And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
My granddaughter, Grandbaby Maya Mae, lives exactly 1.2 miles away from me. This is a distance easily walked. During the course of a typical week, back before March 2020 when things were still typical, I drove by her home several times a week, and even if she wasn’t there, I waved at the house and called, “Hi, Maya!” She attended my book launches, always sitting quietly and politely, even when she was only a toddler.
Grandbaby Maya Mae has appeared in several of my Moments. One of my favorites is from when I was doing the Moment every day, in 2017. On October 10th of that year, I wrote about this moment with Maya, when I told her she was making a fashion statement.
“I admired Maya Mae’s leopard-print dress draped gracefully over hot pink leggings, the leggings ending over beaded flip-flops. “You look beautiful, Maya Mae,” I said. “You make a fashion statement.”
She looked up at me, eyes wide. “Whaaaaaaaaaaat?”
Oboy. “A fashion statement. It means that you choose to wear what makes you feel beautiful. You wear stuff that you like and that makes you happy. You wear what makes you Maya Mae.”
She thumped her chest. “I am ME!”
Maya is 7-soon-to-be-8 now. And she grows ME-ier every year, if not every day.
And right now, because of COVID, I don’t see Maya in person, despite the fact that she is only 1.2 miles away. Easily walked. I’m not out driving as much, but when I do, if I pass her house, I still wave and call out, “Hi, Maya!” though there is a significant catch in my voice.
Since March, I can count the times I’ve seen her in person on one hand. With less than one hand. I saw her on Memorial Day, when we had a socially distanced cookout. I saw her this past October, when she came to dinner to celebrate my being put on my high school’s Wall Of Fame. A couple days after that, she was at my home for several hours when we babysat because my son and his wife simply ran out of babysitting options, so I took a risk. And that’s it. She wasn’t here at Thanksgiving. We don’t know yet what Christmas will bring.
However, I do talk to her almost every night, via Zoom. We are reading our way through the Junie B. Jones series. I see her, hear her, and we laugh. She wiggles her loose teeth for me, and pokes her tongue out through the gaps where teeth have already been lost. She displays her artwork. She models her new clothes – she’s still making a fashion statement. She shares her toys with me.
It’s not the same, but it helps.
A few nights ago, I read the next chapter of Junie B. Jones. When I was finished, Maya sat straight up, crossed her arms and declared, “And now, I am going to read to YOU!” She stretched out her arms and two pointer fingers targeted me. I was delighted.
But then she got out a collection of sheets of paper, all stapled together down one side. She held the front up to the camera, where I admired a drawn picture of a cat and a dog with very grumpy faces. “This,” Grandbaby Maya Mae announced, “is a BOOK. And do you see who wrote it? Do you?”
I looked at the bottom of the cover, where there was a name in all capital letters. “M, A, Y, A!” I said. “Maya!”
“MAYA!” she shouted, both hands flung out in the best Ta-dah! ever. “I wrote a book!”
She wrote a book!
“And I’m going to read it to YOU.” She sat back down and I listened as she read the story. A cat and a dog lived together, but never got along. They fought a lot. One night, they went to sleep after barking and meowing at each other all day. In the morning, when they woke up, it was Christmas! They opened presents and then they smiled at each other. They became friends. The End. Throughout, Maya held the book up to the screen so I could see her illustrations, just like I showed her the illustrations in the books I read to her.
“Maya!” I exulted. “You did it! There’s conflict! There’s a resolution! There’s character development!”
“Gramma Kaffee,” she said (the “Gamma” is gone, unfortunately, but the Kaffee is still there), frowning at me. “I WROTE a BOOK.”
She did. With that pure unadulterated, well, let’s make that unadulted joy of just putting one word after another and seeing how they made a meaning and suddenly, there was a story. One of my first stories was “The Deer That Went Boating”. And I didn’t think of conflict, resolution, or character development either. I acted out the story that night in the bathtub, playing with bathtub toys. When I got out, I quickly dressed in my pajamas while whispering my soap-bubbled words so I wouldn’t forget them, sat down at my desk, and wrote the story. Then I tamped the pages all together and stapled them down the side. A book.
Just like Maya Mae. And Maya Mae, just like me.
1.2 miles. And hours, days, months of pandemic. But that face beamed at me from the screen and mine beamed back at her. I remembered the face that beamed back at me when I looked in a mirror that night after my bath, when I held my book and thought about showing my teacher the next day.
“Mrs. Faticci,” I said. “I wrote a book.” And she beamed.
“Maya Mae,” I said now. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Maya said. And then she sat down to read her book again.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.