Sunday, August 28, 2011

Me and Sofia at Seven

I have not written for a long while about my granddaughter Sofia. Why?

I think the reason for my dereliction to do with her achieving the age of seven.

Catholics say at seven the age of reason begins. That's when a child is introduced to First Holy Communion classes, preparing him or her to receive the Eucharist, the literally (for Catholics)transformed body and blood of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Before then, the Catholics believe, a child is still an unreasoning child. Only at seven do they become a beginning adult, capable of reasoning and understand the complexities of religious life.

I was raised Catholic. However, in spite of that, probably because of that, during this seventh year of Sofia's life, I felt a change in her, especially during our frequent conversations over the phone. Was it her reasoning that set off an alarm in me?

Nothing tangible, but as we talked she was no longer an unquestioning little girl. The "why?" phase which of course had existed in her since she was three, was now blossoming into a "why why why why?" phase. Simple answers were no longer enough. She would keep asking why until her line of questioning had provided a satisfying answer. "Why?" was no longer a simple question. It was a probing for full wisdom and understanding.

I felt I had lost something. She no longer needed my automatic voice of authority, Grandpa's (or Grammy's or Mama's or Papa's) loving logical embrace--passing on my beliefs to protect her from her own troubling questions. Logic was now demanded; "I love you" and "Trust me" was still wanted, but it was joined with a deeper need to know.

Perhaps that's t why I stopped writing about her, especially in this blog? Because I felt I had lost my easy-to-answer little girl? I was silenty mourning all year for the lost innocent child, the toddler walking fast but not capable of running without stumbling, who needed my arms to right her when she started to became confused, the child who, when she did fall, did no longer cry and seek full solace in her grown-up loved-one's arms, but also wanted answers: why did she trip, what could be changed to keep her from falling again, why did the world put impediments in her way and cause her to stumble?

Up until this month I had not seen Sofia for a year. When she finally did come for our not to be missed annual family summertime fun trip to Grandpa and Grandma in beach-filled Southern California, she had, as I suspected, changed. Not just physically--she was so much taller--but she had also changed attitudinal, thought-wise. She was no longer a little child randomly facing a new and huge universe, She had become a child who wanted to define it.

Her speech patterns had now transformed into logical sentences (something that had only been hinted at during our prior phone conversation), with a noun, verb and adjectival and adverbial modifiers placed in correct syntax. Sentences began affirmatively and developed logically, before ending with a period, or question mark.

She was still young, but she was also old. She moved her body differently. I no longer felt she might trip at any moment, fall to the earth with a thud. She was no longer clumsy; she had found her own, unique balance and grace. She was the acorn turning into the tree.. She was a mini-teenager. The mini-woman was not far behind.

But I was not forlorn. Instead of mourning the innocence lost, I regaled in the joy of her growth. During her vacation with us we still played children's games, "war" (the card game), and other 'board' games, but this time they were even more MORE fun to play. A ritual we've always enacted on the arrival trip home from the LA airport, a quick breakfast stop at the bowling alley where Sofia and I go to the back game room and play table-hockey while waiting for the pancakes to arrive in the restaurant, was more gleeful than ever.

During the visit at night I still read her stories, but on two nights she returned the favor: she read a story to me. Sometimes, during the day, we would watch DVDs on the TV and she introduced me to her world of Harry Potter (the first three episodes only, by Mama's and Papa's fiat). And she questioned me until I understood it.

The time passed too quickly, as usual. But when she left, she told me--as she always does--that she didn't want to go. She wanted me and Grammy to move closer to her. I am always moved by her reluctance to leave Grandpa and Grammy, believing her sentiments to the bottom of our souls. But this time her her reluctance to part from us had greater significance.  I believe we had had become friends as well as Grandpa, Grammy and Granddaughter. We were all involved in our age of reason.

Sofia reaching the age of seven is not a sad event, some unwelcome rite of passage, some deep  foreboding step into that hard, cold world of adult reason. The little girl is still there; only now blossomed into the fuller, larger, wiser girl. The age of reason has sweetened her, like frosting on a cupcake...her favorite desert by the way. Frosting has not replaced the cupcake dough below, but only enhanced and deepened its taste.

Yesterday my beloved daughter (and Sofia's Mommy) Mishi called and said Sofia had awakened that morning at home with tears in her eyes. When asked the reason for her sadness, she said she missed Grammy and Grandpa. She wanted to be with us forever. When told that I (also as usual) welled up as I always do when she says that...but I also felt prouder of our family love than before. Sofia has begun to enter our adult world. She loves us for a perhaps for some fully thought-out reasons.

I am writing about her again.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Meaning of the Great 2011 Budget Deal

The House, Senate and the President found a solution to the question of raising the debt ceiling. The major points of settlement: The Republicans got no new taxes. The Democrats got no tinkering with Social Security. The President got the next big ceiling discussion put off until after the 2012 election. Everybody was happy (and unhappy, which is supposed to be a sign of a good compromise).

'A very symbolic vote,' I thought, 'very and properly defining of all the negotiators:  Each got what they are most interested in, what most concerns them most.' The Republicans made sure their "productive class" wasn't disincentivized by what they see as burdensome taxes. The Democrats protected their "equity" interests, the aged and the infirm. And Obama, the politician, got a breather from re-opening the debt-ceiling issue until after his run at re-election.

The producers, the allocators, and the political class...welcome to 2011 America.