I have been a professional cynic for so long that I had begun to think cynicism as essential as bone and blood. So when Kathryn strolled up the jetway earlier this evening, I was struck by how grown up she had become at the age of barely nine, MP3-player and tween magazine in hand, hair streaked fetchingly red but so sophisticated. My granddaughter has more air miles on her than I had when I was 30. Now she flies solo, moving with confidence through Tampa International toward baggage claim, grandfather and great-grandfather in tow. If the mark of good parenting is independence and confidence, Katy's parents are beyond good. A blue-blood cynic would say this is a visit by a tiny adult-in-waiting.
After coffee and bread pudding - Katy declined the coffee, although she does indulge from time to time in a bit of decaf - we began preparing for what will likely turn into a week-long game of Risk (the Game of World Domination, it says), parceling out game pieces and deciding that a layout on the coffee table will be least intrusive. "We flew over Orlando," she says. Florida is the Land of Disney, but she will settle for Busch Gardens this trip. And, I hope, a few things she does not expect. At nine, she is so much harder to impress, you know.
As we sat reading our respective historical novel and tween-zine, I thought perhaps we might read to each other. The inimitable Shel Silverstein quickly became the weapon of choice. I read "Captain Hook"; she read "Hug O' War"; I read "Sleeping Sardines"; she read "Listen to the Mustn'ts":
Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me --
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.
She read with conviction, with authority.
Bedtime drifted around naturally. "Do you still like to cuddle before sleep?" I asked. "Mm-hmm."
Lie in your granddaughter's bed, wrapped around all that innocence. Then tell me you're still a cynic.