"Well, Cat," Memere asked her, "do you want to take your nap on your pad or on Grandma Brennan's bed?"
"That isn't one of the choices. If you come into my room I'll read you some stories first and lie beside you." Kate Brennan couldn't understand her four-year-old granddaughter's dislike of naps; siestas were such a luxury.
"Don't wanna nap."
"You don't have to want one. You're going to take one. You know that, and I know that. The question is whether we are going to have an ugly fight first or read some nice stories first."
"You talk like Papa." Memere did sound like Papa, and not just the way that everybody but Maman and her special friends and the people at school talked English like Papa did.
"Get your books and Wot, and I'll tell you a story that isn't in any of them. It's a short story, so we'll have a couple of books after. Dad books only." Wot, who had started out as a pink plush elephant, had lost most of his plush and was -- despite Jeanette's occasional laundering -- more gray than pink these days. He was, however, something between Cat's favorite toy and her constant companion.
Cat knew the difference between French and English. She even could say a few things in Spanish.
Finally, they were settled on the big, soft, bed. Cat giggled as usual at the waves that they made. Then Memere started in on her story.
"Even Dad was a little boy once. And when he was a little boy, he lived with Granddad and me. He was my baby just as you were Maman's baby."
"Not a baby. Cat's a big girl."
"Cat's a big girl now. But Cat was a baby once. And Daddy was a baby once. And even I was a baby once, can you imagine? Anyway, Dad grew up from being a baby to being a boy who learned to talk. And his favorite word was 'no.' Just like it's the favorite word of his favorite daughter. And when he said that he didn't want to do something, take a nap for example, guess who would tell him that he didn't need to want to?"
"You!" It wasn't that hard to guess.
"That's right. He didn't need to want to, and often he didn't. But he needed to do it, and almost always he did. Then he grew up and married Maman. And he wanted to have a child of his own, and Maman wanted to have a child of her own. And then they did, and it made them very happy. And the child turned out to be Cat, and that made them even happier still."
"And I was inside Maman." This was a really a puzzle to Cat, but everybody said she had been.
"And you were inside Maman, except that you weren't the Cat who runs and plays and talks. You were eentsy-teentsy. And then you came out, and you still were quite small. But you grew and grew and grew. And now you are the big girl who can take care of herself."
And big enough that she didn't need a nap. But they'd already had that fight, and the water bed was jiggly and giggly, and Memere hugged her close while she read ... Then the hug was too tight and she needed to go bad. She squeezed out. The bounces weren't fun anymore, but she got off the bed and to the bathroom just in time.
Kate Brennan woke knowing that she had just had a child in her arms. The slant of the light meant mid-afternoon. But something was wrong. "Bob," she called. "What are you doing?"
"Mikrate! Mikrate!" she heard.
Then she was really awake. It wasn't a son she had held, but the son's daughter. Cat banged out of the bathroom and ran in the door. "Did you wash your hands?" Kate asked. Cat ran back. And people worry about an energy shortage.
When Cat was totally finished, Kate wiped up some of the residue of her namesake's splashes. Then she used the facilities herself. It was an hour after the train was due. Counting the 15 minute drive and the necessary greetings at the station, the family could be getting back anytime in the next hour or two.
"Where's Tante K'leen?" Cat asked for what seemed the hundredth time. Cat was really getting better on the middle syllables, but Kathleen had threatened mayhem to anyone who corrected that particular pronunciation. Cat ran into Kate's room, climbed on the water bed, bounced for a moment, retrieved Wot, and ran back into range.
"I don't know, dear. She'll be here sometime this afternoon. Let's get your shoes on." This only took ten times as long as it would have with Kate doing the work, but she didn't have anything more important to do than holding her granddaughter. She tightened the laces on the gym shoes and double knotted them.
What next? Oh yes. "Do you want to help Grandma Brennan fix dinner?" Cat happily clattered down the stairs (clattering in rubber soles being another talent confined to the young).
"Where's Tante K'leen?"
"She's coming on the train, dear, just as you did. Granddad, Mommy, and Daddy went in the car to pick her and Charles up. The train is late, but I don't know how late. Asking won't make the train run any faster. Do you want a pickle?"
"Yes!" Cat definitely wanted a pickle. Then she remembered her manners. "May I have a pickle, please?" Memere got her a pickle and a saucer while she climbed up on the chair at the kitchen table. Memere got her two napkins, too.
Kate shuddered. Cat should be too young for pickles. Instead, the girl had gummed pickles before she had teeth. Well, it was better than sugary snacks. "Well, dear, we don't know when the others will get back; but they'll want a good meal soon thereafter. So what we are going to do is to get some chicken all ready to cook. We'll grill it under the oven when the time comes.
"The first thing to do is to wash the chicken. We don't use soap like we use on our hands, but the reason is really the same..."
The chicken was marinating, the pudding was done, and Pooh and Piglet were searching for Eeyore's tail when the car stopped in the driveway.
"Do you know who that is?" Kate asked. Now Cat could stop asking for her aunt.
Cat knew the sound of that car. "Pepere!" She ran to the door. The first person she saw, though, was Sharl.
Charles had to free one hand to turn the knob. Kath's father had led the way, but he now was engaged in holding the storm door open for the laden. So Charles already had set one suitcase down when he heard the cry of "Sharl!"
He dropped the other in time to catch the four-year-old missile which had launched itself into his arms. "I'm glad to see you, Cat," he said, "but we need to let the others in." He shifted her to a position more comfortable for carrying, and walked into the house until the distraction of his squirming burden and his fogged glasses disoriented him completely.
There was a bustle behind them as the last of the luggage was pulled in the door.
Kathleen didn't know whether she was more jealous that her god-daughter had ignored her for Char or that Cat had stolen her boyfriend's attention. She hung her coat in the downstairs closet, and saw Bob walking up the stairs with two suitcases. "You don't have to carry Char's bag up there," she said. "He's sleeping down here on the couch." Bob ignored her, as she had expected.
Char, however, took the hint. "Do you want to kiss Tante K'leen hello?" he asked Cat, who was playing with his hair again. Her hands patted all over the tight, kinky, curls. Kathleen could understand that fascination, though she knew Charles couldn't. Such hair might be common in the Black community, but it was still fun.
Char brought Cat to her. She leaned over for the kiss, and Kathleen took her in her arms. And a load she was too. "Catherine Angelique," Kathleen said, "what a big girl you are. You really have grown." Then she returned the kiss and hug. When Cat was done hugging her, she let her down to the floor.
Cat went on to hug her grandpa, then her maman on general principles.
"I'm glad to see you, too, Cat. Do you think that we could move over towards the tree to let the people with the suitcases past." Jeanette was proud of her child's affectionate nature, although she worried about her getting into trouble with it on the street. She also created a bit of a traffic hazard. And she was a getting too heavy to jump on Charles. Now, if she could only convince Charles of that.
Charles hung his coat in the downstairs closet. He headed upstairs with the last significant load of their luggage, Kath's smaller suitcase and a shopping bag full of presents. He'd been out of residency for six months, and his new income level might have led him to overdo the shopping. Only one purchase really counted, however. Bob was coming down as he went up the stairs.
Bob could see that there was room past Charles if he would only turn sidewise. Then he could see that Charles wanted him upstairs. He held out his hand for the shopping bag and headed back up. "I'm going to need your help in wrapping one package," Charles said when they were in Kathleen's room.
"Kathleen?" Charles nodded. Bob grinned. Surprise packages were his specialty, and he suspected that this surprise would be remembered for years.
Jeanette was a little miffed to find the door to her room locked when she went upstairs, but this was Christmas after all. The Brennans took the idea that one shouldn't know what was in the package until you opened it to ridiculous extremes, and Bob was the worst of all. Well, she loved him, and he loved her. In someone who loved you, taking things to ridiculous extremes was not a bad characteristic especially as he took that love to ridiculous extremes.
She loved his family, as well. Still, she couldn't help feel that her daughter's verbosity was only what they deserved. During dinner Cat dominated the conversation at the table where Jeanette had often listened to the volleys of talk in awed silence.
.... There is more of this story ...