Unlike jazz great Benny Goodman, we’re not stompin’ at the Savoy, we’re stomping in D.C. with two of the prettiest girls in town, our granddaughters, Michelle and Juliette. The latter, the latest arrival of our four grandchildren, was born in mid-October just two weeks after the birth of our third grandchild, Theron, who joined his big brother, Eliot, in Portland, Oregon. In less than a month’s time we doubled our riches.
After our travels to Las Vegas and Portland over the Christmas holidays, we finally made it to D.C. where unexpectedly we’re having cold winds and sporadic snow. But Juliette’s smiles and Michelle’s laughter make us impervious to the outside chill. Their joy also helps push back the angst we’re experiencing from the fiasco out of the White House. Our days are filled with little conversations about cartoon characters, building blocks, dolls and little people chitchat. It’s heartwarming to see how big sister fawns over little sister. She kisses her from head to toe. Sibling rivalry, I’m sure will come later. Juliette communicates with radiant smiles and soft babbling while Michelle expressively speaks in full sentences that grandparents don’t always grasp and that need a parental interpretation. The joy of being a grandparent is being more free (and able) to notice and marvel at the remarkable changes in each child’s development, changes you did not readily appreciate in your own children as they grew because you were so overwhelmed in adjusting to parenthood.
When we speak in French to Juliette her fixated eyes twinkle in wonderment as it does when her Senegalese nanny does the same. If Juliette is our Francophone granddaughter, (at least for the time being) Michelle is our Hispanophone granddaughter. She already has the gift of two languages because of her Spanish-language daycare. Since our last visit in September her language skills have advanced in both English and Spanish. Saturday afternoon we took a stroll to the park as Michelle rode in her little red wagon.
At the park, Michelle loved best the swings and the sliding board, particularly climbing, then sliding, gleefully with her legs in the air.
A bond is developing between the sisters. Michelle loves her little sister and Juliette’s eyes focus attentively when Michelle speaks to her. As with any siblings, there will be differences between them. Each will develop her own tastes, preferences and interests. But except for the occasional attention grabber by the older sister, the two enjoy each other. Michelle is very relational but at Juliette’s age her facial expressions were more serious, even intense, Juliette’s softer with more frequent smiles.
Grandchildren are addictive. Their unconditional love, their spontaneous laughter, the awe in their glances, even the occasional temper outburst, are all endearing. Well, perhaps not the latter. Luckily, it’s the parents’ job to calm the waters, so to speak. We would love to live nearer to see them more often, but with grandkids on both coasts (and newlyweds, Paul and Katie, will have kids one day), living centrally in the Midwest is ideal for now. Portland is easily accessible by air, although we’ve driven a couple of times. D. C. is very accessible by car, plane or train. And even though we’ve extended our visit this time, the days seemed to pass by too rapidly. Alas, we depart tomorrow, but not before spending an afternoon and evening with Melanie’s high school friend, Faith and her husband, Skip, who live in Northern Virginia.
AJ and Nashida live in an interesting neighborhood in the Northwest section that is slowly being re-gentrified. Their backyard is a stone’s throw from Rock Creek Park, billed as an oasis in the city. Their neighborhood was home to upperclass blacks during the thirties through the fifties. Duke Ellington grew up here. Their home is sandwiched between 14th and 16th Streets. Fourteenth Street is a veritable United Nations with its potpourri of restaurants and shops representing East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. We’ve gone twice to Le Caprice, a French eatery for authentic croissants, flaky on the outside yet buttery on the inside. There we met Naomi, the cashier, from Bénin. A connoisseur of Indian cuisine, AJ frequents a little hole in the wall just around the corner from his home. Because we needed to mail some important documents we walked about two miles along 14th Street to the post office and then lunched at The Matchbox on the other side of the street. Our server there was Sarah from Ethiopia. It is not uncommon to hear several languages walking along 14th. Sixteenth Street is lined with churches and embassies. One of the nation’s oldest Unitarian churches, All Souls, where former presidents attended, is located on this street. When we visit D. C. we alternate attending service there and at the city’s oldest black Catholic Church, St. Augustine.
Now before I end this blog, I’d like the reader to decide if Juliette favors her Papi. I can’t get anyone to agree. AJ gives a lukewarm acknowledgement that she does. Yes, her eyes are rounder, but her head and the lower part of her face, particularly when she smiles, resemble me. So here are two pictures side by side.
At the very least, both babies are cute. I’m sure you can agree to that!