I used to know a few things about kids, being as I raised three.
I also used to know how to turn on a TV and answer the phone.
Not no more.
Take TVs, for instance. Used to be, you pushed a button on the set and turned a dial. This was true no matter whose house you were in. You could count on it.
Now you got to dig around in the person’s sofa to find the remote, or even two remotes – one for the TV and one for the DVD – and push the exact right buttons in the exact right order so Elmo comes on and your grandson stops wailing.
And when the phone rang, you used to find it attached to the wall and you just picked it up and said hello. Now you run all over the house and find it under the cat or somewheres and snatch it up and hit the wrong button and hang up on your daughter who’s calling to double-check that you’re of sound mind.
Which, at this point, you ain’t.
At least kids haven’t changed. But the rules to take care of them have.
You can’t tell them to just run out and play. Or throw a bunch of Gold Brick eggs in the tall grass in the back yard and tell them they can eat whatever they can find.
Oh, nooooo. These days, if they’re underfoot, you got to play an educational DVD for them – once you figure out how to turn the TV on – or call up an approved parent and arrange a play date.
You even feed them different – no more little boxes of raisins to shut them up. Now raisins are a choking hazard.
Well. It took a lot more than raisins to choke my kids. My daughter Gumdrop swallowed a entire string of Rex beads – now that’s choking for you. It all came out in the end – but if I bring that up, I’ll never get to watch my grandbabies.
I was watching them last week because Gumdrop and her husband left town for her old friend Lula’s wedding. Now, Lula actually lives in New Orleans, but she’s having one of them exotic destination weddings at the Alpine Mountain Village near Dollywood. Among other exotic stuff, it provides the wedding chapel, the cake, the champagne and a “one-hour side-by-side massage.” (I don’t trust myself to say nothing about that.)
Meanwhile, brides from “Up North” are dragging their mothers and grandmothers and God-knows-who-else to New Orleans so they can get married exotically at Jazz Fest, on a parade float or somewhere else five minutes away from Lula’s house.
Nothing makes sense no more.
Anyway, me and my mother-in-law, Ms. Larda, are double-teaming up to take care of Lollipop and Go-Cup.
The first day, things go pretty good. Ms. Larda shows Lollipop how to use the gold foil from Easter Gold Brick Eggs and the silver paper from Hershey’s kisses to make little rings for herself and tiaras and jewelry for her Barbie doll. (Gumdrop read about toy jewelry being poisoned with cadmium and threw Lollipop’s out.)
Go-Cup, being a boy, is mostly interested in the chocolate. I got to remind him to actually unwrap each candy before he guzzles it down. And of all things, their cats, Rocky and Carlos, leap on the table and try to make off with Hershey’s Kisses. They were alley cats before Gumdrop took them in, and they still worry about starving. They will eat anything. Them and Go-Cup. They remind me of my late husband Lout.
After the kids are in bed, Ms. Larda realizes she can’t find her diamond ring. It ain’t that big, but it’s all she has left to remember her late husband Gomer – everything else got lost in Katrina. She took it off so she wouldn’t get chocolate on it when she was showing Lollipop how to make the jewelry and now it’s gone.
And then I remember about Gumdrop and the Rex beads, and I wonder if Go-Cup takes after his mother. Maybe he swallowed it. Or if one of the cats mistook it for a Hershey’s Kiss.
I tell Ms. Larda not to panic, but we’re going to have to check whatever comes out of Go-Cup, if you know what I mean. He is still in diapers, so that’ll help. And we also better sort through the cat litter box every day.
This ain’t going to be fun.
Then I get a brilliant idea. We will save all the diapers and kitty litter in a big plastic bag, which we’ll keep outside, and pray the ring turns up someplace else. If it don’t, we’ll take it to the airport where my cousin Merliton works and put it through the metal detector.
It don’t turn up. After Gumdrop comes home, we make one last desperate look around. Then Ms. Larda knots the top of the plastic bag and closes it up in a cardboard box that was laying around. She puts it in her trunk with her suitcase. When she gets home, she opens the trunk, hauls her suitcase inside and goes back for the box.
Somebody has stole it.
“How would they know it was valuable?” she wails to me, and I can’t figure it out until I remember something about the box. Gumdrop’s husband is a computer guru, and this was an Apple computer box. Only there wasn’t no Apple computer in it.
That somebody is in for a shock.
Well, would you believe, Gumdrop calls to say she found the ring. Lollipop’s Barbie doll was wearing it like a tiara, along with a lot of candy wrapper jewelry.
So Ms. Larda gets her ring back and the thief, whoever it was, is sorry now.
Crime is its own punishment. That don’t change.