Saturday, April 18, 2009
by Steve Barber
All newborn babies look like something or someone. A small number of them look like tiny carbon copies of their moms or dads. Others, most of them in fact, look like little red-faced monkeys. But when my granddaughter Samantha was born, she looked like a roasting chicken.
Now, before you vegans and lacto-ovo-vegetarians get all upset about the 'meat' reference, I'll ask you to please chill for a minute. This story is not about roasting chickens. It's about Samantha. So go back to your soy burgers or tofurky sandwiches and don't fret about it. We're all friends here. Pour yourself a nice glass of organic Greek beet froth and have a rice cake or two while we move on. There will be no more chicken talk here.
Roasting chickens weigh about four to five pounds. That's pretty much what Sam weighed when she was born. Of course she showed up early--at eight months, rather then the generally accepted and much more reasonable time of nine months. If she'd had the decency to wait, she might have turned out more turkey-sized. But that would have brought even more flavors into play, so I guess it's just as well she wound up being the size she was.
The thing that bothered me most was that she could have waited one more day to be born, but she chose not to. See, Sam was born on March 16th. Had she waited twenty-four more hours, she would have been born on St. Patrick's Day--a date easy for me to remember.
You have to understand, I'm her grandfather. Us old people forget things like birthdays sometimes. So we count on our grandchildren to be cooperative--to help us remember by being born on days even we can't forget. But being the ornery cuss she was, she refused to give me that satisfaction. Now I have to mark her birthday down on a calendar and hope I remember to look at the stupid thing. The girl's evil. She really is.
Now, I suppose some of this evil is my fault. Being little as she was (remember the four to five pound chicken?) I nicknamed her "Bubba." Even though the nickname didn't stick, I think she always resented it, and has done her best over the years, to get back at me.
I blame her mother for Sam's evil streak too. Her mother is the one who named her "Samantha." In case you didn't know, the name "Samantha" is derived from the Potawatomie word "Som-unth-ayah" which roughly translates to "chicken-sized girl who grows up to rather handily beat her grandfather at air hockey."
But we weren't talking about chickens here, were we? No. We were talking about dogs.
We had a dog named Othello, a fine, upstanding dog if there ever was one. Othello wasn't quite sure what to make of Sam. All he knew when we brought her home was that she squeaked, cried and was, in a word, odiferous.
Clearly, she wasn't a puppy, but she was hardly a person either. Othello was confused, and being a dog, he was especially concerned as to where that left him in the pecking order of the pack. He knew he had seniority over her, and was easily a good fifteen pounds heavier. On the other paw, he didn't get to sleep on the couch; she did. It made no sense to him. He determined to stick by her side and keep an eye on her. That was something he'd come to regret.
When Sam was about three months old, she stole the dog's pillow. It was a huge, brown, circular, padded pillow covered with little black and white paw prints. It sat in the middle of the living room floor directly across from the television set. Othello loved to sprawl on that pillow and watch the CBS Evening News. One night at 6:00 PM sharp, he trotted into the living room and stopped short. Sam lay plopped in the middle of his pillow. He looked at her. Then he looked at me. Then he looked at her again. A tear formed in the corner of his eye and slowly trickled down his snout. He hung his head and skulked out of the room, utterly defeated. It was a sad thing to see, and Othello's knowledge of current events was never the same after that.
Little did he know things were about to get even worse for him.
At about four months, Sam started teething. For those of you with neither children nor little siblings, let me tell you a bit about teething. Teething is a tough time for babies, but it' even harder on their parents. The only worse time in a parent's life is the teenage years, when little Brandon starts wearing goth makeup, little Alexis comes home with a tongue stud and little Savannah insists on getting a tramp stamp. Teething babies are almost as miserable as teenagers. They whine. They moan. They cry. They run a fever. They drool. And they gnaw on anything within reach. Sam was no exception.
For Othello there was good news and bad news. The good news was that she found his kibble unpalatable. The bad news was that she appropriated his Nylabone® chew toy.
Think of this from Othello's perspective. Prior to Sam's arrival, he'd had a pretty good life. He had his pillow, he had his Nylabone®, and he knew his place in the scheme of things. Samantha had disrupted all of that. Now, as he stood in the doorway, he watched as she lay on his pillow gnawing away at his Nylabone®, and he could only wonder what she would do next to further destroy his life.
The poor dog was inconsolable. I took pity on him. I bought Sam her own Nylabone®.
All that happened a quite a few years ago--fourteen years ago, to be exact, which is long before vampires ever thought about sparkling. As far as I know, Sam has all her teeth now, and she no longer gnaws on chew toys. She's grown some too.
It's been an interesting trip with my first grandchild. Although I have and will continue to pick on her and tease her without mercy (as she does to me), I do hope she realizes I think she's a remarkable young lady. She's smart, compassionate, funny, competitive without being overbearing and has her head screwed on straight. While it freaks me out that she is so close to adulthood, it also gives me something to look forward to. I do so want to see how the rest of her life unfolds, and I'm planning to stick around long enough to see Sam's own little roasting chickens someday.
I'm proud of Sam. I'm proud of who she's been, who she is now, and looking forward to see who she becomes. And somewhere in Doggie Heaven, I can imagine Othello looking down, nodding his head and saying, "Yep. Me too."