Words are important to writers. They’re our tools, so we generally thrill at a creative phrase precisely placed and cringe at the misused and overused. I, particularly, cringe at the nonsensical adjectives that are creeping into our language via those who have no disdain for the inexact. We have a family friend who has a proclivity toward the overuse of one such word. Every time I hear it, I think what could that possibly look like? Well, now I know. If used properly, it can describe a situation to a tee; however, trust me! You will never want to have occasion to use it properly. Let me explain.
It was December 10, 2011.
I had kept my 13-month-old granddaughter Chloe overnight while her mother and daddy enjoyed a “date night.” For breakfast, I made her a scrambled cage-free egg and a wheat-free rice pancake. We dined watching “The Nutcracker.” She finished her Go ‘n’Grow milk watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” It was a great morning. Then she ambled a bit in her walker while I awaited her morning constitution. Sure enough, it came. Quiet, red face. I still waited, just in case. Oh, yeah. Now a little grunting. I don’t remember what had my attention after that. It may have been Giada’s Everyday Italian on TV or my personal Bible study of the Book of Ezra. Nonetheless, it helped Chloe perform her third and final movement in peace.
I took her to my small laundry room where the baby-changing station is set up, stopping in the kitchen to wet a wash cloth with warm water. Surely, this would need more than those slippery baby wipes could afford. She was still clutching her beloved rabbit “wubby.” Being the consummate grandmother that I endeavor to be, I always give her something to hold during changing to keep her hands occupied and out of my business at hand. Looking back, I still think it’s a good idea—in theory.
I unzipped the long zipper of her flannel, footed pajamas, releasing her feet and legs. She clutched and snuggled her rabbit. When I opened my odorous package, I found what appeared to be an entire large jar of baby food peas and spinach emptied into the diaper. The thick, sticky mess was oozing up her backside. I quickly went to work. This was no hill for a stepper such as myself with two daughters and now two grandbabies under my belt. I deftly lifted those little hips by her ankles, swiping the bulk of the excrement with the slippery wipes first, my warm wet cloth (wadded properly to keep its warmth) at the ready. I worked at a swift but calm and assured pace.
The entire time I cleaned her bum, I talked to the quiet child, who was hidden behind her beloved rabbit, assuring her “not to worry” that “I was a professional with many years experience.” I put the finishing polish on her hiney with the warm cloth, quite proud that nothing had soiled her pajamas. That’s when I saw her hand.
“Oh, Chloe, no!!” Her little mitt was full to overflowing of the green paste. I quickly took my cloth to it, pulling away the rabbit. That’s when I saw her mouth.
“OHHH MY GAAWWD!! NOOOOOOO!!” (Was that screaming banshee really me?) What was in her hand must have been the second handful. Her mouth was open wide, filled as if a mason had used the green excrement as mortar to plug the open hole.
Somehow I felt instinctively I shouldn’t put a baby wipe in her mouth. I found a corner of the wash cloth that was still clean and began scooping. Although why it would matter if there was excrement on the cloth being used to scoop the same excrement out of a baby’s mouth, I don’t know, but the consummate grandmother determined to maintain some semblance of sanitation during the process.
I sat her up, scooping and refolding my cloth as fast as I could. “Say ‘aahhh’! . . . Oh, my gawd!! Can you spit yet? Spit! Come on! Like this!” I tried to demonstrate. She just looked at me blankly.
She was now out of her pajamas and rabbit was by the wayside. I wadded the soiled cloth in with the diaper intending to put everything in a trash bag later, but for now, I lifted the bewildered child by her armpits and bounded upstairs to my bathroom.
I plopped her in the back of the tub and turned the water on full blast. She began to cry. Slow down, grandma, you don’t want to traumatize the girl. I picked her back up and sat her on my lap as we watched the bubbles from the baby bath form. Lots of bubbles from lots of baby bath. I placed her back in the warm water and grabbed a clean wash cloth that was hanging on the side of the tub. That’s when she looked up at me with what I can rightly describe as a “shit-eating grin.”
I don’t know how many times I brushed her 4 teeth with her all-natural banana-and-something baby toothpaste. We took turns. When she picked up the washcloth from the bubbly warm water and put it in her mouth, I didn’t even stop her.
“Good idea. Rinse it out. Here, brush your teeth again.” Oh my gaawwdd! How can I ever kiss you again? I can’t believe . . . in all my years . . . oh, my gawd! . . . how am I gonna tell your mother? . . . Well . . . I don’t have to tell her everything that happens here.
I began having mental pictures of a pediatrician telling her mother, “It seems to be bacterial. Has she eaten anything unusual lately?” Okay. Maybe I should tell her.
I dried her off, wrapped her in a towel, and sat her on my lap for one final brushing with the toothbrush. She smelled like clean baby and sweet bananas. I dried her cheeks and kissed them. She kissed me back and smiled. No green anywhere!
While the experience served to give me a pathetically tangible picture of a pathetic adjective, I think there is a larger story here. Years and years from now, if her daddy can paint a proper picture of the green crap stuffed in her mouth at the proper time to the proper boy, that first-date goodnight kiss may never happen!
I am Barbi “Grandlady” McSwain, and I certify that this story is true and correct, much to my shame.