Tuesday, April 15, 2014

41. PIT

Anna Bella stands beside me in the kitchen.  Sometimes I look at her and, I'm sorry, I can't help myself... it starts as a thought and squirms up from my belly and spreads out through my hands, the words fizzing out of my mouth.
"PIT!"
She giggles and squeals, her long sable colored hair flailing as she presses her arms in front of her. My fingers work their way into the tickle spot in her arm pit.  She wriggles and giggles, begging me to stop, which I do, of course, because excessive pit tickling is painful. You have to be old like me to know how to come up to that line between funny and not funny and not cross over it. It's one of the great advantages of getting old. And another thing, pit tickling is for little ones, creatures who are small enough to get bundled up in kisses when you're done. And whose pits don't stink.
My Bella fits perfectly in my arms, even though she is seven years old.  Her feather-light body curls into mine at night on the couch, after story time.  She tucks her head down by my heart while I kiss her head.  Over and over and over.  Like heaven assigned me an astronomical number of kisses to bestow upon her. I am a dutiful servant, and because she lives a bit too far away for my liking, I have to take advantage while I have her. When she sees me, melt my heart, she tucks her head into her neck and smiles, then when I bend down to hug her, she throws her arms around my neck.  I smother her with kisses, ending finally on kiss number nine thousand nine hundred ninety nine. Then we both take a deep breath and she asks if I want to see her new jump rope.
Bella came to us a week or so after her mama graduated from medical school, and just a few months before they moved to Kansas City for Sarah's medical residency.  She was tiny and sweet.  So tiny, in fact, it worried her pediatrician mother.  Tiny body, massive spirit.  She did not know me the way her brother Timo did.  I had tended Timo almost daily while Sarah went to Med school and Dave the Younger (their daddy) worked.  Timo knew the sound and the scent of me, the beating of my heart.  But Kansas City was too far for Gummy time and Anna's early years were not spent in my arms.  When they moved back to Utah, when Anna was three years old, she was hesitant to leave her parents' arms. I determined to win her heart.  It started in her arm pit.  Now, she can tell just by the sparkle in my eye if she needs to run.  But she never runs too fast or too far.  She knows my feet will not respond to the running commands. She acts like she's trying to get away, but we both know better.
Last night we stood in the driveway while Sarah buckled baby Joe into his car seat and prepared to go back to Herriman after Sunday dinner.  My nephew Joseph and his girlfriend AnaLisa were here.  I wrapped my arms around Bella to say goodbye, telling her as I smothered her with affection:
"Oh, I love you with all my heart…and my elbow…my liver…my right big toe…and both arm pits!"  
Joseph laughed and said, "And your fingernails and tongue!"
I told him that this was an awful lot of love from Anna, because she has an exceptionally long and agile tongue!  Anna nodded, showing him her amazing ability to touch the tip of her nose with the tip of her tongue.  Lizard tongue, her mama affectionately calls it.  Joseph was duly impressed.
Bella has determined that she is going to be a songwriter, and the truth is, she has gifts in that department.  I am not just being a biased grandmother, either.  I wish I could show you her first song, recorded by her songwriter daddy while they were living in Kansas City.  It's called Big Yellow Dough.  She belts her tunes, her lyric matching the melody, the use of melisma and prosody making it seem like she's a semi-savant.  She and Timo both have a love affair with music, and with colored pencils and paper.  But they are really just normal kids, which makes me most delighted.
The last two years Anna Bella has played the role of Baby Mouse in the Nutcracker.  She jumps up and down, her little fists curled up in front of her chest under that furry little mouse costume with the yellow bow on the tail.  She scurries and jumps and dances around Clara.
So this past Christmas Eve, when I gave her the Clara nightgown I had sewn for her, she immediately put it on and swirled around the family room, her little striped tights peeking out beneath the ruffle.  She throws her arms out like Maria on the hillside in the Sound of Music, her long red hair rising with the folds in her night dress.  I watch her from my rocking chair.  I have no desire whatsoever to tickle her arm pit.  I am content to watch her twirl and twirl, knowing that eventually she will get dizzy and fall into my arms.  Then, indeed, I will take advantage of the gift and bestow on her another blessed installment of Gummy kisses.




Bella and her Gummy make pies



Ten thousand one…
ten thousand two…
ten thousand three ….

Anna Bella swirls in her Christmas night dress


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