Help Wanted

Help Wanted!

BY CRISTINA FERRARI-LOGAN

It’s 5:00 a.m. on Sunday and the phone is ringing.  Reaching blindly across the nightstand, I manage to knock over half a glass of pomegranate juice which spills quietly off the edge down on the newly shampooed beige carpet. Barely awake, I pick up the phone and croak a weak expletive.  Oops! It’s my 5-year-old grandson.

“Grammy!  You said a bad word!   This is me!  Can we have a sleepover at my house tonight? Daddy went to Sani Barber and my baby brother just fode up all over my mom’s new quilt and, and…now she’s down in the launder room crying and, and….Grammy?  Grammy! Are you still there?”  “Yes, sweetie. I’m still here. Let me talk to Mommy.” The volume is rising. “You can’t! I just tode you.  She’s down in the launder room crying!   Just come over, OK?  Please!?”

By the time I arrive, the crisis seems to have abated, and I suspect that all he really wanted was for me to make some of my famous coconut rice pudding with last night’s untouched carton of take-out gravel. The day passes with minimal drama while Mommy weeds the garden,  we scan the Sunday comics,  do some serious LEGO engineering, watch two Disney videos, and dig for buried treasure in the sandbox.

Wow! Where did all those nickels and dimes come from?

“Grammy, did you forget about the sleepover?”

“Are you kidding?  Of course not.  I love sleepovers!”

So here I am in my son-in-law’s office/study, stretched out on an impressive eight-foot-long faux-suede sofa, anticipating a night of potentially high misadventure. Grandson No.1 has been going through a terrifying nightmare phase, while his brother is feverish and has a cold. Today there’s a  rock-tumbler in his chest. Their mother is suffering from an aggravated case of sleep deprivation and she wouldn’t notice if someone slipped an inflatable Tom Hanks doll under the covers. Since everyone seems to be neatly tucked in, I can finally relax and spend an hour or so with Deepak Chopra.

“…her dentures  would flash me a twisted  underwater grin through the heavy glass tumbler where they spent the night.”

Over my daughter’s strenuous objections, I prefer this somewhat casual sleeping arrangement because it’s comfortable and because I enjoy the added bonus of warm fuzzies from the family feline, Sugar, who doesn’t seem to mind that I got here first. He shows his goodwill and affection by splaying himself across my stomach.  He’s 12 and appears to be as deaf as a post, unless of course, you are opening a can of Dr. Petlove’s Salmon/Egg/Chicken/Cheese/Blend, Organic, Hi-protein, Low-fat, Sodium-free Senior Dinner, in which case Mr. Oblivious is all ears and comes sliding into home plate for a full bowl. No cheapy three cans at $1.99 for this noble beast.  And tonight, for a refreshing change, he falls asleep quietly without making those usual disgusting gargle/thrack/spit noises that always remind me of my sainted Nana. She used to keep all of us awake with her regularly scheduled bedtime rituals, and I hated how every morning, her dentures would flash me a twisted underwater grin through the heavy glass tumbler where they spent the night.

Just as I am beginning to drift off, I’m startled by a series of loud clicks, long buzzes followed by a steady, chilling clatter. I thought I was alone in here. What’s happening? Suddenly, the room is bathed in a sickly bluish light, but it’s only the next-door neighbor’s motion detector halogen flood lamps illuminating the entire street now that the local raccoon family has waddled by.  I jump up too quickly and send Sugar flying, at the same time knocking over the card table on which the neighborhood troops and I spent the entire afternoon building their  LEGO International Airport, complete with four Boeing 747s, three coffee shops, two restrooms, and a baggage carousel, all to accommodate dozens of small, square-shouldered plastic people. The control tower explodes against the computer, the jets skid off the tarmac and crash into the Ficus plant and tens of decapitated victims are strewn everywhere. It’s a war zone!

The oldest male in the house rushes in wielding his lethal Star Wars lightsaber, fully prepared to vanquish the intruder.  Hot on his heels with a wailing offspring on one hip comes his mother.

“Good grief!  Maybe it’s Planet X hurtling toward San Francisco and I’m the only one watching!”

“Oh, Mom, I’m so sorry!  I forgot to turn off the fax!” With that, I gather up my crumpled-bedding and move into the living room where I settle myself onto the plush couch which sits in front of a huge picture window. Gazing out into the clear midnight sky, I catch sight of an incredibly bright object swinging and swaying in the distance.

“What’s that?” I exclaim. “Good grief!  Maybe it’s Planet X hurtling toward San Francisco and I’m the only one watching! Quick! Somebody call the police! Somebody call the White House!”

The baby has gone back to sleep. Big brother, not even remotely concerned with the prospect of impending doom, rolls his eyes and heads back to bed, dragging his lethal weapon along behind him.  Enter my daughter the waitress, carrying a mug of steaming tea in each hand and a small bag of her famous hazelnut/concrete biscotti clenched between her soon-to-be-braced overbite. (Did I raise this girl right or what?”) After one sip and a solid crunch that I pray to the Tooth Fairy isn’t the sound of my new $1500 porcelain crown cracking, I decide to test my recently acquired deep-breathing skills. Suddenly, a wave of Sufi calm washes over me.

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Ankara, Turkey – April 06, 2013: Lego Star Wars Minifigure Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker are fighting with sword in front of other Star Wars characters isolated on white background.

Fascinated, my firstborn and I gaze at the bright sparks dancing around this very foreign body, neither one of us ever having seen anything like it before. Sugar strolls in wide-eyed, leaping up to drape himself around my neck. Ever the optimist, he seems confident that I’m not likely to throw him off again any time soon.  A heated discussion ensues. Are we seeing a UFO or the Space Station falling to earth? Probably not. At this point, our enthusiasm for late-night cosmic events is beginning to wane, so Mommy the Younger shuffles off to bed.  When I finally fall asleep, I dream that I am streaking across a galaxy far, far away in my skivvies.

It’s now 8:00 on Monday morning. I call the nearby Chabot Observatory and a cordial young astronomer solves the mystery. Sirius! Of course. I should have known that! It’s only the brightest star in the Universe named for the Greek word meaning “scorching” and it does indeed emit a fiery glow, appearing to weave and wobble due to changing atmospheric conditions.  Color me edified.

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Breakfast is over and the kitchen has taken on a kind of Jackson Pollock charm. Those bits of airborne scrambled eggs blend right in and give the wall an interesting texture.  My favorite preschooler, now dressed and well-fortified with several bowls of sugar-frosted sawdust, has gone barreling out the front door just ahead of his mother who is mumbling a Buddhist chant while rifling through her cavernous handbag in search of the car keys. Grandson No. 2 is howling mad at being left behind, but when he catches sight of the small wedge of buttered bagel dangling from my lips like Bette Davis’s cigarette, he’s all mine!

The lovely mother of my grandsons hands me my overnight bag and a plastic container full of coconut rice pudding, followed by a grateful, rib-crushing hug.  

It’s now 3:40 p.m. After a busy day spent singing the praises of a stunning oatmeal/banana/mango collage, exchanging sticky kisses, conducting an intense but futile search for the missing Pat The Bunny book, folding four floor-to-ceiling stacks of assorted clothing and magically restoring the offended quilt, it’s time for me to move on.  The lovely mother of my grandsons hands me my overnight bag and a plastic container full of coconut rice pudding, followed by a grateful, rib-crushing hug.

Homeward bound in the thick of commuter traffic, I reach up and touch the well-worn St. Christopher medal on my visor, and the usual prayer flows from my lips. “Lord, don’t let there be a stall in the Caldecott tunnel. Dr. Oz comes on in 20 minutes!   Amen.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR of Help Wanted

HELPAfter graduating from UC Berkeley and enjoying a rewarding and colorful career as a wife, mother, granny,pianist~teacher, composer, Special Ed Advisor, and award-winning writer, retirement affords me the luxury of free time for three of my favorite pursuits: Reading, Writing and Rachmaninoff.

 

 

 

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