“Play with me, please,” I responded.
“Yes, please,” she said, tugging on my hand.
My 2 1⁄2-year-old granddaughter has a pretty amazing vocabulary for a child her age and she can talk in paragraphs, but she doesn’t always know when to insert a preposition.
I traveled nearly 300 miles to spend my birthday with her. I couldn’t think of a better way to turn another year older than to be with the person who brings out the kid in me.
When I arrived at the house she jumped into my arms and said, “It’s your happy birthday party, Gramma.”
When you’re 2 1⁄2, birthdays mean parties — with hats, balloons, presents and certainly a cake. Even though I told the kids not to go to any trouble, Kayla could hardly wait to show me the devil’s food cake she helped her mom bake for me. And there was a brand new gallon of vanilla ice cream in the freezer.
But I didn’t drive six hours for cake and ice cream. I came to make memories with my granddaughter.
On the Saturday morning of my birthday, my daughter-in-law Holly took us to the Salem farmer’s market because she knows how much I love farmers markets. It was a beautiful day with the temperature climbing into the 80s. I filled our basket with sweet Willamette strawberries, fresh shiitake mushrooms, and mixed salad greens. We sipped freshly squeezed lemonade and listened to a band. As we walked down another aisle of vendors we saw a woman offering face painting for a dollar.
“Let’s get your face painted,” I suggested.
“I want to be a baby kitty,” Kayla said.
Holly said Kayla had never wanted to get her face painted before and she thought she’d be uneasy with a stranger touching her face. But the painter was gentle and patient. First she painted Kayla’s nose a rosy pink and put glitter on it. Then, with quick strokes of the brush, she added three black whiskers to either side of her face.
Kayla looked in the mirror and beamed.
When we got home I shooed her parents out the door. Told them to go golfing, play 18 holes and not to hurry back. Holly said she felt guilty leaving me to watch Kayla while they golfed on my birthday. “Just go, go, go,” I replied.
And that’s when we went out into the back yard and Kayla said, “Play me, Gramma.”
We sat together in the big sand box that’s shaped like a boat and, at Kayla’s insistence, made a happy birthday cake. A blue marble became a vanilla bean; pieces of bark were chocolate chips; a stick was our stirring spoon; the red bucket a cake pan.
When our cake was done we went to the tree swing. I buckled her in and pushed.
“Do spinaroo, Gramma.”
I hesitated for only a split second. Spinaroo would be something her dad taught her. It’s what he used to call spinning in a swing. I spun her around and she giggled, “Again, Gramma, again.”
After spinaroo she wanted “under doggie” which, of course, is running under the swing, taking her as high as my arms could reach.
When we were exhausted from swinging and laughing, I unbuckled her and she jumped off.
“Come on, Gramma. Let’s play. I be the baby kitty and you be the mom.”
And with that we sat on the grass together and she curled up in my lap. We cuddled and we purred. I think I speak for both of us when I say the purring wasn’t make believe.
I can’t remember a better birthday.
Reach Michele Thomas, the Del Norte Triplicate’s publisher, at mthomas @triplicate.com, 464-2141 or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.