Back in middle school, I was walking home from the park with a friend when a white van pulled over.
The window rolled down, revealing two men. "Hey, girls. Do you know where Home Depot is?"
"Sorry," I replied, oblivious. "I'm no good with directions."
"Does your friend know?"
"No, I don't," she replied.
"Guess we'll just find it ourselves." The windows rolled back up. They drove off.
"That was scary." My friend squeezed my arm. "Mom says that's how kidnappers lure children in. They ask a question, get the kid to move closer to the car, then grab them."
The Search Dog
Scout, the German Shepherd, sniffs the small baseball cap in her owner's hand. Her nose leads them into the woods. Foliage crunches beneath her paws and her owner's boots.
Daylight fades. The air cools. Scout persists, her owner illuminating the way ahead.
She stops at the edge of a ravine and starts barking.
Death of the Self
Sleep eludes her. Again. Tears gather, but dry just as fast.
Her baby wails.
Her husband stirs. "Shut that baby up," he growls.
She imagines smothering "that baby", then catches herself. How could she even think that? She's such a horrible mother.
She needs help. But if she tells anybody, they'll think she's crazy. They'll take her baby away.
She does what's expected. Drags her feet out of bed, towards the nursery. Cradles her baby, sits with her in the rocking chair, hums...
Still, her baby cries. Like she knows. Her mother is an empty husk, incapable of loving her.
Their Signature Comedy Routine
As a kid, I got a kick out of Nanny reprimanding Papa whenever he got too mischievous. He'd do or say something out of line and she'd scold him and reel him back in. It wasn't until recently that I discovered that a lot of those times were just an act. Mom pulled back the curtains and revealed that Nanny would find reasons to scold him because she noticed how amused my brother and I would get every time he got in trouble with her. Although it was at his expense, Papa was a good sport about it. I imagine he played along for our sake.
It was like having a free, front row seat to a two-man improv comedy show. Papa would play the funny man, grappling with flimsy excuses to justify his behavior. Nanny would play the straight man or rather, woman, combating him with sound reasoning and ultimately putting him in his place. Together, they worked as a team in order to make my brother and I laugh.
This was just one of the many ways they made us happy.
As much as I enjoyed playing Rummikub, my favorite game to play with my grandparents was Uno. If it was a nice day out, we'd play out in the sunroom. If not, we'd play in the kitchen. Whenever it rained at the community pool, we'd play at a plastic table underneath an awning as a means of passing the time until the storm passed.
Both of them cut, shuffled, and dealt the cards with the finesse of professional card dealers.
Whenever Papa put down the first card or changed the color, he said a catchphrase for each one. For blue, he'd sing, "The sky is blue. How old are you?" For green, he'd say, "Green-go." For red, he'd say, "Red dead." And for yellow, he'd say, "Mellow yellow."
Nanny and Papa both had a different approach to playing the game with my older brother and I. Nanny went easy on us. She didn't have it in her to use any of the Draw Two or Draw Four cards against us. Papa, on the other hand, didn't have such qualms. He showed us no mercy. He'd slap those cards down onto the pile with a flourish and gave a mischievous chuckle as we drew two or four cards from the deck.
The more I played the game, the more I followed his lead. After winning a lot of games, he dubbed me the Uno Queen.
What can I say? I learned from the best.