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By Claudette Sutton
1st Place, Columns - General, 2020 NMPW Contest; Honorable Mention, 2020 NFPW Contest. A new family member turns the whole world upside down.
It was early on a Sundayafternoon in October. The quiet in the kitchen was broken by the buzz of my cell phone. The screen lit up with the face of our 31-year-old son, Ariel.
“Hey, kiddo!” I said, surprised to get a call on a day when he’s more likely to text than phone. “What’s up?”
“Just calling to say hi,” he said. Calm as you please. I filled him in our day — I’d just gone for a run; Dad was reading the paper; we were heading to Albuquerque later to see “Swan Lake” at Popejoy Hall — all the while wondering the real reason for his call.
“How about you?” I asked. “What you up to today?”
“Nothing much. I’m just sitting here playing with my new 2-month-old kitten, Gizmo.”
“You’rewhat?!” I said, my voice gliding among octaves. “You got a kitten? When? Does Dad know yet? You mean I’m a … a cat-grandma?”
It was just the reaction he’d dreamed of. Cat-craziness is something of a family affliction. And he knows I’ve been waiting, more or less patiently, for the arrival of “my grandbabies.” A grand-cat is a good holdover.
His someday-plan to get a cat had finally found its moment. A month earlier he had bought his first house, in Casa Solana. The day before he called, he had lingered in bed thinking up cat names, then went to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and picked out the kitty who tugged his heartstrings.
We only had a short time before heading to Albuquerque, but he wanted us to come meet the new arrival before the workweek geared up. And I suppose the chronicler in me wanted to catch this milestone at its beginnings.
So there was our son, in his sparsely furnished new living room, holding his little bundle of joy, a tiny fur-ball with pointy ears and a barely audible squeak. I snapped pictures. Ariel was smitten. I kvelled — the Yiddish word for grinning like a fool.
A day or two later, Ariel texted me to see if I could keep the kitten company for an hour or so, while he was at work. He didn’t want to leave him home alone all day. Twist my grandma-arm!
“Hey there, little butterbean!” I called. (Ariel hadn’t settled on a name yet. He was still considering Gizmo, or Ajax, but was waiting to see what name stuck.) It took a few seconds before the kitten came out from wherever he’d been sleeping. He mewed that barely audible squeak and looked up at me from my feet. I picked him up and laughed. Kittens that age seem to be about 60 percent belly. Holding his in my palm was like nature’s own mood enhancer.
I parked myself on the sofa with a cup of tea and some articles I was editing. The kitten found a world of joy in climbing my sweater and batting at my pen as I wrote, providing sweet entertainment but not much opportunity to work. So I put him in the laundry room, near his litter box and food bowls, and he fell asleep on his white blankie. I brought him back out to the sofa and he settled next to me, resting his head on my notebook.
Eventually, Ariel settled on a name. After dreaming one night that the cat came into the bedroom while he was sleeping and started clawing his face, he named the kitten Freddy, for the slasher in “Nightmare on Elm Street.” (Not my choice — but not my cat.) When he misbehaves, Ariel calls him Frederick.
I’m enjoying a taste of life as a grandmother (maybe more an “amuse-bouche” than a taste of the entrée). I’ve shown his photo to everyone from the checkout guy at Trader Joe’s to the pharmacist at CVS to — anyone. I feel I’m also getting a preview of my son as a dad.
He is protective and proud and joyous, much as he was greeted into the world. He worries more than need be, perhaps, but that fruit didn’t fall far from the tree, either. He is unflinchingly, goofily, besotted. It’s a snapshot I hoped for years ago in the often-lonely trenches of parenthood: that treating our child with love might just produce a loving adult.
I realize that most of our readers have young children at home, and perhaps none who have reached adulthood yet. So, from my self-proclaimed perspective as “elder states-mom,” allow me to reflect on how the articles in this issue might help today’s parents shape tomorrow’s adults.
For those of us who want to raise readers, the wonderful Walter Cook, youth services librarian at the Santa Fe Public Library, shares more than a list of great children’s books in “A Winter of Reading.” He proffers creative ideas for building literacy into a lifelong joy. We’re glad his articles have become a quarterly feature in Tumbleweeds.
If you want to raise adults who are physically fit and who love to move, Adrienne Harvitz, PE teacher at Nina Otero Community School, shares evidence-based research that adequate levels of activity during the school day enhance children’s attitude, attention and ability to learn. Look for suggestions you can incorporate in your classroom and your home life, in “The Unbearable Stillness of Learning.” Nina Otero art teachers Nadine Porterfield-Gurule and Stephanie Holladay contributed the colorful artwork from their students for this issue, and our website.
If you want your children to become compassionate adults, it pays to involve them in compassionate deeds early in their lives, as Jennifer West and Sarah Carter of the Food Depot share in “Little Hands Make a Big Difference.” The Food Depot is one of a few organizations in town that allows children as young as preschool-age to volunteer onsite, with adult supervision.
Children who learn to cook delicious, nutritious foods develop lifelong healthy eating habits and curious palates, as Anna Farrier, director of Cooking with Kids, explains in “Recipe for Success.” She also offers recipes for minestrone soup and breadsticks that little hands can make and little (and big) mouths will love!
In the very best of worlds, all children would be safe from harm or malice and would grow up to honor the safety of others. In our real world, Resolve (formerly IMPACT Personal Safety) visits schools and other groups to help them become protective communities. The article “Safe and Sound,” by Alena Schaim, Resolve’s executive director and one of their instructors, is also here in Spanish, “Sanos y salvos,” translated by Flor de María Oliva.
Winter is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fair season at many Santa Fe public and private schools. The scientists and engineers who volunteer through the Santa Fe Alliance for Science as mentors and judges for these fairs are a surefire way to build children’s innate curiosity into problems-solving skills and deeper curiosity about our world. “Ask and Answer,” by SFAFS board member Judy Reinhartz, also offers tips for a good science project and a “Save the Date” for the SFPS Innovation Expo in February.
We all hope to raise adults who still know how to have fun. Ashley O’Malley’s article “Let It Snow!” is a primer for parents looking for ways to introduce children to skiing, sledding and skating in the wet stuff we’re likely to have this winter.
Of course, the best way to raise healthy kids and adults is to start with healthy babies. Estefany Garrasco-González, Gabriela Gómez and Sarah Raine Cheney of the Santa Fe Community Foundation address the critical shortage of affordable, high-quality infant care in Santa Fe, and efforts by the Santa Fe Baby Fund and Opportunity Santa Fe: Birth to Career to fill that gap: “Creating an Oasis in the Desert.”
For a teenage activist’s perspective on responsible adults he encounters today, Artemesio Romero y Carver writes on behalf of the 11-member steering committee of Youth United for the Climate Crisis, a youth-led initiative of Earth Care, about the intergenerational protest at the state capitol this fall: “Generations Join for Justice.”
Since curiosity knows no age (or species), be sure to check out the book I review, “Raptors of North America,” which I’ll use and love as much as kids will — and which has a few tiny cat-tooth marks in the upper-right corner!
Have a delightful and warm-hearted winter.