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Sunday, July 28, 2013

All Good Zombies Go To Devon

Our daughter taught a course in Portugal for three weeks after which our son-in-law flew off to meet her in Rome.  We babysat.  I’m sure there’s something wrong with this picture, but I can’t quite put my finger on what.  Nah, we were happy to have the Perfect Grandchildren to ourselves for so long, and, truthfully, they behaved very well.  I will tell you, however, that we agreed to baby sit only if Stephanie signed them up for those most beautiful of words in the English language:  “day” and “camp.”

On the way to camp one morning, we were talking about books.  I had given Suzie The Light Princess by George MacDonald and told her that he also wrote one of my favorite books when I was her age, At The Back of the North Wind and how it ends up being sad but not sad.  Suzie asked for further explanation.
 “Do you remember what a metaphor is, Suzannah?  It’s when one thing stands for something else.  The boy in the story, Diamond, is happy, but they are poor, and he has a hard life, just like the North Wind blows hard and cold in the winter.  When Diamond visits the country at the back of the North Wind, it is warm and beautiful and nice.  He has enough to eat.  At the end of the book, he goes there to stay: the metaphor is that he has gone to heaven.  It's odd for the main character a children's book to die, but even though it's sad, you’re also kind of happy for Diamond.

And then Alan led us off on a philosophical trajectory.

Alan:  What's heaven? 

Me:  A lot of people believe you go to heaven after you die.  It’s a beautiful place, and everyone is happy.  I personally do not believe in heaven, but a lot of people do.” 

Suzannah: I believe in heaven. 

Alan:  I don’t believe in heaven.  I believe in . . . Devon.  Devon is a place where monsters live.  (He happily informed us) I am a monster.  When you and Suzie die, you will go to heaven, but (with no small amount of satisfaction) I will go to Devon.

Our next profound conversation took place while Suzie was off at the big camp 4th grade sleepover.  Not wanting Alan, a rising first-grader, to feel he was missing anything, we let him choose a special restaurant for dinner.  His preference?  Dairy Queen.  While we ordered, he flipped through their cake book (yes, we have to look at EVERY cake.)

His little fingers paused at a cake showing the Grim Reaper standing by an open grave.  It was embossed with large black letters R.I.P   (I don’t know about you, but I wonder what might be the occasion for such a cake.)

Alan:  What’s R.I.P.?

Yeah, you try to explain that to a five-year-old.

I will say that I am often amazed at the amount of trivia Steve and I have amassed between us.  I explained what R.I.P meant and why it’s on tombstones.  Alan was also interested in the figure in the black robe. 

Steve told him that the Grim Reaper originated in the Middle Ages (no, I’m sure Alan has no idea what the Middle Ages are.  Thank goodness he didn’t ask.) during the Bubonic Plague which was a sickness that made a lot of people die back then.  (Since his other grandfather died, it has been well established that Papa and I are NEVER going to die.)  We talked about how back then a farmer used a scythe to reap, that is cut down, grain, so the Grim Reaper uses a scythe to reap souls when people die.  Yeah, you try explaining what and where a soul is to a five-year-old.  That was the first thing he wanted to know.  Next question?

Yes, after the Grim Reaper comes, people can still turn into zombies.  (What the heck, follow the logic, and you'll come to that conclusion, too.)  Alan has an abiding interest in zombies and is well informed about them.  He told us that zombies do NOT east people’s brains.  No, they punch you in the nose.  That is what zombies do, in case you didn’t know.

Steve talked about how the Asian rats carried the fleas that carried the plague bacteria came with goods along the Silk Route. By the time he explained what the Silk Route as and I added the information that the plague died out partly because the Asian rats were overrun by the big Norwegian rats, on which the fleas didn’t thrive, well by then, we were talking to each other.  Alan was pretty much enthralled contemplating zombies, as you do while eating your ice cream at DQ.  While he was deep in thought, a lovely lady stopped by the table and said, “What a good little boy you are, sitting here eating your dinner.  You were so quiet, we hardly knew you were here.” 

Thank you, Grim Reaper and your zombies. 

I was pretty sure, however, that this topic would come back after lights out to bite me.  Sure enough, at 8:30, a little voice called from the top of the stairs, “Nana, I want to talk about something.  It’s about the Gwim Weaper.”

In the end, he decided the Grim Reaper was not a monster.  (Alas, I thought, when he dies, he will not go to Devon.)  He is really just a boy in a Halloween costume.  Alan saw a Halloween costume once that was a scary ghost with bones all over its face that really frightened him.  The Grim Reaper is the like that. 

Next came the what-else-can-I-milk-this-for portion of the evening.  “Nana, will you sing me another song?”

Of course I will.  Of course I’ll sing my Perfect Grandson another song.  How about arousing lullaby of “Nobody loves me/Everybody hates me/I’m gonna eat some worms”? 

I left him to giggle himself to sleep.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Shoggoth and The Fish

Shoggoth is a singularly repulsive monster in the H.P. Lovecraft universe.  That is not the Shoggoth I am writing about today.  I am writing about my son’s cat who is named after that monster.

  Not this ugly one,
  but this cuddly one. 
Shoggoth and the Fish are our Cats in Residence for a month.  Cats in Residence are sort of like Artists in Residence except, you know, they don’t do anything.  The cats are here while my son moves from California to Connecticut.  It’s a long move and has to take up time between semesters and so my son and his wife are doing the visiting extended family part, and we are cat-sitting. part. 

I looked forward to this catly visit because I thought Wumpus might enjoy playmates.  I know nothing of Wumpus’  back story (although I routinely make one up for him), and f liked to think he had kitty companions back in the day. 

Apparently not. 

Wumpus is smaller than both Shoggoth and the Fish -- indeed, Shoggoth outweighs him by three or four pounds -- but Wumpus beat the (pardon me) crap out of both of them.  Shoggoth was so traumatized, he hid under the bed for two days.  Fortunately, the hall in our house has a door which now remains firmly closed.  Shoggoth and the Fish have the run of the bedrooms, and Wumpus has the rest of the house plus the screened in porch plus the great outdoors.  He spends most of his summer on the porch so we are not missing the warm snuggles of winter. 

The Fish can be a naughty black puddle.  He craves people watching him eat.  If I sit at the computer when he is hungry, even though the bowl is full, he winds around my ankles demanding attention.  If attention is not smartly forthcoming, he is, I’m sorry to report, an ankle biter, so you’d better jump up and sit on the bed in the other room and pay attention, and you’d better do it sooner rather than later.  On the other hand, he will spend the night at my feet so that should I awaken in the dark, I settle back down to a satisfied purr.
Shoggoth is pretty inoffensive.  He allows himself to be subdued by Wumpus.  He allows himself to be pushed away from the supper bowl by the Fish.  He has his own interesting habits, though.  First, he won’t drink water from the water bowl, oh, no.  He sits at the bathroom door until you follow him in and waits for you to turn on the bathtub tap.  The sink tap will not do (not high enough, I think), and you must run the water at a fast dribble.  A thin stream is too fast, and he will run away.  A slow dribble in too slow, and he will retreat to the other end of the tub until you correct it.  When the dribble is just right, he will rub up against it as best he can and then stick out his pink tongue and lap at the droplets.  It takes him a while to slack his thirst, but he doesn't mind.


 Shoggoth likes to look and smell out the window.  We have a little stool under one window which I open.   He’ll climb up onto the inner sill.  It’s sort of like kitty i-max.  He’ll also jump up onto the sill of the other window.  The only problem there is that that window is closed.  It doesn’t work so well.  He may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but we love our Shoggoth.
                          Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser.  Er, I mean Shoggoth and The Fish

You didn’t think there would be a post about cats without filking did you?  That would not be right. 

Song of The Fish (They Call Him the Streak)

Oh, they call him The Fish,
His tail goes swishedy swish,
He likes a full supper dish,
And he wants it delish.

Shoggoth’s Song (tune of You Are My Sunshine)

He is my Shoggoth,
He is a mammoth,
A great behemoth
                Of soft gray fur.
A downy powder puff,
A giant ball of fluff,
A deep, resounding purr.