Friday, March 7, 2014


(the random word of the day is "permit")
I am trying to do my word of the day writing while I am tending my granddaughter Ruby at her house.  Her momma is going to have a new baby in 10 days, so I’m here with Ruby while Ashley visits the doctor. It’s going something like this:

The word of the day is “permit”.  I think about my first driver’s permit, back in Pittsburgh.  I think about driving Mom’s big white car.  People who know cars would know the make and model.  To me it was a big white set of wheels. I begin to write.

The first time I sat in the driver's seat of my mom's car, with its smooth leather seats, its huge hood laying out before me through the windshield …

Ruby leaps into my lap, closing the lid of the laptop.  “Tickle me Gummy.  No  wait…Don’t.  Hahaha.”
"Ru," I groan, "I’m trying to do my writing."
“Oh, sorry, she says, and skips off into the kitchen. 
I lift the laptop lid and sign on again.
Ruby hums…”I’m huuuuun-gry.”  The melody line of her two word sentence sounds like the theme music for NBC tv.
I pretend I don’t hear.
“Um, Gum….I Saaaaiiiiid….I’m Hunnnnn-gry.”
OK, I say, what do you want to eat?
“I dunnow.  Maybe some…Um, maybe…. Pizza?”
It’s 8:45 am.
I set my computer on the couch and shuffle to the fridge.  Sure enough, there are two pieces of leftover pizza in a baggie on top of the rice pudding.
I put them on a plate and head back to the computer.
“Um, can you cut these in half for me?”
I head back to the kitchen and cut the pizza into four little triangles.  Foreseeing that she will have more demands, I ask if she wants me to heat them up.  She says no, but I do it anyway because I know she will ask me to do it in 13 seconds.
She is settled at the counter eating her pizza and I get back to work.

The streets in Pleasant Hills are treacherous for new drivers, all twisted and narrow and intertwining like Medusa on a bad hair day. It’s a good thing Mom didn’t have a stick shift because…

“Can I have a drink?” Ruby rocks back and forth on her stool, pizza sauce rimming her ruby lips. I have learned that putting her off is futile, and causes more frustration in the end.  So I find the pink juice and pour it into a cup.
“Can I have one of those?”  She points to the water bottle on the counter.  So I pour from the pitcher to the cup to the water bottle.
“Thanks.”  She chimes.

Back on the couch, signed in again, I continue the jerky drive along the streets of Pleasant Hills, my mom in the passenger seat, my right foot tentatively pressing the gas pedal in her big white car.

“Gum.  Will you paint my nails?”
“Ru, I’m trying to do my writing.  Can we paint them later?  How bout if you play in the playroom?”  Of course I know the second I suggest she play in the play room that this will be the place she avoids at all costs, even if she really wants to play there. My bad.
You need to know that Ruby really is a nice girl, and kind hearted.  And she doesn’t want to be trouble.  She just needs to take care of Ruby, which is good. I want her to take care of Ruby.
But I also want to take care of my writing assignment, which is pretty much Cori taking care of Cori. Ruby and I are pretty much alike. So I ask her if we can paint them later, and she is pleasant about it.  “I can just paint them myself.”
So she drags the basket of polish and the bag of cotton balls out to the kitchen island.  She crawls up on a stool, then onto the granite countertop.  Right when my fingers start clicking the keys of the computer she asks for a placemat.  “They’re right there, in the bottom drawer. She lays flat on the countertop and points at the bank of drawers.  I shift to the kitchen and find a large plastic placemat.  “Thanks.” She says.
“I know how to paint my own nails, paint my own nails, paint my own nails.”  She repeats her song over and over, until the lyric changes.  “I think I’ll let mom do it when she comes home.”
She slides off the counter and comes to sit next to me on the couch.  I am trying to focus while she starts singing… “Howww much longer does it take to get my momma…get my momma…get…my…momma!”  She sings it while she picks up my iphone and searches for something interesting. 
“What’s your password, Gum?”
I tell her that’s private, so she hands me the phone.
“I know your password,” she says, followed by a snicker.
“Well, that’s my private thing, so you should only let me use it.”
“K.” she says.  But one minute later she insists on showing me the password. 
In a shameful attempt to keep her busy I tell her she can play Minion Rush on my phone.  So she clicks on it and I try to get back in that car with my mom. 

Key in the ignition, seat belt buckle clicked, I accelerate,  the rumbling of the pistons chasing my nervous heartbeat….

“Ummm, Gum.  This is taking for---ehhhh--ver to load!”
She pushes the phone onto my computer keyboard.
I pick up the phone and check it out.  And seriously it does take forever.  I set the phone beside me on the couch while it loads.  I cannot concentrate as the time passes, bugged by how long it is taking to load Minion Rush and how irritating it is that I don’t understand how to work my technology.  Ruby in the meantime stands in front of me on the hardwood floor and stares me in the eye as her legs slide down in a perfect split.  She keeps staring at me as she sits there, a perfect upside down T.  
“Want to know how long I can do this?”
I smile at her.  We both start to giggle. We stare at each other, trying not to blink.  We stare and stare and stare.  I think her legs must be killing her.  But apparently they are not.  “I can stay like this all day.  Watch.”
Try focusing on creative writing while a five-year-old is staring at you while she sits in a split on the floor.
My hip starts to hurt.

 Finally, I resort to showing her the 1026 pictures on my phone camera.  She snuggles beside me and plays the snips of videos and slides her little thumb back and forth, perusing the snapshots on my phone.  Finally I am able to write a whole paragraph. I’m on a roll.  She’s happy beside me, and I am happy beside her.  

I am driving the parking lot at the Middle School down the road from my old house and my mom is young and I am excited for the future.  The skin on my hands is smooth and spotless, my fingers curled around the cold thin steering wheel, the light from the setting sun …

“Gum.  Did you know I have a wiggly tooth?”


  1. Oh dear, dear Ruby!! How lucky you are to have such a Gummy....and Gummy how lucky you are to love such a Ruby!!

  2. I would have given up a lot earlier......