman job to grab a quick beer and some Shishito peppers and to grab a take-out order of edamame), Snooze twice (we go there every Saturday morning for breakfast), and just the night before last, Uncle.

I've been wanting to go to Uncle ever since the last "5280" restaurant rating issue had listed Uncle as the top noodle bar in Denver.  I was skeptical.  I agree with my friend Kevin Williams that when all things are considered, Bones (a noodle bar, I should point out) has the best food in Denver.  I was anxious to see how Uncle stacked up.

Pretty well I must say.  There were all kinds of things I liked about the place.   A little like Brothers Bar, the restaurant has a barely visible "Uncle" etched into the window above the black exterior.  If Kathie and I didn't know it's address, 2215 32nd, we never would have noticed it being anything other than a barely visible storefront.  Inside, it is a clean, well-lighted place, with shiny horizontal and vertical wooden slats lining the walls and well-spaced, bare wooden tables and chairs.  The bar overlooking the kitchen is the center piece of the place and by the time six-thirty rolled around every seat in the small room was full.  The music is well-chosen and hipster loud (This is a place for a youngish crowd.).  The vibe--some might say din--limited conversation to guttural responses about the food.  Lots of "oh my god's," and "yums," and "wow's."  The most complicated thought that anyone could communicate went along the lines of "did you try the Bibimbap?"

The menu was quite similar to Bones.  Maybe five appetizers (the brussel sprouts were terrific), but none as interesting as the variety you get at Bones.  There are maybe five different versions of Ramen, and the same number of noodle bowls.  They even have three different types of steamed buns to try, but the pork belly ones we tried, though excellent, were not nearly as perfect as the ones you'll get at Bones.  There is an interesting beer, wine and sake menu plus four specialty cocktails.

The best thing about Uncle is that it is in Franny and Ken's neighborhood, so we are apt to add the place to our restaurant rotation.  I would gladly drive across town to get a noodle bowl at Uncle, but if it were sitting across the street from Frank Bonnano's place, I would end up going to Bones.

Friday, January 3, 2014

30 X 30

An Art Post

I remember a time in Comp for the College Bound when I was leading my kids through the old hammer in a frame gimmick in order for them to come up with some sort of appreciation of aesthetic distance.  I pointed out two drawings on the wall given to me by past students.  One, a rather rough hewn painting of what Bourani must have looked like to Nicholas in THE MAGUS, the other, a finely wrought drawing of an oriental princess surrounded by a flowering garden.  Insofar as the Bourani painting was playing with textures and shades of color and perspective, I thought it was what we might call "Art," while the exquisite drawing, even though it was given to me by a sweetheart of a girl from Laos who did everything I asked of her, wasn't art so much as decoration.  Between you and me, I think drawing such a distinction is pointless at best and downright mean spirited at worst, but it is always guaranteed to get a rise out of high school seniors.  Besides, defining art is one of my favorite pastimes.  I mean I could reread--I have reread--the aesthetics discussion in PORTRAIT dozens of times and always find something new to think about.

I'm talking about this because my son Christian gave me a magnificent oil painting of a barn by Richard Harrington.  When we go to Jenny Lake every year we always stop by the Rare Gallery in Jackson.  The last few years we have found ourselves admiring the collection of barns Harrington was showing at the gallery.  By the way, if you're ever in Jackson, go to this gallery.  It has one of the most varied and interesting collections I've ever seen.

Well, Christian, bless his heart, wanted to do something special for my sixty-fifth and he commissioned Harrington to paint me a barn, so to speak.  When he gave it to me on Christmas night, he didn't look convinced about the wonder of Harrington's work.  He finally asked me why I thought it was good.  What made it art?

If I let myself relax and, like William Hurt in THE BIG CHILL, "just let art flow over" me, the answer to such a question is simple.  It's wonderful because I love it.  It jumps off the wall at me.  It's cool.  But then I have to start thinking about the whole thing.  That night I gave Chris what I thought, him being a musician and all, was an insightful explanation.  "It's like listening to jazz," I said.  "The barn is like an improvisation on a theme.  It's like listening to Coleman Hawkins play 'I'm Beginning To See The Light.'  You can still hear snatches of the melody as he dives and soars all around it.  It gives you something to think about."

But I want to be more thorough here.

Harrington's painting--it has no title so I've decided to name it "30 X 30" after its dimensions--is quite simply a stylized barn in blues and whites and shades of green sitting in the middle of a field with a forest in the background leading up to a broad blue sky flecked with those same whites, blues, and greens.

It is, of course, more than that.  A straight black line defines the main floor of the barn and sits at an angle to the grassy field sloping down from right to left.  The floor of the barn also sets off the bottom third of the work which is comprised completely of the predominately grass green field textured with flecks of all the other colors in the painting.  As the painting rises, the shades of green go from light to dark and back again with the floor of the barn accented by the teal-green foundation.  Then the green of the foreground becomes almost black as the forest looms behind.  But the darkness of the deep forest gives way to the lighter green of the treetops and finally the splotchy blue of the sky.

The barn sits in the middle, resting on the downslope with zig zagging swatches of color running up and down the facade.  The first dominant color is the purplish blue sitting in triangular shapes between the green of the field and the blue of the sky.  But then there is an equally angular collection of mottled white that matches and adds to the triangularity of the blue.  The frame of the barn is clearly there in the background with its Mormon Barn roof jutting up into the sky, but that jutting shape is taken up by the whites and blues until it becomes unclear which is in the foreground, which is the outside and which the inside, the white or the blue?  The roof brings it all together by incorporating all the colors of the work into one almost pointillistic whole.  All of this is awash in the pinks and ambers that light the meadows and forests of the Tetons at sunset.  It is more than field and sky and barn.  It's how Jenny Lake and its environs feel at dusk.

But mostly, "30 X 30" is really cool.

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's The Holidays: Time To Talk About Food

I want to take a break from trying to write the next scene of my latest soon to be unpublished novel and I especially want to take a break from thinking about our dysfunctional political system.  Instead, I want to write about something I know we all care about.  Food.  

The Ten Best Things I've Ever Eaten

1 - On Sunday mornings in Freeport, Illinois my father would make fried egg and tomato sandwiches while the womenfolk were at church.  To this day, when I am alone in the morning and hungry, I will whip up a fried egg and tomato sandwich.  It is the only positive memory I have of my father.

2 - On chilly mornings when Annabel, who worked across the street from Estes Park Schools, gave me a ride to Miss Soth’s third grade class, we would stop first at Jerry’s Sandwich Shop where Annie would order me up a stack of pancakes.  She taught me how to pile the butter on between each cake and drizzle the whole thing with syrup.  I felt like a regular at the counter and after polishing off my pancakes, I’d walk across the street to school.

3 - The reuben sandwich at Hummel’s Deli in Cinderella City was to that moment in my life (I was 20) the single best thing I had ever tasted.  LIght rye bread studded with seeds, a creamy layer of sauerkraut that to this day has never been duplicated, thinly sliced pastrami (at that time in my life a completely exotic ingredient), great swiss cheese.  I worked at Craig Rehabilitation Hospital back then (fulfilling my Conscientious Objector obligation) and piled many a patient into an ambocab  for lunch at Hummels.  Those culinary forays remain among my favorite memories.

4 - The first time we went fishing with Felipe in Belize, I caught a (at least to my eyes) monstrous baracuda, among other things, and after the morning was done, Felipe landed us on a semi-secluded beach (within walking distance of a palapas bar just a dozen yards or so upshore).  While the four of us (Bud, Janet, Kathie, Me) had drinks, Felipe wrapped our catch along with some well chosen vegetables in foil, grilled them, and had them waiting, along with a stack of warm tortillas, for us when we returned.  It was the best fish I’d ever had, including my grandmother’s fresh caught trout in Estes Park.

5 - I spent the better part of an afternoon making the tamales in Rick Bayless’ MEXICO ONE DISH AT A TIME.  I rigged a makeshift steamer out of a broiler pan with the help of half a roll of tin foil and was skeptical about my chances for success.  An hour later, Kathie and I shared a steaming hot tamale.  OH MY GOD!  I’m not sure anything has ever tasted that good.

6 - We took a cheese making class at Luca d’Italia a few years ago with Frank Bonnano.  Among other things, we learned how to make mozarella, ricotta, and burrata.  The next week hadn’t reached the half-way point before we launched our first attempt at mozarella.  After two failed attempts, the third batch was perfect.  It ended up costing us four times what it would cost in the store, but we were proud.  The same thing with the ricotta.  We even used our first successful batch to make a ricotta based gnocchi that has become a staple around our house (although with store bought ricotta).  A burrata is a combination of ricotta and mozarella, with the fresh mozarella wrapped around the hot and creamy ricotta.  It is, to my mind, the quintessential cheese appetizer when accompanied by thin wedges of crispy and garlicky bread.  Our version was pretty good, but we learned a really important lesson as a result of our cheese making classes:  For God Sakes!  Go to a restaurant and order the burrata.  Don’t try this at home.  Taking that advice, the burrata at any Bonnano venue makes the entire meal worth the drive.  I mean it.  If you are a cheese lover, nothing beats the burrata at Osteria Marco, or Bonnano Brothers, or Luca d’Italia.

7 - Kathie, Franny, and I visited Annabel in the hill country of Texas one spring break.  We drove to a little town between Austen and San Antonio and had beef brisket on sheets of butcher paper with lots of Texas toast.  I’m not a barbecue lover, but if that joint was in driving distance of my house, I would live there.  As long as we’re talking brisket, the brisket sandwiches at Masterpiece Deli are even better than the Cubans at Masterpiece Deli.  I never thought I could say that about any sandwich.  I can’t believe there is a better sandwich in Denver.

8 - The Pescador Zarandeado at Tino’s in Puerto Vallarta is my favorite all time fish dish.  It is even better than Felipe’s barracuda in Belize.  First of all, Tino’s is the premier fish joint in PV and that’s saying a lot.  When you order the dish, they bring out the whole fish for your approval before they cook the thing.  The finished product arrives with crispy skin and white flaky flesh on a huge vegetable laden platter with a plate of warm tortillas nearby.  Wrap the fish and vegetables in a tortilla and realize that life, at least at that moment, is good.

9 - I’ve written about these before, but the steamed buns (pork belly) at Bones in Denver are simply the best apps in the city.  I refuse to believe there is anything anywhere that compare, and believe me I’ve been looking.  In fact, the only app in contention is the flash fried peppers at the same place.  

10 - There are so many other dishes, but I’m going to limit myself to ten.  The amuse bouche at The Restaurant at Meadowood the last time we were there took my breath away.  We had dinner four nights in a row at that restaurant (we decided to camp out at Meadowood the entire time -- a wise decision, I hasten to add) and the same dish dazzled me each time.  It was baby carrots, radishes, and other root vegetables from Meadowood’s amazing garden, dressed in a barely perceptible vinaigrette, resting on a bed of snow laced with olive oil.  OH MY GOD!

Happy Eating

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Scenes From A Grandparent

But then things happen.

I have no model for the doting grandparent archetype.  My grandmother didn't dote; she made me wash the dishes, dig up her garden, mow the yard, and row her around Lake Estes at six in the morning while she trolled for trout.  I never had the experience of piling into the car for a trip to grandmother's.  Gram was just another looming fact of life, always there, impossible to ignore.  There was never a time when we didn't have at least three generations living at home.  More often than not, we had four.  There were two times I can remember when five generations got together.  Both were documented by front page photos in the "Estes Park Trail."

All of that informs much of the attitude I bring to my own grandparenting.  I always thought there was something phony or over-the-top about grandparental fawning, the eagerness to hold the little one, the faces, the misty eyes, the offers to take care of the kid at the slightest provocation, the photos perpetually at the ready for flashing in the faces of unsuspecting friends and acquaintances.  My grandmother never did anything like that.  She just kept busy manning the kitchen, setting another place at the table, greasing the rails of her burgeoning clan.  But, no, she never would have volunteered to watch the kids and she certainly wouldn't have been happy about the opportunity.  Or sad either.  Watching kids was no privilege; it was her life.

Gram was always just Gram.  She was funny.  She would drop everything to play gin rummy.  She would take out her teeth and make weird faces for the kids in the neighborhood.  I cried for days when she died.  But I don't ever remember her making a big deal out of me or any of her other grandchildren.

I always thought I would be that kind of grandparent.  I've always been able to put on a good gruff act. I remember a great day where I got Sage to help me paint the benches and the picnic table and I have to admit that many of my instructions might have been a little peremptory.  But afterwards we sat on the font lawn and I taught him how to say "hubba, hubba" whenever a girl walked by.  In fact we had three generations in the  house for a time when Michelle and Sage lived with us while Chris was on tour.  I'm sure I was plenty gruff when trying to get Sage to eat something, anything!

I need to point out here that I don't much like children, especially babies.  I don't even think they're particularly cute.  So it is difficult from the get-go for me to warm up to the whole grandfatherly thing.  I know that sounds terrible, but my sisters had eleven children between them and I was the main baby sitter for all of them.  Sure, I got paid handsomely, but the whole scene got old after awhile.  And then, of course, I had my own kids and all that entails.  I still have my hands full worrying about them without getting all wrapped up in some neonate I don't even know.

But then things happen.

Like the look on Brooklyn and Sammi's faces after a dance recital one evening when all they wanted was to be loved and for everyone to be proud.  They were and we are.  Or the time at the kitchen table I told Brooklyn to stop acting like such a brat and she stood up in an outraged huff and stormed into the living room and sat down on the couch with arms crossed.  She lasted a few minutes before she came back.  She looked across the table at me and made a face;  I made one right back at her.  Her tears went away and her glorious face erupted in a smile.  I think I might have cried.

When kayaking with either Sammi or Brooklyn we sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."  Since their parents have done such a nice job grooming them to be pop divas, when we get to the last line, the girls belt out "gently down the STREEEAAAM" in a big finish that can be heard all the way to shore.

When Franny gave birth to Jaydee, our sixth grandchild, we went to her house to wait for Willa to wake up while Ken and Franny drove down to St. Joseph's.  Willa started stirring about an hour later and as we were going up to get her I was a little worried that seeing us instead of her parents first thing in the morning might throw her for a loop.  I was wrong and she stood up in her crib with the same huge smile that has become her default expression.  That moment was almost as wonderful as seeing Jaydee for the first time later that day.

We kept Willa overnight and the next day took her to lunch on the way to the hospital.  We were in a booth and Willa, whose remarkably stable life had just been turned upside down, was facing the corner of the booth, presumably wondering what her parents were up to, saying earnestly into the leather cushions, "I miss you.  I miss you."  It was a phrase she had recently started using, but it was a little heartbreaking nonetheless.

We took Willa to the art museum a couple of days ago because Franny, busy figuring out how to take care of two kids in diapers, wanted Willa to go somewhere and do something more stimulating than television and watching Mommy nurse her little sister.  We didn't get past the Nick Cave interactive exhibit on the second floor.  Willa happily started placing felt shapes on the yellow walls and life-sized puppets and made sure to point out the video on the far wall to everyone who walked by.

I hope there were days when my grandmother felt as much joy.