It's a struggle to get Grandson into a bathroom in any of the Ottawa museums because their thrones are all watched over by The Electric Eye, the master of the great, sudden, sucking, high-decibel, child-devouring flush. Grandson is absolutely terrified of those automatic toilets.
I can get him to go with me into the Women/Femmes - when he gets desperate enough - if I use a combination of reassurance ("I've already been in there, and they really aren't that loud") and a bite of the reality sandwich ("You're dancing, you have to go, and if you don't go pretty soon, you're going to wet your pants"). Once convinced/strong-armed, we get into a stall and I shut the door. This is when it gets dicey. Imagine being contained in a 3 x 4' space with a kid who is suddenly startled and sent into terrified flight... a kid who has a running garden hose he can't let go of. Sometimes I get the monster to flush immediately (as soon as the door is locked and he can't escape and before he gets his belt unbuckled) so as to prove that the automatic flush isn't as bad as he imagines, but that tactic undermines future trust in Grandma.
Exacerbating the whole matter is the fact that the ever-diligent Electric Eye can't seem to figure out what to do when it detects the movements of two people in the stall. Like the ass-kisser that it truly is, the E.E. invariably flushes more than once, making the point that it is never lax in its duties.
Our last museum visit was to what Grandson calls "the dinosaur museum" (otherwise known as The Museum of Nature). We had a great time and managed to survive the one and only toilet encounter, then we found an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. To his great relief, this eatery was in an old building with an old bathroom...
The meal was spicy and very good, and eaten with your fingers: small mounds of food are placed on a large crepe-like injera. You tear off a small piece of the injera and use it to pick up a "pinch" of one food or another, so no silverware is needed. Grandson enjoyed it and seemed completely oblivious to the fact that we were practically the only white folks in the place.
After dinner we began the drive home, and as we traveled along the four-lane I turned to the back seat and said, "You know, we all have fears, things we're afraid of." Grandson was quick to reply, "I'm afraid of flushing toilets and the boiler." (The boiler "lives" in our mudroom and has terrified him irrationally since he was very young). I said, "Yes, I know you are, and I wish I could take away your fears."
A beat of silent thought; then, "Well I'll talk to Jesus about that."
I answer that sure, that might be a good idea, and I sound like I mean it. His parents take him to church, and apparently he's soaking up the message. Okay, I think, I used to believe in Jesus. And Santa Claus. And the Easter Bunny. If it gives him comfort in this world, that can only be a good thing.
A minute later I start to say something and he says, "Be quiet, Grandma, Jesus is whispering in my ear." (!) I obey, wait another minute, and then ask, "So what did Jesus tell you?"
"That these fears are okay for me to have."
"Well, that's good," I say, and Husband and I suppress amazed giggles.
A day later, it was Husband who made the musical connection. We had been listening to a Lucinda Williams CD on the way to Ottawa that morning. One of her songs, Lake Charles, contains the lines:
Did an angel whisper in your ear
Hold you close
Take away your fears
In those long, last moments
There is a game Husband and I sometimes play. We'll be discussing some event or topic, and he'll say, "Okay Wizard, what's the song?" I then quote a line from the lyrics of a song that succinctly sums up the point of discussion. (I know a lot of songs). Without realizing it, I had borrowed the third line from Lucinda's chorus when I told Grandson I wished I could take away his fears. What warms this grandma's heart is that apparently he remembered the lyrics too, and his reply made use of the first two lines.
Sunday, November 11, 2007