Gabriel explained to some dear friends who were over for dinner recently that Beatrice's favorite time of the day is dinnertime, and her favorite part of dinnertime is when we all hold hands and sing the Johnny Appleseed grace. She smiles, slowly scanning every face at the table, and when it is over she punctuates the song with a joyful Ah-men!
Tonight, just before bedtime, I was carrying Beatrice to say night-night to Gabriel in the kitchen, when we passed my phone sitting on the counter. I noticed Beatrice look at it and could hear the wheels turning in her head.
Would you like to say night-night to Gramma, too, Beatrice?
Yeah, she replied. Call Gramma, call Gramma, say night-night, night-night Gramma, night-night Bardolf!
She has only Facetimed my mom, so somehow the phone is like a magical portal to Gramma. But Gramma is in Ashland and was probably finishing up a matinee at the Shakespeare Festival when we called, so she didn't pick up. Beatrice looked crestfallen watching her own disappointed face in the phone, listening to the relentless ring that refused to end with Gramma's face.
You know Beatrice, I told her, we can call Grammy and Poppy on my phone, too.
Grammy! Poppy! Call Poppy! Say night-night Poppy!
So we did. His wireless connection was not so hot; it was short and sweet. Then Beatrice said goodnight to Frances and Michael, then we went into her peaceful darkened room, where she looked at me expectantly: Nurse, Mama.
She falls into position, so sleepy and happy. Do I love this time of day? Oh, I do. Every night at this point I say, would you like me to sing a song? And she grins blissfully and snuggles closer and sings-talks in response: vatetrain vatetrain, which means Freight Train Freight Train, which she has insisted on for her bedtime song ever since she first heard me sing it many weeks ago, which sometimes makes me sad because our song used to be Wild Mountain Thyme - which I think suits her perfectly - but she was adamant.
It's okay, I love Freight Train too. I sing it Elizabeth Mitchell-style, and sing about all the places I would like us to visit, or the places we love, or the places we are considering for Mike's sabbatical next year, or the places in the world I am so sad for. Going to Syria, going so fast. Going to Liberia, going so fast.
Yes, we'll see her soon.
Poppy? Grammy? Soon.
Yes, we'll see them soon too.
And then ... back to the song and nursing. But then, a few moments later: tell Poppy ah ruv you. Ah ruv you.
Yes, he loves you too.
A few moments later: See Bardolf? Soon. See Bardolf soon.
everybody is all together.