pancakes with leo

I’m sitting in traffic in the midst of a downpour on the Saw Mill River Parkway— the wipers irritating me with their screeching back and forth movement across the windshield. The coffee I spilled earlier is pooling in the cupholder. The napkins I threw in to soak it up are drenched and useless. My mood is a three on a scale of one to 10.

But once I get to “work,” I feel better. My daughter’s front door swings open and Leo, my two-year-old grandson, steps out with a huge grin on his face, gesturing for me to come inside as he says, “Gaga, sit! Take off coat!”

My job doesn’t come with health insurance, PTO, or a 401k. Heck, it doesn’t even pay a salary! But it feels like the best job in the world: taking care of my grandkids three days each week while my kids are at work.

On this morning, Leo knew exactly how he wanted the day to unfold. “Greedients,” he kept saying. I retrieved a bottle of buttermilk from my bag so we could make pancakes from my father’s recipe, the one my nieces and nephews still text me to ask for. Last week, my daughter was fresh out of buttermilk and I had told Leo we needed a few ingredients.

So in the few days since then, he kept telling his mom we needed “greedients.” Today, we whisked buttermilk, egg, oil, flour, sugar, and baking powder. Then I spooned the batter onto a hot griddle into

the shape of cats: just the heads, with two dribbles of batter to be the ears—not shown here to protect the innocent. Leo ate four pancakes plain, no syrup, and graciously offered me the last one.

My dream job, this second “career,” began nearly six years ago, when a corporate reorganization eliminated my job as a senior medical writer. I’d been in journalism since college, and the employment outlook for reporters and writers had been bleak for quite some time. But I didn’t have to look very far for my next gig. My daughter and her husband needed child care, and I offered to watch their kids (then four and 18 months) two days a week. Since then, two more daughters have had babies, and my “work” has expanded.

Post pancakes, it was still raining—keeping Leo and me inside near the window, watching cars drive by. We couldn’t go in the back yard because my daughter and son-in-law had just put in sod and no one was allowed to walk on it for a week. So I opened the front door and we sat on the steps outside, me holding a small jar of bubbles with a plastic blower. After I showed him a few times, Leo blew impressive bubbles that floated on the breeze, into the trees. Ants scurried to and from on the steps, some carrying crumbs twice their size. Leo was fascinated. “Gaga, look!” he pointed. “The ant is fast!” And I had to agree, at least for the moment—these insects that I normally wouldn’t even look at were actually interesting.

Of course, each day isn’t all fun and laughter. My grandkids squabble with each other. They spill things, lose things, break things. They may refuse to nap or to eat the lunch their parents left. But I love that they don’t look backward or forward. Past grudges are quickly forgotten and worries about the future are non-existent. It’s all about the present when you’re two or five, or seven. These days, I try to think like my grandkids, at least for the time that I’m with them.

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