There are certain sentences you figure you’ll never have to say:
“Please pass the piano.”
“Saw off my leg.”
“One piece of bacon is plenty for me!”
“I’m not wearing that tutu.”
I’d never spoken the first three—until I just read this column aloud to myself—but I said the fourth the other day when our daughter the Sous Chef walked down the stairs with a piece of her past. She had just heard I was taking the soon-to-be-3-year-old granddaughter to a mommy-and-me—in this case, Baba-and-me—ballet class.
Contrary to some of my buddies’ predictions, I did show up at the home of my eldest daughter, the Stay-at-Home-Mom, on the appointed day at the appointed time … albeit sans tutu. (I don’t mind playing the buffoon, but I don’t want anyone to feel compelled to gouge their eyes out.)
I get my hello hug and kiss from AngelFace and marvel at how every day she grows, mostly between the ears—it’s like a computer virus. Her soon-to-be-3-month-old brother, Little Buddy, is smiling and laughing, and, maybe not to be outshone, AngelFace’s personality is—well, shall we say—blossoming. (It appears she may have a bit too much Baba in her DNA.)
Her father says he is “making cereal” for her pre-ballet breakfast.
“You don’t make cereal, Daddy. You pour it,” she says … and, I swear, I heard sarcasm in there.
And that wasn’t the first time.
My wife, Goggy—who gets up at 5 a.m. and gets home about 12 hours later so I can be an American idle—doesn’t get to spend quite as much time with the grandkids as I do, so some activities that are routine for AngelFace and I are still journeys of discovery for Goggy. They were sitting on the kitchen floor the other day, starting work on a yard-square puzzle of a castle. Goggy was explaining that it was important to start with the corner pieces.
Can an almost-3-year-old mock?
“Look, Baba, Grandma’s showin’ me ‘bout corner pieces,” she says.
(Straight face, though, always the deadpan. Remind me to teach this one to play poker.)
It’s time to leave for ballet, so AngelFace is outfitted in tights, leotard and dancing shoes—I’m not wearing a tutu if she doesn’t have to—and we head off for our class. (I’ll be doing my jetés, pirouettes and fouettés in a $12 Target workout shirt, a $9 pair of shorts from Ross Dress for Less and a $114 pair of New Balance tennis shoes … hey, I’m a tennis player, and at my age, you take care of your feet first.)
En route, I’m trying not to curse the driving skills of the guy in the car in front of me, who seems to brake and accelerate at times calling for exactly the other action, so I complain a little, but without hostility.
After a couple of beats, this from the backseat car seat:
“Baba, what you whinin’ ‘bout?”
The kid’s a pip, I’m telling you.
The ballet teacher, the much-heralded Miss Sheila, turns out to be young, attractive and most welcoming to raggedy old grandpas. She even admires my footwear. (I figure she started at the top and worked her way down before finally finding something worth admiring.) The mommies skipping around the floor with their daughters smile and nod with maybe a hint of “you’re a good sport” appreciation.
After a few minutes, it’s time to stretch. (Miss Sheila knows her stuff … a guy who spent half his life bored to death watching pro athletes understands the importance of warming up before stretching.)
But Baba isn’t warmed up enough for what’s next.
Miss Sheila wants us to touch our toes. (Hey, I’m damn proud that, at my age, I can still look down and see my toes!) Baba could try to tear a hamstring, but he’s busy taking a few pictures. Then Miss Sheila says something really scary.
“Nose to toes.”
Foot-in-mouth I do great, but noses-to-toes only happens if I’m hit by a bus.
AngelFace leans forward and puts the tip of her little nose on top of her little dance slippers. Then she turns her head slightly in my direction, frowns and admonishes: “Ba-ba!”
The other mommies find this amusing, to say the least. All those smiling eyes are focused on me. But this is no laughing matter, as I explain.
“Sure, guys, it’s funny. But here’s a headline you never want to see: Hundreds Injured—Some Miles Away—by Flying Vertebrae Shrapnel When Old Man’s Back Explodes.”
Most of the ballet-class music bordered on something akin to water-boarding, and a little girl wearing a tutu poked me in the eye with a wand, but somehow everyone survived without major incident.
“Havin’ waaaay too much fun, Baba,” AngelFace says as we leave, her latest favorite saying, followed by: “What now, Baba?” (That’s her second favorite saying.)
I tell her we’re heading back to her house so I can spend some time with Little Buddy. We drive in silence for a few minutes, and then this from the backseat:
“Your hair is like silver, Baba. I didn’t notice that.”
Back home from ballet, I’ve got Little Buddy on my shoulder when my phone rings. It’s a tennis buddy confirming the time of a match the next day, so the call will only take seconds … which, of course, is plenty of time for AngelFace to say, “Stop talkin’ on phone and play with me, Baba” … four times.
The Stay-at-Home-Mom sees this as a teaching moment.
“That’s what ‘interrupting’ is,” she says. “Remember what we’ve said about ‘interrupting.’ When Baba’s on the phone, don’t talk to him. It’s interrupting, and it’s not polite.”
AngelFace stares blankly at her mom, and, with an almost imperceptible shake of the head, says:
“I can’t understand that.”
About this column: John Weyler has lived in Orange County for almost 50 years. His weekly regional columns offer his unique, and often irreverent, take on life in the O.C.