February 1, 2012

-image-holiday kids

Taken with my crappy cell phone camera, but I got a purty new digital camera for Christmas. (These photos were taken pre-present opening, sadly.) So we’ll see if my photos get any better. If not, we’ll know that there is something very wrong with my new camera.

See that look? That pretty much sums up Banshee Girl’s entire personality. A stinker, as we withered crones like to say.

Original Banshee didn’t pose for this but I got lucky enough to catch this moment where she paused and looked so pretty and wistful.

Okay, clearly, this sucks as a photo. I cropped them out of another photo and that made it even blurrier. But I couldn’t resist Elder Nephew’s smile and that sweet sweet look on Piper’s face. That’s her heart you see on her face. LOVE that girl so much.

February 22, 2011

-image-random snippets

We are at the stoplight at the bottom of the hill where, for a few months now, there has been a homeless couple panhandling at the corner. They seem in their early 30s but it’s hard to tell. The man seems to be in charge of 3 things: walking up and down the hill, holding the sign, and menacing cars. The woman seems to be in charge of one thing: sitting near the crosswalk curled over on herself. He goes to work — menacing cars up and down the same 30-foot stretch of sidewalk — and she curls over on herself. Watching this behavior, something suddenly occurs to me so I turn to MB and say, “Oh, I get it now. She’s stay-at-home homeless.”


Favorite piece of movie dialog heard over the weekend:

HE: You’re shaking.
SHE: It’s the weather.

(What?? Well, sunny days do that to me, too.)


Favorite parts (so far) of niece Piper’s novel “Cleo’s Adventures”:

Then the four of them rode a subway to Montana.

I also liked this dialog:

“Don’t be lazy, Jack. You’re a demigod, not a cat!”

“I wish I WERE a cat,” grumbled Jack.

And this opening:

When her mom told her she was sending her to Greek school, Cleo thought she said geek school.

I actually think that’s a pretty good opening sentence. Go, Piper!

She left me with a cliffhanger in the unfinished Chapter Four. It’s called “An Unplanned Swim” and apparently involves a hideous sea serpent in the Missouri River. When I asked her how a sea serpent ended up in the Missouri River, Piper said simply, “He just got lost and decided he liked it there.”

No complicated reason. Sometimes the most straightforward explanation is best, you know?

She has 24 pages so far. Oh, this is her second novel.

She is 10.

August 23, 2010

-image-weekend snippets

MB to me:

“You’re like a bucket of popcorn shrimp! You just keep making me happy!”


Describing an old Beanhouse customer we saw on the boulevard:

“Ugh. He was the grumpiest man alive. Like he was made of onions or something.”


Baby Banshee, wondering where her cousin, Younger Nephew, is:

“Tee Tee, where dat guy dat goes wid da doggie?”


Submitting to “The Hypnosis Game” as played by The Banshee and Piper.

BANSHEE: Okay, Tee Tee. Watch this necklace.
TEE TEE: Okay.
BANSHEE: You’re getting sleepy, okay?
TEE TEE: Uhm, sure.
BANSHEE: Well, you ARE getting sleepy, Tee Tee!
TEE TEE: Yes, ma’am.
PIPER: When I clap my hands, you will wake up and you will be our servant.
TEE TEE: That’s a bummer.
BANSHEE: Tee Tee! You’re asleep!
TEE TEE: Yes, ma’am.
BANSHEE: And …… you won’t be our servant, you’ll be our …… BEAUTIFUL LADY!!
TEE TEE: Nice save, Banshee.

Piper claps her hands.

TEE TEE: What’s up?
BANSHEE: Now go get us some cake!

December 28, 2009

-image-christmas snippets #1

We all gathered for Christmas up at my sisters’ house.

~ My sister and Piper set up a little “Christmas store” for The Banshee, consisting of toys, clothes, dolls, etc., things in good condition that Piper had decided she wanted to give away. And rather than just give The Banshee everything — that kid doesn’t really need more stuff — they devised this little store game for her. They set everything up at the top of the stairs, gave The Banshee some “Christmas bucks,” and told her she could buy whatever she wanted. Cute and smart, no? That way The Banshee gets stuff she really wants and will use. The Banshee, who’s 5, was quite serious about the whole process. She considered everything carefully, weighed her options. Well, no. Right off the bat, she knew she wanted an only-worn-once dress of Piper’s — that girl does NOT like dresses — but after that, with the rest of her Christmas bucks, she ruminated. She debated. This was a BIG DEAL. After all, critical decisions regarding toys she would play with for 20 minutes and then forget about forever were being made. Finally, she selected a game for herself but then found herself torn. She wanted to buy some blocks for her little sister, Baby Banshee (who’s 2), AND she wanted to buy some books for herself. She loves books, already loves to read, really wanted those books, but she didn’t have enough money left, you see. Piper had priced some of the items herself and so some of the pricing was just a bit wonky. Like, oh, used kids’ books for 5 Christmas bucks each and sets of blocks for 9 Christmas bucks. Maybe just a little pricey. So poor Banshee, with just 10 Christmas bucks left, was in a quandary. Oh, how she wanted those blocks for Baby Banshee and, oh, how she wanted those books! She said, “Well, I want those blocks for Baby Banshee so I guess I won’t get the books.”

My sister stepped in. “Well, sweetie. If you want to do that, I think we can work out a deal on the books, okay?”

“Really? Okay!”

So Baby Banshee got her blocks and Banshee got her books.

O happy day, pippa!

~ Before Christmas Eve dinner, my sister, sister-in-law, and I went for a walk. At one point, my sister-in-law proclaimed they had gotten my parents the best presents ever.

“We got them Amazon gift cards for their Kindles.”

(Which my parents are OBSESSED with.)

“You’re kidding,” my sister said. “We did too!”

“Uhm,” I said, “so did we!!”

We panicked, tried to think of some last-minute change we could make, and then I said, “You know, it is what it is. Leave it alone. They’ll probably think it’s funny.”

And they did. My parents howled. I think it was one of their favorite parts of Christmas. That all three kids, with no pre-planning or discussion, had gotten them the very same thing.

~ At one point, in the fading daylight, I walked out to retrieve something from our car. A neighbor across the street stood in his driveway with an old man, maybe his dad, dressed as Santa.

“Hi Santa!” I called.

“Hey there!”

“You look great! Hey, are you going to be out here for a minute?”


“Okay, great, because I’ll bet my nieces would want to come and see you.”

“Okay. I’ll wait.”

Seems like a good idea, right? How fun, and all that. Good job, Tee Tee, I thought to myself.

I ran inside, calling to everyone within earshot, “Hey, you guys! Come see! Santa is outside! Right now! Come SEE!”

A hubbub ensued as my entire family spilled out onto the street. I stood next to my SIL who clutched a smiling, wide-eyed Baby Banshee in her arms. Piper hung back a bit, but Original Banshee just marched onward, straight towards “Santa.”

And he, in turn, staggered and weaved his way towards her.

“Santa,” you see, was drunk.

Oh, sweet baby Jesus in the manger.

Banshee waited for him on the sidewalk, eyes blazing with excitement.

Please kill me.

“Hey! Ho ho …… he-ey, li’l girl!”

Banshee’s brow furrowed a teeny bit. Baby Banshee burst into tears.

“Wha’ss your name?”

“Uhm …. Banshee.”


“Banshee,” she corrected his pronunciation.

“Oh, okay. Banshee.”


“How old are you, Bansheesh?”

“I’m 5. And a half.”

“Wow.” Santa wobbled like a Weeble. I could feel my entire family gaping at me in horror. Fine. I just didn’t look at those judgey wieners.

But, seriously, Santa. Get a grip.

“What do you …. want fer Chrissmass, Bansheesh?”

She rattled off a list of things so quickly, I couldn’t make it out. I was hoping to hear her say, “A lame conversation with a gross drunk Santa,” but, nope, didn’t hear it.

“Okaay. Well, Sanna ….. Sanna has a pressent fer you.”


“Well, not righh now …. later on ….. later, yesh, something fer later.”

He looked like he could just melt into the sidewalk, leaving a weird red-and-white 80 proof blob. At least the gin blossom matched the costume.

“Yess ….. Sanna …. has pressentss fer later but you haf to be asleep, righh?”

He weaved and tried to smile a Santa smile. He didn’t make it. The Banshee’s brow furrowed even more. Her face fell.


“Well, Murry Chrissmass ….. Bansheesh!”

The Banshee murmured in response.

“Uhmm ….. Merry Christmas, Santa.”

We all trundled back inside. I hung at the back of the pack, lost in a certain seasonal self-loathing. I glanced over my shoulder and watched as “Santa” was helped back across the street by his son.

Inside, The Banshee said, “Mommy, that wasn’t the real Santa Claus!”

Her mom tried some damage control. “Well, sweetie, he was just one of Santa’s helpers.”

“No! I don’t think he was one of Santa’s helpers either!”

“You don’t?”

“NO! He had tape on his mustache, Mommy! I saw it! He was just an old man who likes to play dress up!”

The rest of us practically sprinted out of the room to find somewhere we could laugh where The Banshee wouldn’t see us.

Yeah. Good job, Tee Tee.

~ Christmas Eve evening is our “Circle” tradition. We all sit in a circle by the tree and one of us reads Luke chapter 2 from the family Bible. Piper and The Banshee had both snuggled up to their Uncle Beloved on the sofa. I had Younger Nephew, now 15, snuggling up to me. He still does that, at his age. Er, well, sometimes, it’s his feet in your lap or your face, but I prefer to view this as a positive. After the reading, Dad passes around the 50-year-old song sheets so we can sing Christmas carols. We all know ALL the words to ALL the carols, but nevertheless, he must pass out the song sheets; it’s tradition. Even though I don’t look at it, I actually think I wouldn’t be able to sing carols in Circle if the song sheet wasn’t in my hand. It’s now a Pavlovian response: Clutching a 50-year-old song sheet = ability to sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve. This year, The Banshee joined her voice to our chorus. She knows all the words, too, without looking or reading, and apparently believes the way to make her voice sound good is to make it all quavery with vibrato, like an old lady’s voice. So here’s this blonde-haired, 5-year-old angel, snuggled up to her older cousin who is snuggled up to her Uncle Beloved, singing O Holy Night like some 93-year-old church soloist. A LOUD 93-year-old church soloist. She shook those notes out like a dusty rug. She quaked like a San Andreas temblor. Younger Nephew, her cousin, shot a glance at me, I smiled, and that was all it took. He started shaking with laughter; I started shaking with laughter. We couldn’t look at her anymore. She was killing us — and completely oblivious to us, thank God. She was completely adorably oblivious.

Our quavering Christmas angel, our precocious granny child.

When we were done singing, The Banshee surprised us all and sang two solos: Silent Night and Angels We Have Heard on High. Thing is, she sang them perfectly, without old lady quaver, and completely on pitch. The kid can sing, genuinely sing. I know whereof I speak here. When she let herself just sing with her natural little kid voice, all by herself, with no self-imposed pressure to be “adult” like the rest of us, well, I just lost it, and not with laughter this time. Glancing around the room, I saw that I was not the only one in the room who started to cry for joy at The Banshee’s quirky in-your-face sweetness.

Later, as we held hands and prayed in our circle, the soundtrack playing in my head was The Banshee’s golden little voice crooning, “Glo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oria, in excelsis Deo!”

Gloria, indeed.

(More snippets to come …. since these are almost more saga than snippet.)

November 4, 2009

-image-what about the girls?

I was up for my day at Disneyland for Piper’s birthday in September, when she came up to me, sat in my lap, and said, “Tee Tee, so, what about your girls?”

“My girls?”

“Yeah. You know, the girls you make. Did you bring any with you?”

“Uhm …. well … there might be a couple in my bag. Why?”

“Oh, I just want to see them is all.”

“Oh, okay.”


Then she smiled at me and gave me a big long Piper hug.

I was a puddle.

And, sure enough, later on, she took “the girls” out of my bag, oohing and ahhing at each one, making very specific comments to me about all of them.

I’m telling you, the kid has the gift of encouragement, an uncanny sense of what people need to hear and precisely when they need to hear it. It’s a spiritual gift. A sense she has that is nothing but otherly and divine. It’s part of her, but it’s otherly. I don’t know how else to say it.

And you know what, pippa?

That’s God.

THAT is God.

October 17, 2009


From two summers ago, when the whole family went to Zion, Utah. Piper and Original Banshee, 6 and 3 years old, walking down a dusty road. Original Banshee idolizes her older cousin.

Uhm, this one chokes me up. One of my favorite photos ever.

September 22, 2009

-image-sunday in the park with … the bff

This past Sunday was Piper’s birthday and I was invited to go to Disneyland with her, her mother, and her BFF who I’ll call Callie.

How could I say no?

To get the whole extravaganza off on the right foot, Callie the BFF and Tee Tee had to spend the night Saturday night, naturally. I mean, there could be NO delay in hitting the road Sunday morning to get to Disneyland. Which, really, is only about 40 minutes away from my sister’s house. Still, we both needed to be nearby, at hand, on site so we could wake up, wake up, wake up, and hurry, get in the car!

Now this is not news, but I know my sister and I know my niece, so the X factor in this whole equation for me was the BFF Callie whom I had never met.

And I’m telling you — that girl was quirky. Precocious. I totally fell in love with her. She was a tiny blonde blue-eyed sprite who basically, at 8 years old, has decided she knows what’s what in the world. She was sweet as pie and opinionated as an old man. You wanted to smoosh her; you wanted to scold her. She was the yin to Piper’s yang. Or something. Piper is all sweetness and roundness. There are no angles in her personality, at least not yet. This girl was sweetness with an edge. And I wanted to take her home.

~ The minute Callie arrived, Piper swooped her up into her room where they hid out for a long time. When they finally came downstairs, Piper was beaming and pulling on something around her neck. So was Callie for that matter. “Look, Tee Tee! Callie got us matching necklaces.” Both necklaces were horses, but Callie’s said “Best” and Piper’s said “Friends.” And, okay, so I burst into tears from the sweetness.Whatevs. And, okay, the whole day at Disneyland whenever I looked down at their little necklaces, I teared up all over again. Again, please, I reiterate: Whatevs.

~ Then Piper blurted out, “And guess what else, Tee Tee? Callie got us matching robes for our sleepover!” See note related to whatevs above.

~ At dinner, in front of my two nephews and brother-in-law, Callie — who apparently is an only child — offered her opinion of boys. “Boys are lame. You can’t trust them.” She pointed at my nephews in turn. “I don’t trust you and I don’t trust you.” Then she looked at my BIL. “And I don’t even KNOW you.” (I’m sorry. I’m laughing just writing this because she is the CUTEST little thing saying these things.) She turned to me. “I trust you.” She’d known me for half an hour. “And I trust Piper’s mom. And Piper, of course.” Of course.

~ The nephews just laughed and tried to plead their case — they’re 15 and 18 now — but Callie would have none of it.

~ Piper and Callie had a list they kept referring to of “57 Things To Do Saturday Night.”

~ I don’t think they got to them all.

~ Near bedtime, they came down in their matching polka-dotted robes. I made them walk an imaginary catwalk which they both did very well. Really, a bit too well. Quite frankly, I’m still a little disturbed.

~ Then Callie plopped down next to me on the sofa, looked at me for a moment with that frank expression she has, and said, “Can I call you Tee Tee?” Once I’d swallowed the lump in my throat, I said, “Sure you can.”

~ And she did. She called me Tee Tee. Immediately.

“So, Tee Tee, the other day in class, Blueberry Logan burped and it was really gross.”

“Wait. Who’s Blueberry Logan?”

“He’s this boy in our class who’s just a tad annoying. His name is Logan.”

“Well, I didn’t figure his name was Blueberry. Why do you call him that?”

“‘Cause he’s round, like a blueberry.”

“Is he blue?”

“No. Just round.”

“Do you call him this to his face? I mean, does he know he’s Blueberry Logan?”

“Oh, no. I wouldn’t do that!

“Oh, well, no.

~ She told me how she picked out the necklaces. “Well, they had ones that were pandas and pandas are my favorite animal, but Piper likes horses, so I wanted to get her what she would like.”

“Oh, that is so sweet!” I said.

She looked at me.

“You’re a little creepy.”

“I am?”

“Well, your voice just went really high when you said that.”

“Hm. I guess it did. So that’s creepy?”

“A little bit.”

“Good to know.”

~ She then spent the remainder of our time together feeling bad, I guess, about calling me creepy because she kept reassuring me — quite randomly and out of the blue — that I was NOT creepy.

In line at the Matterhorn ride:

“Okay. So you are really not creepy.”

“It’s okay, Callie. It was kinda creepy.”

Picking out a stuffed animal at the Disney Emporium:

“Honestly, you’re really not creepy.”

“Callie, seriously, it’s okay.”

Washing her hands in the bathroom and yelling to me while I’m in the stall:

“Tee Tee? You’re not creepy, okay?!”

“Okay, Callie!”

~ On Saturday afternoon, I had arrived wearing jeans and an Indian-style tunic. Sunday morning, I wore jeans with a bohemian-looking dress over them. Callie sized me up. “I like your top,” she said.

“Thank you.”

“I liked the one you wore yesterday, too.”

“Thank you again.”

“You have nice tops.”

~ When I was a few minutes late getting out to the car, Callie grilled me. “I thought you knew we were leaving.”

“I did.”

“Well, what were you doing?”

“Standing in the hall doing nothing just to bug you.”

“No, seriously. What were you doing?”

“Well, Callie. I was in the bathroom.”


“I mean, I could give you details.”

She started to laugh.

“No! No no no!!”

“Okay, then.”

~ We were at Disneyland for five seconds — I kid you not — I mean, we had just started walking down Main Street, when Callie said, “Walking is SO exhausting.”

My sister and I shared a glance over her head that said It’s gonna be a lonng day.

~ Callie didn’t want to go on Splash Mountain — she was a little afraid of some of the more roller coaster-y rides — so we sat at a little cafe and chatted while my sister and Piper went on the ride.

“Are you a vegetarian, Tee Tee?”


“Me either. I like meat. I don’t like vegetarians.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah. Vegetarians could be, like, dying from a black widow spider bite and they’d still be all ‘Oooh, don’t hurt the black widow. I love the black widows. I want another black widow so I can pet it, ooooh.'”


“You know, you’re kind of like a teenager.”

“Oh? How so?”

“Well, you kind of dress like a teenager.”

I wasn’t sure this was a compliment.

“Look, I’ll have you know, Crackie, I bought this in the grown-ups clothing section.”

“And you kind of talk like a teenager. I like that whole Crackie thing you do.”

“Well, yes, I AM young at heart.”

“Hey, what do you think — is this gross or cool?”

She started pushing a loose tooth out with her tongue until it was nearly parallel to the roof of her mouth.

“Well, you know, it’s cool but also gross, I ain’t gonna lie. And it makes me want to pull your tooth out right now.”


“All right. Let’s talk about Blueberry Logan. Is he nice at all?”

“Well, sometimes, but he’s mostly annoying.”

I smelled a grade school crush.

“Uh-huh. Well, that’s a bummer.”

“Yeah. He likes to burp.”

“This from the girl who pokes her tooth out for me.”

“Yeah, hahahahaha.”

“Okay, so what’s your favorite fruit?”

“Uhm, well, peaches, I guess.”

“Ooh, I LOVE peaches. So that means — if there’s a Blueberry Logan — you could be Peaches Callie?”

“Guess what? I’m half Irish.”

Sometimes she switched streams quickly.

“Oh, so you could be Peaches O’Callie? Or maybe just Peaches. Can I call you Peaches?”

Obviously, I was dying to call her Peaches.

“Hahahahaha. Okay, Tee Tee.”

“Okay, Peaches.”

“Do you like dresses, Tee Tee?”

“Uhm, not much.”

“Me either.”

“Do you ever have to wear them, like at church or something?”

“Oh, I don’t go to church.”

“Oh, okay.”

“But I have one of those Children’s Bibles — you know those?

“I do.”

“Yeah. I check it out.”

“That’s cool.”

~ Waiting in line for that lame Jungle Cruise, she whispered to me, all subversively, “Tee Tee, do you know about the man with glass balls?”

Eh, there, Peaches?? Was this adorable 8 year old telling me an off-color joke? Frankly, I had to know. I had to pursue it. I mean, she wasn’t MY kid.

“Uhm, no.”

She whispered even closer to my ear.

“And I mean the balls he pees with.”

I wanted to tell her that a man peeing with those things would likely be in a 911 situation, but I just let it slide.

“Well, I didn’t think you meant basketballs.”

“No. See, he fell down a mountain.”

“Oh, really?”

“Uh-huh. Guess which mountain.”

“I literally have no idea.”

“Well, Mt. Everest.”

“Wow. Really? That’s a long fall — like 26,000 feet.”

“Yeah, I know. He fell for a whole DAY.”

“He DID?”


“And he was still alive at the bottom?”

“Yep. But he needed glass balls.”

She was not joking. She was, in a deadly serious way, simply imparting the facts about the dude who ended up with glass balls. I found myself thinking about how loud glass balls would be, clacking around in one’s pants, but I decided to keep this thought to myself. She was eight and knew too much already. I really hoped she hadn’t told Piper about the dude with glass balls. I didn’t want her to be scared. Or curious. About anything. EVER.

~ At lunch while she ate some chicken nuggets:

“Ooh, do you know I like broccoli with cheese?”

“I didn’t know that. I love broccoli, with or without cheese. How do you feel about green beans?”

“I love green beans.”

“So if you ever come to my house with Piper, we’ll have broccoli and cheese and green beans. How’s that sound?”

“Really good.”

“And we’ll do fun stuff like, oh, re-grout the bathroom tile –”

“I don’t even know what that is.”

“Well, see, you don’t know the fun you’re missing — and wax the cars and organize our DVDs alphabetically.”

“That does not sound fun.”

“But there will be green beans.”


~ At one point during the day, Callie told my sister, “I think Piper is the sweetest kindest person I’ve ever known.” Sob. She’s right, you know.

~ On the way home from Disneyland, we saw a restaurant called Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. This generated a brief discussion between my sister and me about Forest Gump. Callie chimed in.

“Forest Gump? I do NOT like that movie.”

I feel ya, dawg.

“It is totally inappropriate,” she said.

I asked her what was inappropriate about it and turns out, it was all those flashbacks. Did you know that? S’true. The flashbacks are what is wrong with Forest Gump. I’m glad I had this precious child come along to point that out for me. Finally.

~ Back at my sister’s house, as she packed her overnight things and prepared to go home, she said to me, “I had a really fun time with you, Tee Tee.”

“I did too, Callie.”

I really did.

What an adorable little kook.

August 27, 2009

-image-the origins of “tee tee”

As most of you know, all my nieces call me “Tee Tee.” But it wasn’t always this way. Before the nieces came along, before Tee Tee was ever a name on anyone’s lips, I was called other things by my two nephews who struggled to say my real name. One of these, in particular, I might like to forget, but no one in the family seems to want to let me. Those wieners.

Still, I share these names with you now.

(Uhm, for informational purposes only. Not for personal use, ahem. At least not to my face. Or, well, my screen. You must resist the temptation. Resist, I say!)

When Elder Nephew was very little and the first one to struggle with “Aunt Tracey,” one day he quite simply gave up and started calling me …. Trashy. Yep. Trashy. He become totally obsessed with Trashy. How on earth this was somehow easier to say than Tracey is beyond me. I mean, you’ve got the “t-r” and the “s-h” consonant combos crashing together in one ego-squashing nickname. Despite my vigorous attempts at eradication, Trashy stuck around long enough to really mess with my psyche. Sometimes, I’d catch him muttering it repetitively under his breath, Trashy … Trashy … Trashy, as if his wee toddler brain simply could not contain the magnitude of my trashiness and needed to sit and offload it all from time to time. I became paranoid that this little ball of chub actually knew what “trashy” meant. Not that I was trashy. Oh, no. I am and always have been Snow White. Amish. A nun, even now. But hearing that all the time, I started to think this child, the apple of my eye, was some freaky soothsayer who sensed in me a hidden inner trashiness just waiting to bubble forth. Trashy … Trashy … Trashy. Of course, this name did not go unnoticed by the rest of the family, those piranhas, and so I was besieged on all sides by a firestorm of Trashy-ness that still flares up even today. Little pisher. I’d make him pay for it, but the lad is now a fearsome giant.

Younger Nephew struggled with “Aunt Tracey” too. When he finally threw up his chubby little hands in defeat, he started calling me Tayhee. Now Tayhee was certainly preferable to Trashy, especially since Younger Nephew would squeak it out in the little crinkly-crackly voice he had at that age. I’m telling you, that kid was smushable to a dangerous degree. Everything about him was basically crack to me and I was jonesing for him BAD. He could not pronounce the hard “g” sound to save his life and instead pronounced it as “d.” If I was leaving, he’d ask, Where are you doh-ing, Tayhee? If he wanted more of his favorite fruit, he’d ask, May I have some more drapes, Tayhee? And sometimes, he’d snuggle up to me, stroke my face, and say, I tink you’re a pretty dirl, Tayhee, and my heart would burst in a sudden coronary of love.

Then there was Piper. That girl struggled with pronouncing “Aunt Tracey” even longer and harder than her two brothers did. She couldn’t do it. Just could not get it. She would weep because she couldn’t do it. At that age, she just had major speech issues. I mean, the poor kid called her older brother Jawa and although I know I’ve never used their real names here, TRUST ME, it’s not even close. He was just Jawa. It would be like calling someone named — oh, let’s say Donald — Jawa instead. Yeah. Like that.

One night, I was up at my sister’s, babysitting overnight. The boys were 12 and 9; Piper was three. At one point, she was showing me how she could pronounce all the names of things in a certain picture book. She was so proud, proclaiming these words to the whole house, basically.

“Look! A didge!”

“Oh, yes, honey. A bridge,” I’d say.

“Look! A boon!”

“Yeah. A spoon,” I’d say.

“Look! A fag!”

“Oh, sweetie, yes, that’s a flag,” I’d say, choking back laughter. She was so intent, so SURE, you see, in what she was declaring.

Bless her, she did not get a single one of those words right — I mean, her speech issues had basically reached critical mass at this point — but it was all so endearing, so precious, that if I thought of the day she would learn to speak correctly, I could actually feel the cold stones of dread sinking in my gut. I was head over heels for her little impediments.

Her brothers, who had heard her loud pronouncements, suddenly plunked on the couch, surrounding her, and Elder Nephew said, “Piper ….. can you say Aunt Tracey?”

She shook her head, oh, so sadly.


“Come on. Try it,” said Younger Nephew.

“I can’t.”

“Come on, try!”

“I caaaan’t!” she wailed.

I shot them a sharp look and a warning voice.


Younger Nephew tried a new approach, trying to be helpful.

“Pipey, maybe you could call her Tayhee, like I did. Can you say that?”


The despair.

There was a slight pause. Older Nephew chimed in, an evil gleam in his eyes.

“Hey, Pipey. I know what. Why don’t you call her Trashy like I did?”

“Oh, haha. All right, you two, that’s enough, or –”

I tried to think of some dread punishment, even though I was smiling at his wicked little grin, his newly sprouted devil horns.

“– you can just go to your room and dinner will be the water you suck up from the carpet after I pour it under the door!”

“Aunt Tracey!!” they said.

“Oh, I MEAN it.”

But I was laughing and so were they.

Piper, on the other hand, suddenly dissolved into a puddle of tears, her face hidden in her palms.

“I can’t! I can’t say anyfing! I can’t say da name wight!”

I jumped to the couch, shoved those wretched boys aside, and held her close.

“Oh, sweetie. It’s okay. You’ll get it.”

“I woen!!” She sobbed into my chest.

I stroked her head in silence for a minute, trying to think of something I knew she could say, no problem.

“Well …. how about ….hmm ….. what if you called me Tee Tee? Do you think you can say that?”

She sat up and looked at me, giant blue eyes, streaming red cheeks, and nodded.

“I fink so. I fink I can.”

“Okay, sweetie. Let’s do that then, okay?”


The moment was over but she snuggled back down into me. She’s a very snuggly child. And that’s fine with me.

Late that night, when the house was still with sleep, I woke suddenly to the sound of her wailing outside the master bedroom door.

“Tee Tee! Tee Teeeeeee! I need you!! I hab a bad dweam!! TEE TEEEEEEEEE!”

She howled that name to the heavens as if she’d always been saying it. As if it had always been buried somewhere inside of her and just needed the right moment to come out. And this was it.

I flung open the door, scooped her up in my arms.

“Ohhh, baby. Shhhh. Come here. It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Between hiccupy sobs, she spoke.

“Can I sweep wiff you, Tee Tee?”


“Sure, sweetie. You can sweep with me. Come on.”

I crawled into bed with her and lightly wiped her tears with my fingertips while I whispered and cooed to calm her. She just watched me, those big eyes never moving from my face. After several moments, the hiccups subsided and she reached a warm little hand to me.

“Tee Tee,” she whispered close to my face, “let’s hold hands, okay?”

“Okay. Let’s hold hands.”

So we fell asleep holding hands like hobbits, Piper …. and Tee Tee.

And that’s how it all began.

August 4, 2009

-image-chatting with piper

So Piper is here a few weekends ago and we’re driving to the beach. She’s in the back seat, talking about the boys who like girls in her class and vice versa. I cannot tell you the level of psychic distress ol’ Tee Tee is having hearing this. I mean, the child is eight. I’m watching her in my sideview mirror talking quite animatedly on this entire topic. My blood is running cold. Or I’m having a thrombosis. Some kind of medical emergency is imminent, I’m sure. I dial 9-1 into my cell phone. Finally I say — because I must know, to see if I’ll ever sleep again — “Well, you don’t have a boyfriend, do you, Piper?”

And in the sideview, I see her lower her head and say in utter dejection, “Nooo. Mom and Dad won’t let me date yet.”

Clearly, she thinks this is the worst thing ever. I’m choking on a bone or something. I haven’t even eaten.

“Well, sweetie,” I say as I dial that final 1 on my cell phone and stroke out, “it’s a little soon, okay? You need to wait awhile, a long while.”

FOREVVVVVVERRRRRR ……. I scream in my head.

Later I call my sister and demand an explanation. What’s up with THAT? I say.

S says, “Well, last year, she started writing in her journal about this boy in class she thought was cute.”

“Last year when she was seven, you mean?”


This is clearly why I’m not a parent. I’d have an aneurysm on Day One.

S continues.

“And I was chasing boys on the playground when I was her age.”

Uhm, as I recall, I might have called her a tramp. Maybe. Also, other words similar to tramp. But it’s all very hazy. So I’m pretty sure I didn’t do that.


My sister, asking Piper about her visits to her relatives’.

SISTER: So, Pipey, you had four nights at Nana and Pop Pop’s (my parents). Was that too much time, not enough time, just the right amount of time?

PIPER: I think it was just right, Mom.

SISTER: And you stayed two nights at Tee Tee and Uncle (Beloved’s). What about that? Too much time, not enough time, just the right amount of time?

PIPER: Oh, Mom. It’s never enough time at Tee Tee and Uncle (Beloved’s)!

Oh, my heart. That kid will make it explode some day.

Just sayin’ is all.

July 19, 2009


Dear Tee Tee and uncle (Beloved),

I had a great time with you. I liked watching Heidi and Bedtimes Story with you too. I also liked playing WIG OUT! with you two. I liked going to the beach and I liked doing everthing with you. THANK YOU!

She typed it herself.

That kid. She just makes me blaze with love.

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