Her name is Ellie, short for elephant, and that little hand holding her by the trunk is Ruby's. Ru; Ru Ru; Ruby Luby. As you can see, Ruby has her own style. She knows exactly what she wants. Well...she's pretty sure that's just exactly what she wants...sort of. She has the blasted-blessed tenacity that some people call stubbornness. But she also has this tender heart; the kind that will act like she wants nothing to do with you, but if you can catch her and tickle her just right and then start smothering her with kisses, she will thrust her arms about your neck and squeeze the breath out of you while she declares that she loves you to the moon and back and then past all the stars and you could never love her as much as she loves you - no, not ever!
Ruby is the youngest; little sister to 9 year old Sophie and 6 year old Parker. She was God's first test sent to Parker. Once, exasperated and frustrated beyond control, he commented from the back seat of the car:
"I don't like Ruby. I'm not gonna kill her; but I just don't like her!"
Of course that's not true. Sort of. But she does certainly know how to push Parker's buttons. Their poor parents are forced to mediate more often than their childhood dreams ever forewarned about. "Maybe we should have stopped at two," John will quip. Ash will hit his arm and tell him to stop it. Then in the morning Ruby will hang onto John's leg as he's trying to leave for work, her little knees bent around his calf, her feet locked into each other, Ellie in one hand and her Ba Ba in the other, the back of her head looking like the sandman came with his magic comb and ratted it up in the night. He'll drag his leg until he reaches the doorstep, then he'll bend over and snatch her into his arms and tell her he loves her to the moon and back and she'll tell him that she loves him more and is not going to ever let him go to work but instead he has to stay home and play dolls with her until it's tomorrow.
We were shopping for pajama's once, Ruby and Sophie and I. All through Target, at Christmas time, when the selection was grand. Ruby wanted one of every style, even when it didn't come in her size. Finally Sophie pulled me aside, back behind one of the rounders of nightgowns at the Target store. "Gummy, you just have to tell Ruby that she can get one for today and then tell her that we can come get the others on another day. She'll forget, so don't worry about having to buy all those pajama's Gummy." She smiled and peeked around the gowns to make sure her little sister was safe behind us. So Ruby picked one set of pj's for that day, and one for Sunday, and Monday and Thursday and Tuesday. We put them on a rack for later. Thanks for the tip, Soph.
I get to spend every Monday morning with Ruby. We color pictures, and make up stories, and I pretend to be one dolly and she pretends to be the other. If you try to call me on Monday morning there's a good chance the phone will have to ring because we are focused. One of our favorite games is when I sit on the couch and pretend to be sleeping, my head in my hands as I sit, my mouth and nose making my best snoring sounds. Ru will sneak up on the couch, climb behind my back, and grab me around the neck. I will pretend to be so surprised that I thrust my back, with her attached, back into the cushions of the couch, smashing her until she loses her breath with laughter and begs for mercy. I'll reach up and pull her in front of me and smother her with loves until she cries uncle. Then we start all over again.
One of the best things to happen for Ruby is that she got cousins who are younger than her. She can show Calvin and Charlotte how to do things. She can cuddle and coddle them and yet still play with them. Every littlest kid needs to be bigger than somebody. It diverts their attention and keeps them from being murdered by their big brothers.
Some Mondays, after we have played and cooked and read and sometimes had a bath, Gumpa will come home for lunch. We'll have a bowl of soup and maybe a pear and Ruby will put her boots on twice, once on the wrong feet and once again on the right, then Gump will strap her into her car seat, her backpack on the floor in front of her little dangling feet, and drive her down to preschool. He will park the car, open her door, unbuckle her seat belt and take her hand. He'll walk with her, hand in hand, through the halls of Knowlton Elementary, back to the preschool room. The halls are familiar to this grandpa. He walked once, not so long ago, those same halls with our children who grew into parents.
We try not to bring Ellie to our house. Ellie is happier in her own house, because if she ever gets lost the world will lose her balance and fall off her axis and we will all go spinning into space and gravity won't hold us on any more and...well, how will we ever find Ellie then? Ruby finally understands that now. Only if Ruby is very sick will Ellie journey away from home, and that's only if we promise to put Ellie in the backpack for positively absolutely sure.
The other day when I went to pick up Sophie for piano Ruby was swinging Ellie like those toys that have a button on a string. Round and round, as if her arms were going to twist off her. She threw her up in the air and she landed on the cherry wood floor. I picked poor Ellie up and held her to my shoulder, patting her back, telling her it would be OK. I held her up and gazed at her.
"Look Ru! Her eyes are blue, like yours!"
"Only one is blue, Gummy. They don't match."
"Yup, you're right. But it's a good thing she has two eyes again, so she can see you."
"It's a button, Gum. It can't see."