They arrived ready to party, the GrandYardigans. We nicknamed them after that cheery, busy toddler show we watch “On Demand,” The BackYardigans. Carly was wearing a gauzy hot pink ruffled dress over black footless tights and boots, a hot pink silk chrysanthemum holding her loose side-braid, an equally pink sequined heart barrette anchoring the other side of her head. She said she was wearing makeup, and if she was, it had the intended adult effect, very natural. Jameson sported a #21 Duke basketball jersey with matching shorts, an outfit he got on a December special trip to a Duke basketball game with his dad.
“We looked all over Raleigh-Durham for a #20 jersey. That’s Andre Dawkins, you know. He’s my favorite Duke player. Dad took me to every Duke store he could think of. I finally got #21; it’s the closest to #20.”
“So who’s #21?” Dave asked.
“Miles Plumlee,” Jameson said.
“I have a Tamwun Twazy at home,” Carly said, “A Tamwun Twazy tee shirt.”
“Oh, I thought you were talking about your puppy dog,” I said. John bought Vicky a Shih-tzu long before either Carly or Jameson was born and they named him Cameron Crazy, the nickname for a lone Duke Blue Devil student basketball fan. When they went back to the breeder for seconds, they got Sophie Mai, named for Miss Sophie Hall, Vicky’s residence hall at the University of Tennessee.
“Well, we do have a weal Tamwun Twazy,” Carly said. “That’s Tamwun, our dog. That’s where he got his name.”
We started the New Year’s event with a gift opening. We saved the rule-breaking presents we bought for today when at least most of the family wouldn’t know that we could not keep our commitment not to buy for anyone other than the ones whose names we drew. (It was the first year we drew names—We’ll work our way into it.) Jameson got a Hot Wheels Speedway track and a charcoal Star Wars Legos shirt with matching knit cap. Carly loved her pink tee with the nail polish bottles all over the front (and the word “Twinkletoes” for explanation) and ruffled purple skirt and the porcelain tea set. We left Grampy Dave to his work of heeling in roses and proceeded to our favorite place, The Cellar.
Carly and I started a lovely tea party with Diet Fanta Orange subbing for real tea; she selected the pink cup and saucer and placed the red set in front of me. Jameson said he’d rather just drink a Diet A&W Root Beer without all that tea party stuff. After he had raced a few laps on the new Speedway, he said he thought it would be a good idea for him to join Carly and me so that we could share snacks. He still had most of his root beer and said we could put that in the teapot when the orange ran out.
Carly asked me to re-fill the tiny teapot with the Fanta, but she wanted root beer in the cream pitcher. Jameson and I took our “tea” plain—no cream, no sugar. Carly insisted that she was the pourer. Jameson said he was capable of pouring his own and that she should allow the servants to help.
“Besides,” he said, “you spill every time you pour.” (She did.)
“So are you the servant?” I asked Jameson.
“No, not really, but I thought she’d let me pour,” he answered.
“I have to pour the tea,” Carly said. “I’m the owner.”
“You mean you’re the mistress of the house,” I said.
“Well, it’s my tea set,” she said.
Jameson drank ten of the tiny cups, each in one gulp. I noticed that we were out of Fanta Orange—It was my job to re-fill the teapot from the soda cans. We were starting on the root beer, the Sprite reserved for the cream pitcher.
Carly leveled her gaze at her brother, turned her head toward me, and blew. I thought I was looking at myself there for a minute.
Jameson understood her body language and said, “Just let me pour my own.”
“No,” she said to him and turned to me. “He is just drinking too fast and that’s mean.”
Jameson shrugged in my direction. “She knew I was a heavy drinker. She should just let me pour my own.”
“Jameson, this is the last cup you’re getting. You should just drink out of the can,” she said.
Jameson finally said he was full and that he needed to race those cars again. So far, out of the four chosen vehicles, the red car had won in every lane.
Carly tore off to the bathroom and when she came back, said, “I had to go tinkle really bad.” I supposed as how she probably did; she had consumed a lot of tiny cups of liquid.
“Are you finished with your tea?” I asked her.
“No. I need more tea—and more crackers,” she answered.
Then she crushed up some crackers and sprinkled them into her teacup.
“What’s that supposed to be?” I asked.
“Just makes it all taste better,” she said. She pulled out a small cracker, a pretzel, and a tiny melba toast.
“Which do you think I should put in here first?” she asked.
“Oh, are you creating a mix in your tea?” I asked.
“Yes. How about the pretzel first?”
“Yeah. That sounds good.”
“And then this one.” She lifted the toast. “Do you want some of this in yours?”
“No,” I said, “I think I’ll just drink mine plain.”
“Grammy,” (only she really said “Dwammy”), “you’re going to have to use the Sprite.” She crunched the crumbs she had just siphoned from her cup.
“Okay,” I said, as I filled the tiny pink teapot from the Sprite can.
The plastic tray, next to the table on the plastic kitchen set, was overflowing with soaked paper towels, bags from the snacks, and soda cans. It was 5 P.M. and the three of us had consumed a bag of Spicy Doritos, three packs of Cheezits “Extra Cheddar” cracker mix, one single serving of Cheddar Jack Cheezits, two pots of cheese dip with their accompanying bread sticks, a Diet Fanta Orange, an A&W Diet Root Beer, and a Sprite Zero.
Jameson announced the latest race results. “I’ve raced eleven times and the red car has won all but two. I wonder what percentage that is.”
I let him wonder. I couldn’t divide eleven into nine without electronic help.
“I think I’m done,” Carly said after she had drained the Sprite from the teapot, the sugar bowl, and the cream pitcher. “Or we could have some more crackers.”
“Well,” I said, “I think tea time is past. We’re going to need to get ready for dinner.”
“What’s for dinner?” Jameson asked.
“Steak, baked potato, green beans,” I answered just as my cell phone rang. It was Dave. When I’m in The Cellar, he calls me from the home phone.
“How many potatoes should I put in the oven?” he asked.
“Four,” I said. “They’re small. Four.”
Carly pulled at my sleeve. “Tell him I don’t want a potato. I don’t want a potato. No potato for me, okay, Dwammy?”
“Four,” I said. “If we have some leftover, we can always use them for breakfast.”
On the way upstairs, Carly asked, “Did you hear me say I didn’t want any potato?”
“Yes, I did,” I said. “We’ll just put a little on your plate and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.”
“I already know I don’t want it. I want mac and cheese.”
“Mac and cheese? You want mac and cheese?”
She grinned and nodded. She always wants mac and cheese and she usually gets it.
“Grammy, can I have mac and cheese, too?” Jameson asked from three steps below us.
“Sure,” I said. “You want potato and mac and cheese?”
“No,” he said, “just the mac and cheese. No potato.”
“Okay, yeah,” I answered. The prix-fixe menu was slip-sliding away.
I figured they’d eat half a tub each of Kraft Original Microwave and the foxes on the ravine would get the rest on Saturday. Dave handed Jameson the remote controls so that they could watch a new Scooby-Doo video while I microwaved mac and cheese and steamed green beans and Dave grilled rib-eyes and small lobster tails for the two of us.
The Scooby-Doo was done before dinner.
“I know,” I said. “Let’s watch The Backyardigans!”
“Oh, yeah, we haven’t done that in a long time,” Jameson said. “Grammy, it’s on Nickelodean.”
“Oh, yeah,” Carly chimed in, “let’s do the one about the library.”
Jameson ate his four-ounce, hand-patted, seasoned ground chuck steak and asked if he could eat Carly’s since she wasn’t eating hers. She was happy to share; she had already eaten her whole tub of the sticky yellow stuff and a large serving of steamed green beans. I burned the rolls so there was no bread.
“Can I eat Jameson’s green beans?”
“Jameson, aren’t you going to eat your green beans?” I asked.
“No, I don’t think so, but do we have any more steak?” he asked.
“Yep,” I answered, “I cooked three. Geez, did you finish Carly’s already?”
“Dwammy, I need some more green beans,” Carly called into the dining room, just as I sat back down.
“Okay, I have more. Dave, are you finished with green beans?”
“I’ve had plenty,” he said. “Is that all you’re going to eat?”
“Yeah. Why don’t you put that steak in a plastic bag and you can make a sandwich for lunch?” I gathered the last of the green beans from the top of the stove.
“Carly,” I said, “this is it. These are the last of the green beans.”
Nobody mentioned dessert. Dave said he’d clear the dishes; Jameson said we should pick something good to watch.
Carly said, “How about SpongeBob?”
There was a time when watching SpongeBob would have been low on our list of choices for New Year’s Eve festivities. I would not have been amused by a tea party with a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old. Dave would have been happier at a party where we saw the New Year in. There was that time.
Today, John and Vicky said they went to a four o’clock movie, The King’s Speech, after which they ate a late dinner at a new restaurant where the food was “really, really good.” John said he asked Jameson what was for dinner at Grammy’s New Year’s Eve party.
Jameson said, “We had this salty steak that was made out of some kind of, you know, ground up meat. Dad, it was really good. You would have loved it!”
Carly said, “We had a really special tea party.”
Jameson, I’m so glad you liked it. Yes, Carly, it really was special.
Happy New Year, everybody!