What do her eyes see? A grandpa past his prime? A clown prince with a rubber face who shows up once a week with a cheap toy or a grandpa joke?
Do I seem eternally young to her, or someone on his last lap, a guy looking over his shoulder like he just missed the exit?
What do her eyes really see — her mother’s eyes, her mother’s mother’s beautiful eyes…eyes that are Italian, Irish, German, French, eyes that were centuries in the making? Eyes that miss nothing. Do they see sadness? Or do they see only the good?
For now, her frame of reference is pretty simple: Mom and Dad, her dog, Uncle Smartacus, Aunt Rapunzel, her hunky bearded uncle-in-waiting. Her little buddies Beckett, Layla and Navy.
And me, of course, her clown prince with the droopy Pete Maravich socks.
I’ve never seen my granddaughter cry. Honestly. Oh, she’ll fuss a little now and then, but Catty Cakes never scrunches her face and just wails. That’s more my thing. Cakes is too fascinated with everything around her to cry, too bemused, too buzzed on every bright, shiny object.
How long does that last? Another week? A lifetime?
What do her shimmering eyes see? How will that change? Will she — at age 15, probably — teach herself to cry?
And what sort of world will these eyes see? Orwellian? Stalinist? Forward or backward? Compassionate or greedy?
Will all the lawns be plastic? Will all the oceans be dead?
In her lifetime, will Americans remain mostly decent and hardworking? Visionary and proud? What will her cherished country look like when she’s 40: radiant or broken? A promised land or a big fat charity case? Will her American Dream – whatever it is — crash or soar?
“Nothing happens unless first we dream,” said Carl Sandburg (a poet).
“If you can dream it, you can do it,” said Walt Disney (Mickey Mouse’s dad).
It’ll help that Cakes has her father’s cheery outlook and her mother’s milky smile. She really likes people. She waves to strangers as if ordering dessert. They almost always wave back.
“But where’s dessert?” she wonders.
To be honest, she throws a lot of French fries, this kid — that’s how she gets attention. It’s a delicate situation for her mother. You don’t want your daughter throwing food off her high chair. Yet when she drops a French fry or a chunk of watermelon, everyone takes notice and the dog happily Hoovers it up. In that way, she runs the world.
“Here, have more melon,” she says, dropping another piece.
“No, no, no,” scolds her mother.
Cakes just smiles.
“No, no, no, no, no,” she squeals and kicks her legs.
Know who she reminds me of? Helen of Troy. And Mary Queen of Scots, during the Reformation, the good years, before things got all complicated.
Plus, Groucho Marx a little. Maybe Lindsay Wagner, who was secretly bionic.
I wonder, is my granddaughter secretly bionic? At what point will she become physically stronger than me? At what point will she be better with a phone?
Till then, she wobbles along, with her toes flared out, like her mama. One foot faces Utah, the other Mexico. It’s kind of amazing she doesn’t take three steps and do the splits.
She has the same body language as a willow tree — bendy, sleepy, relaxed. When music plays, she dances. Even bagpipes, she dances. Church music. Cow bells. Dances.
In a too-quick 14 months, she has established a sense of style. She’s fond of floppy hats with strawberries. Lives in the least-gloomy place in America: Santa Monica. The yolky sun suits her, as does the gelid sea.
Off to New York she will go soon, for a long summer jaunt, to see her other grandpa, to work the East Coast audiences, to wow the aunts and uncles and all the cousins.
“CAKES!” the marquees will say. “Two shows a night, no minimum!”
What will her eyes see then? The planes…the airports…the bustle of a gritty and magnificent city.
Lots of smiling Irish eyes, that’s for sure. She a hugger and a kisser, and that almost always plays well on the Eastern Seaboard.
Frankly, I’ve always felt New York could use more kissing.
So, there she’ll be, the happy tourist with the floppy hat. She’ll wink the room. She’ll bask in all that shameless Irish ardor… the twinkle…the tilted smiles.
They’ll treat her well, this sun-kissed Californian with the butter eyes.
Oh, the things she’ll see.
For books, hikes and the world’s most-beautiful gin glasses, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com. Email the columnist at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com.
20 thoughts on “What Will She See?”
You always make me smile! There is nothing better than the love of a grandparent for a grandchild.
I truly lovely piece on cakes !
Ok, ok. I know all grandpas think their grandkid is the best human God ever created. But in your beautiful way with words, you’ve convinced me. Cakes takes first prize. And you are in the running for Best Grandpa too. BTW: I have been waiting anxiously for many months for an update about whether Cakes would be making a move to the East Coast. I couldn’t imagine that for you. Hope everyone is sticking with the “long visits” plan for the foreseeable future! Keep those adorable pics coming!
Prose to pure poetry!
What a beautiful love letter to a beautiful grandchild. Way to go, Grandpa.
Just beautiful! You have such a way with words.
Great column today, Chris. I love the words: yolky, gelid. (I had to look up gelid: might try it in Wordle soon). We grandparents are all wondering what our world will be like when our grands become adults. We try to do our part to make it a better place for them, don’t we? Meanwhile, keep smiling, Cakes.
Catty Cakes gets cuter every single week … and I didn’t think that was possible. We will miss her when she leaves us for the East Coast (NJ my original home) but thank goodness, she will return to us with more than a little “Gift of Gab.” Bon Voyage CC, Irish Eyes are Smiling!
Love. Pure love is what she sees. And what she gives. Baby people are the purest; humanity at our best. Thank you for sharing her joy. 🙂
A grandfather’s ode to his granddaughter is like time speaking to weather: it sees in each day the next, and sees itself in the beloved reveal of the changing seasons, the iterations that blow ceaselessly through the generations. You do so well with the big little things, Chris. Your prose shines like her face. We bow low.
From one grampa to another, grand daughters melt your heart and I love staring into their eyes and see the family history, hopefulness and window to their hearts. Great observations and insights.
You made my day.
Thank you Chris
When my first granddaughter was born, there was Molly and there was everybody else. She was almost 100% of what passes for my conscious thought. Three more, now ages 16 to 24, nothing’s changed. Sure, I love others, but not like my grandchildren. And I know that you know that, too. Cakes is adorable; the East Coasters are in for a real treat. Great column from the heart. All of us geezers out here can really dig it.
So…I guess you kind of like her.
Erskine. MY grandchild is a 12-year-old French bulldog named Elvis. The good Dr. Caitlin Roswell, the veterinarian, opts for Elvis over over providing her father your unfettered joy.
You’re a lucky bastard, CE, and don’t you forget it.
Today’s column: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️!
Chris–this is a true classic–a “keeper” for sure. Thanks!
Dear Chris, Does this child EVER take a bad picture!
Oohhh. She IS precious. I work with kiddos ages 0-3 (and their moms) so I see a lot of cuties. That sunny disposition will serve her well for years to come. Yes, she will captivate New York and have them in the palm of her tiny hand. Be ready. She will have lots to tell you when she returns. Of course, you won’t understand a lot of it but conversations with 14 month olds are important! And her beloved, adoring Papa with the big smile and twinkle in his eye will be waiting to hear every word.
I’m sure you will miss her so much while she’s gone visiting the folks in New York. Just think how wonderful it will be when she comes back to tell you in her own way about the things she did and the fun she had.
A love letter for Catty Cakes to keep and reread to know how much you love her. Beautifully written🥰