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Montgomery maidens

(Clockwise, from lower left) Eowyn, Abigail, Mom Carol, Brianna, McKenzie

“Why you stand?” asks a tiny female voice behind me.

Kill zipper descent! orders Screen Five.

“Brianna,” I say, frozen before the toilet, “out!” Then, in a gentler tone, “We’ll color in a moment, sweetie.”

“OK,” agrees the voice, only two at the time. She laughs. “Uncle Blackie stand.”

This exemplifies my life among five women, one my bride and four of whom belong to friends. Can’t say they’re ours, but we love them as if they were.

“Them” is our quartet of bright, bouncy beauties: Brianna, Abigail, McKenzie and Eowyn. In that order, they become daughters of the proud Montgomery clan. We “borrow” these sweet sprites – now 8, 6, 4, 1.5 – one weekend a month so their folks enjoy cost-free couple time, Laura gets her “grandma” fix and I …

Try to fit in among such a flowing fountain of femininity.

How’s that workin’ for you? asks Three in muffled laughter. Brianna’s walk-in got you banished to the basement toilet!

Despite that exile several years ago, every now and then I pop into the first-floor flusher and press the lock. Today, however, my sneak is noticed and, in a scene from a bad zombie movie, little hands pound the door, twist the knob and wail, “Aunt Laura, he’s using the girls’ bathroom!”

Being a guy in the midst of all these females is confusing. And amusing. Chatter is endless, as are the questions.

“Haircut?” Brianna asks as I bend to tie her shoe. I nod yes. She taps my bald spot in the back. “Why’d the barber cut so much off here?”

One less heir, remark half the screens.

“Uncle Blackie, are you cool with a capital C?” queries Abigail, telling again a joke just told by Brianna. (I call Abby “Echo” because she often repeats whatever gets the other girls some attention.) I nod. She screams in delight, “Cool means you’re a Constipated, overweight, out of style, loser.”

I turn to Laura for defense. Comments One, Not much help, her being doubled in laughter and all.

Dad TravisThis whole babysitting arrangement begins years back when I move in with just-wed Travis (at right) and Carol. Thrilled by their kindness, I proclaim myself their “Chief Babysitter” should a child ever arrive.

Children do arrive, indeed. Every 24 months! Travis wisely protects his cute investments by introducing me to Laura, who mercifully takes me as her husband. Two adults, he reasons, should be more than enough to tend four little humans.

Madman! roars Six. Testosterone doesn’t understand females. ADHD doesn’t rival synergy, the multiplier effect of energy produced by Four Little Girls. It could power Rhode Island.

Smallest state in the Union, notes Two. Not so bad!

“Split forces,” I suggest to Laura. “I’ll watch the youngest.”  I quickly learn new math: one baby equals three older children. Stealth bomber on feet, Eowyn quietly patrols the house, finding every object I left at three feet or lower.

I turn my back 15 seconds –

Just 10, corrects Two.

– and Eowyn silently toddles into my office, grabs a Plexiglas box, takes handfuls of sharks’ teeth and tosses them with abandon.

Combine forces! commands Six.

We go to the Toledo Zoo, where this time I skip being Gorilla Whisperer and keep a low profile instead. Three girls want me to chase them through Toledo’s creative (and outdoors!) children’s section.

This has to be easier than changing brimming diapers every hour, nudges Five. I confidently accept their challenge: “Ladies, I was born to run.”

Knees, gone in two minutes, beg for mercy the next 90. I look over at Laura, embracing a sleeping and delightfully poop-free Eowyn.  Abby asks me, “Why aren’t you running?” I don’t tell her tender heart about The Accident. I just say, “I’m trying to.”

Do or do not, mimics Three, trashing Yoda. There is no try.

Back home for dinner, I ask everyone, “Best part of the Zoo?”

“The snucks,” I’m told. Even Laura, who speaks fluent Little Girl, is clueless until we also hear, “Black and white.”

“There are no skunks at this zoo,” I reply.

“Well, they swimmed.”

“Penguins!” exclaims Laura.

Dinner conversations turn to humor. “Who’s there?” I respond to the seventh knock-knock joke.

“Who?” answers Brianna.

“Who who?”

Bubbly giggling. “Do I hear an owl?”

Abby fires off, “What animal makes the best music? Justin Beaver!”

McKenzie, desperate to break into the chatter, searches her four-year-old mind. “You like Dozer, Uncle Blackie?”

Don’t tell her the truth, begs Two. They love their yapping mutt.

“Dozer,” I sigh, “is a stuffed sausage on paws. No, I don’t like him.” The kids cheer! Brianna explains, “Mom said you’d say that!” Abigail sings, “You told the truth. You should always tell the truth.”

Abigail’s word must weigh on McKenzie, because she confesses, “Don’t like Dozer, too. Dozer boop my shoes. Boop house. Boop all over.”

Dinner’s cleared, but the girls feast on. Yogurt, pistachios, fruit gummies, popcorn and more disappear beneath growing appetites. Visits are filled with bikes and scooters and riding cars, dolls and balls and dress-up. They play house and store and restaurant. The girls draw and color and write letters to family and friends.  They tumble and dance and cheer. Storybooks carry us away to adventures with ponies, puppies and princesses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALaura glows in the midst of our pixies. She thinks about Eowyn being the last of the –

Mohicans! blurts Three.

– Montgomery children, and how we’ve already treasured eight years of holding, feeding and lulling babies.

Yes, she loves watching them grow, seeing their lovely, very different personalities blossom. But she sees something irretrievably special in the embrace of a baby snuggling against her, comforted and trusting.

Laura, relishing the bonding, murmurs gently, “I’ll put you into bed after I change you, sweetheart,” and sets the sleepy tot down to tend another matter.

Moments later, weary Eowyn, arms up, eyes drooping, blankie in hand, tugs on Laura’s pants. The gesture draws my wife’s gaze downward to the baby standing expectantly beside the diaper-changing bag Eowyn just dragged to her.

Laura laughs in unexpected delight, swoops the baby up for a quick change and tucks the tot in her cozy crib among the bed-nestled sisters.

Sighing happily, they rest. Tomorrow’s another big day of fun and love at the Blackwell Bed and Breakfast.

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Postscript: The following exchange must have happened while I was busy working through my banishment to the basement boys’ room.

Brianna: Aunt Laura, why don’t you have any pets?

Laura: They make too much noise.  They make too much mess.  It’s more bodies to feed and clean.  They have too much stuff.  Caring for them is hard to fit into our schedule.  They cost too much money.  They take too much time.  It’s a bother when they are sick.  They want lots of attention.

Brianna [wide-eyed]: Why do you have us?

Laura [laughing warmly]: Because you four girls are the best investment of our time, energy, money, love, attention.  And you are worth every bit of it.

Brianna: Oh. [Relieved.] That’s good.

Post-Postscript: Tonight’s column led off with the story of a much-younger Brianna surprising Uncle Blackie during his intended  restroom stop. Later that day, Aunt Laura takes Brianna for one last potty break before leaving home. Bri drops her pants and underclothes, lifts the seat and, standing straight up …

Urinates straight down.

She soaks her garments, faces Laura and smiles: “Just like Uncle Blackie.”

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