On all fours, avoiding thorns

She sits on the edge of the sink and holds her hand under the faucet. Cold water runs over her small fingers and bubbles form on her hand. She touches the bubbles. They disappear. Then she pats her wet hand on my T-shirt. And laughs.

One-year-olds are easily entertained.

My granddaughter Lilia and her mom, 20, are staying at my house while mom saves up money to get out of debt and, eventually, afford an apartment. It’s important, though sadly rare these days, to have a safety net.

I haven’t had a year-old tyke around since I was 26. It’s been 15 years since I’ve had an excuse to drop everything, hit the floor and observe the world from thigh level. It’s exhausting. I love it.

Lilia doesn’t worry about Election 2006 or those negative campaigns—some deceitful—that make my blood run cold. She’s not infuriated over Disney-subsidiary ABC’s warping of the 9/11 Commission’s facts to make propaganda disguised as a mini-series about the World Trade Center tragedy.

Lilia has no opinion on open meeting laws or the building of new casinos in Sparks. I know. I’ve asked her.

At age 1, her life is lovely or terrible, filled with delight or anguish—whatever seems appropriate to the moment. At age 1, life is a game accompanied by plastic toy clutter. For her birthday last week, Lilia received a Fisher Price pirate ship complete with a firing cannonball and an electronic drum that thrums and sings in English and Spanish. The latter toy scared the digested pesto out of me one dark night when I bumped into it, and it intoned: “¡Uno, dos, tres—vamos, bebe!” Worse is the vibrating Cabbage Patch Doll-like creature—a ghastly gizmo that cackles unprovoked in the corner, as if malevolently waiting for us to go to sleep.

Lilia loves the drum and the doll. She loves to eat and to feed Gerber meat sticks—squishy tasteless things—to the dogs. She has simple needs. A nap. A banana. A clean diaper. It’s refreshing.

My teenagers have complex, expensive needs. My broken son, Jesse, 15, needs weekly x-rays to make sure his leg is healing straight. Steph, 17, needs high-school books, athletic fees, test fees, classroom fees, orchestra tuition and music lessons. Tabbie, 19, needs books and tuition for TMCC along with an alternator for her beater Mitsubishi. The alternator cost $260, but I get $80 back when she returns the broken gizmo to Pep Boys. She’s confident that, with the help of friends, she can perform this repair herself. Tabbie works three jobs. She’ll pay me back.

We’re pretty sure baby Lilia could walk by herself if she wanted to. She’ll stand up and think about it for a second or two, perhaps analyzing the costs and benefits involved in going bipedal. Then she’ll drop to the crawl position. I don’t blame her. On all fours, it’s cake to cruise at record speed to the dogs’ water bowl. Or to creep up the stairs with grandpa playfully growling at her heels. This cracks her up.

With help, Lilia walks like a pro. She lifts each bare foot high then slaps it down on the tile—whap, whap, whap—grinning as she travels through the kitchen and down the hall or outside, across the grass and over to the flowers. Though we’ve cautioned her to “be gentle” with growing things, she loves nothing more than to rip the heads off daisies and petunias. I keep her away from prickly roses.

“They bite,” I say.

“Ab-bungh!” she replies.

I know exactly how she feels.