I Am Isabel the Storyteller

A topnotch WordPress.com site

#31. I yank the preliminary hearing from where it cowered in secrecy between notebooks and cookbooks.

Remember a while back, I spied the paper that Mimi and Pop had hidden in the bookshelves at the window end of the breakfast nook?  In that blog piece, I demonstrated to you readers how I could read and comprehend even if I saw only part of each word? Well, I decided I would wait for Mimi and Pop to bring up the preliminary hearing.

But they don’t.

So I take charge.

They’re finishing their breakfast tea—Scottish Morn: “so strong a teaspoon will stand up in it.” The half-done daily crossword is in front of them. They do it in tandem. This is one of those things I didn’t know they had the habit of doing.  I never used to be here early in the morning. You know how it is when you visit with your relatives? You don’t know every single thing they do—all their routines and that sort of stuff.

Here’s the drill:

Mimi and Pop sit next to each other on one side of the breakfast nook and fold the paper so just the crossword is showing. It’s face up in front of them.  Mostly they stare-a-while-jot-a-word-maybe-make-a-little-noise-pass-the-pencil-sip-the-tea.  Sometimes I hear something like this, “Four-letter word for swear?” “Hmmmm. Aver?Avow?” And usually, but not always, they figure out all the acrosses and downs in the one sitting. But, the puzzles get harder as you go through the week, Pop says.  That means that the weekend puzzle will have a few stumpers and they won’t be able to finish it in one sitting. They leave the paper in the breakfast nook or on the counter, and, during the day, one or the other pencils in a word.

Like I said, tandem. It’s how they do everything.

As I study Mimi and Pop, I glance over at Clyde and Sam. They’re in sight but not earshot of what I want to say. They’re setting up a drama of their own with Lightning McQueen, Cruz Ramirez, Jackson Storm, Cal Weathers, and a Cadillac Coupe DeVille I can’t remember the name of. They love little cars. They sleep with them! Since they don’t have Dad to “do cars” with them anymore, I play with them sometimes. At first they got frustrated that I didn’t do it like Dad. I understood, so  I didn’t mind. They don’t say this anymore. I hope it isn’t because they’ve forgotten how Dad “did” it.

I lean across the table and yank the hidden newspaper from between the cookbooks.

Why Isabel! Pop and Mimi startle. What’s up, sweetie?  Recipe cards for mac and cheese recipes cascade out along with the paper.

I lift the mac and cheese cards off the headline and tap it.  Are we going?

 Isabel Scheherazade, question-asker (finally!!)

Isabelcurlyheadfrombackonchair

#30. I’M OUTSIDE AT SCHOOL, THEN THE FOUR SQUARE INCIDENT HAPPENS

Our school credo says recess is a planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. Nobody gets punished by depriving recess. (We have “Opportunity Room” after school to provide kids the “opportunity” to learn something they didn’t because maybe they made unwise choices.) Although all 200 students aren’t outside at one time, it is always a multi-age group. (All non-academic time is multi-aged BTW: lunch, gym, music, art, special projects, community outreach.) At recess students are encouraged to rest, play, imagine, think, move, socialize, or loiter; for me this means sitting on a bench near the Four Square Games area. 

The Clyde episode is all solved, and I’m  worn out; non-emergency times show me how much I’m powered by the fight or flight chemicals. (I know. I know. This is not healthy. Mayhap, as Dad would say, corrosive to your innards.)

Back to the Four Square game in progress nearby. I used to like four-square, but now I slouch on this bench, hiding behind my curly “wild” hair. (I forgot to scrunchie it today.) Each time a player hits the ball to another square, this player exits the square, and the partner jumps in.  I’ve been half-listening to kids yelling Outside! Inside! Outside! Inside!  Four kids stand in the four squares, and a line of kids, ready to jump in when a player goes out, wait outside the squares.

I haven’t played since coming to Mimi and Pop’s. I’m not sure I could stand it.  Bench-sitting is better.  (If you believe that, I’ll sell you a bridge in the Sonora Desert.) Dad showed me the tricks with the game. In the morning before school, we talk tactics. What’s the Four Square scheme today, Isabel? he says.  In Four Square it’s a rule that you can make up rules during a game. And it’s a rule that you can’t violate any of the rules. At breakfast Dad and I sketch the game court in the margin of the newspaper and diagram some tricky maneuver or rule.

Suddenly Oliver is in the game. His “Upper Grade” class has just come onto the playground. Most of them are hanging around the climbing wall, trapeze bar, belt swings and gym rings. Not Oliver. He’s in the Four Square game! I’m not sure how he finagled it. Hey! Wanna play, Isabel? The kids watch to see what I’ll do, not because Oliver is an Older Guy, but they’re looking to see if I budge, Isabel, the non-verbal, passive new kid. 

I step into square one.

My PAUSE button unpauses. The line re-forms, and that’s it; I play the rest of recess.

Walking home, it’s just me and Oliver—the twins have half-days for the first month. He asks me how long I’ve been playing.

It’s hard for me to gather the words to answer Oliver’s question. I get the Dad-is-Nearby feeling, maybe cupping his ear to hear me and placing his palm at my back to nudge me. I do not want to tear up. If Oliver goes all sympathetic and googoo-eyes, I might lose it. And then I’m going to want to be outside again.

I make a throat-clearing noise, checking my microphone to see if it’s working. My Dad taught me how to play when I started Kindergarten. We used to talk Four Square every morning.

Before, huh? Every day. Wow. 

Yup. Before. It was one of our rituals.

Tough.  Oliver’s been kicking a rock as we talk. Now he kicks it on the slant. I take it overWe make a plan to meet at Zia’s barn the next morning. Oliver, the twins, and me. We decide that walking along the pasture fencing will be more fun than the road. It’ll give us a chance to say hi to the calves, lambs, and Sir Isaac. (I’m getting “trained” to curry Sir Isaac on my own when Oliver has Fall baseball practice.)

Think we can figure out a new rule? Oliver asks.

Sure, I answer. Then I make my voice bigger.  Hey, we might even sketch it out.

I’m in.

isabelinchair

ISABEL

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: