Connections: Old Mother Hubbard

“Grandma?” he asked. “What’s that?”

   My youngest grandchild, who is 31/2, has discovered that grandma has, perhaps, not the most adorable feet.
    I was sitting around barefoot the other day when Ellis pointed at a rather gnarled and red bump on one of the toes (recently operated on) on my right foot. “Grandma?” he asked. “What’s that?” I answered him cheerfully, but without thinking too carefully about what I was saying: “Well, dear, that bump is a corn.”
    About a week later, its being summer, he found me again hanging around the house without shoes. He came over and began playing with the toes on my left foot, inspecting and separating them.
    “Playing little piggies?” I asked, in my best nursery voice. Not at all. He looked at me with a serious expression. “Are these corn toes, too?” he asked. I tried to convince him that except for the one problem child, all my toes were ordinary toes, just like his. “You’ve got a corn toe,” he said rather ominously, and wandered away.
     I imagine Ellis had been thinking about eating corn on the cob this summer and was trying to figure out whether my toes were in some way related to kernels. I let it go with a chuckle.
    The very next day I was reminded of another nursery-rhyme animal — the three little kittens that lost their mittens and began to cry — when my 9-year-old granddaughter became a foster parent. “Grandma,” she called excitedly from an upstairs window at the Star office as I arrived to work. “Come see my kittens!”
    Sure enough, there in a carrying case were three tiny little black balls of fur.
    Evvy has been asking for a pet of her very own for a long time, at least since her older sister came home with a pet pig (to join the third dog the family accumulated some time ago). Evvy’s hamster, Sweetie, doesn’t seem to count, as far as pet-enenvy goes, nor do the chickens in the coop in the yard.
    Evvy had been asking for a cat, but her mother is allergic to them. (That is how I came to have White Boots, my own pet, but that is another story.) Kittens don’t cause such intense allergies, apparently, but, of course, kittens grow up. The Animal Rescue Fund sometimes makes it possible for volunteers to care for a kitten, or a litter, until space for them becomes available at its kennel. Evvy and the kittens had been on their way home, waiting for a ride, when I happened along.
    This grandmother’s tale would end here, except that instead of mittens it was one of the little kittens that got lost. They had been let out of the carrying case at the Star office, in a room secured with barriers, but one couldn’t be found when it was time to put them back in. Concerned that the kitten might have maneuvered past one of the barriers and hidden itself in one of the myriad stacks of papers in the big, open editorial room, we began to search, growing more and more anxious.
    Before you knew it, Evvy and four adults were on our hands and knees crawling around, pushing at the papers on the floor, looking under desks and behind cabinets, and thinking of Beatrix Potter’s naughty Tom Kitten in “The Roly-Poly Pudding.” Eventually, Evvy’s stray was discovered in a dark corner.
    I’ve mentioned it before, but it is often said that people revert to childhood when they age. If anyone says that about me, I will blame it all on the grandkids.