Bedtime is always, "Tell me about Daddy when he was two. Tell me about Daddy when he was thirty-six. Tell me about Daddy when he was my age. Tell about when he froze his tongue to the mailbox while he was waiting for the school bus."
Mornings are always buttered toast and milk. Red cap milk. You can also call it whole milk, she said.
On the one day it didn't rain, we went to Living History Farms. She loved the Ioway Indian Village, and the chickens in the chicken coop. She was intrigued with the woman knitting at the 1870 farmhouse. We asked the horse in the barn whether he wanted us to pet his nose. He nodded. And I told her about the time, many years ago, when I was in that same barn and saw twin baby lambs in the straw, and a sparrow in the window.
She won a game of checkers at the General Store, hands down, fair and square, the longest checker game in history. (For someone who is so spontaneous, it seems, at checkers she deliberates.) The historian she played against had her own strategy, based on the same strategy some WWII General used in war. Her strategy usually works, she said.
At home we baked pink frosted sugar sprinkled cookies. This is one of our habits. We also dyed Easter eggs.
Yes, on June 4th, we dyed Easter eggs. Because when we spoke on the phone at Easter time, and I asked her whether she dyed eggs, she didn't know what I was talking about. I was both appalled and delighted by this, and called Grandpa Jack and asked him to see if he could find a dying kit while he was out and about. He brought home two.
We also played "Indian"--her favorite and maybe my least favorite game. One of us is the chief, and the other is the brave. When the brave earns five feathers by doing certain tasks, she becomes the chief. The first task is gathering wood for a fire.
When the chief asked whether I'd seen a rainbow that morning, I said yes. She then rewarded me with a special feather. I thought, Who Does That? (someone very like her grandmother, that's who. . .)
And for the rest of the time, when we weren't playing Barbies (which maybe I like even less than playing Indian), we talked and we decorated a box for her, and we read.
Thankfully, Lilia loves reading as much as I do. We read Shel Silverstein, the one she brought with her (A Light in the Attic) and the one I own (Where the Sidewalk Ends).
We spent a lot of time on "Knock Knock" with Mewhoo and Exactlywat. I was expected to memorize my half, which I never did to Lilia's satisfaction.
She told me that Grandma Terry makes the best scrambled eggs (they are sooooo yellow!), and that I'm "fat right there" and "ooooh, really fat right there." And why is your skin so soft and so wrinkled?
There was a meltdown over a marble game she made up. She kept changing the rules so she would win, till I outsmarted her. Then she became "a loser." Then she became "such a loser." We talked at length about the difference in losing something and being a loser. With lots of examples, and lots of hugging. (Which led to lots of feelings about labeling which is the same thing as calling names. Most of this in my head.)
When she asked about God and Jesus, I told her that the most important thing is to always remember that God loves you. Because it's the most important truth. If you forget everything else, you have to remember that.
And on the way home, she tried every way she could think of to get me to say that I love her more than I love anyone else. (Even if it were true, I don't think I would ever say that to her. Even if I felt tempted.) She finally got it down to lists. "Who are the three people you love the most?" "Okay, who are the four?" Finally, I said, "You must admit that you love your mom and dad more than you love me."
"Nooooo," she insisted.
But when she hopped out of the car and ran to her dad, I knew immediately. I just took it in. All of that eye contact and all of that pure love, and the way they pour it out on each other. She'd forgotten me altogether!