Friday, August 23, 2002

We should all be naked babies.

I went on an interview Monday with the State of Georgia Archives, which are not to be confused with the Georgia State University Archives, where I'm also looking for a job.

The State Archives in downtown Atlanta are in this super cool building six stories tall that rises like a windowless monolith next to a sad old public housing project. The marble casings and three underground floors of the archive were state of the art when it was built back in 1965, and I still think it's one of the nicest archive buildings I've ever been in. Too bad they're moving out of it in a year - after forty years of growth, the building's now too small, no matter how nice the design, and it's cheaper for the archive to build out in the suburbs than to expand their current building downtown. Which makes me sort of sigh; even the government in Atlanta would rather be out in the suburbs!

But anyway, it was a nice interview. Also very, very long, from 9:30 to almost 1 o'clock. I think I've got the job, but now comes the part where I sit around waiting and waiting for a call or an e-mail, wondering if I said something wrong, but knowing they like me but what if someone knows someone? After all, nepotism is considered a virtue in the land of my birth. Well, I suppose I'm having a pretty fab time without a job right now anyway.

I'm learning how to live with family everyday. When I was small, my parents moved away from Georgia and my huge extended family. My father's job was in Nashville, so after a certain age I only had long term exposure to the family over the summer when school was out. I lived for the summer all year long, waiting, and only child until I was 10, waiting to be surrounded by my cousins. Now I see them all everyday, and it still feels like a huge vacation - even when the toddlers blow snot on me or try to bite my cat, Mr. Puck. I was isolated from children for two years while I lived in Boston, and the novelty of hanging out with them has yet to wear off again. I sort of hope it never wears off, to be honest.

There are three toddlers I see pretty much daily. Colin is Audrey and Jamie's boy, almost three, who lives with us in Acworth. He's got huge blue eyes and is very fond of Mr. Puck. The two elderly cats that belong to his dad - Snowy and Clumsy - run and hide from his sticky little hands, but Mr. Puck is a pretty patient cat, and sits still for Colin to curl up next to him, to pull his tail, to kiss on him, to pretend he's another cat. I had to shave Mr. Puck down to 1/8th of an inch of hair because Colin, when he pretends to be a cat, licks the other cats. Colin also has asthma, and takes hits from an inhaler every night before bed. The thought of him having an asthma attack because of Puck took my breath away. So Mr. Puck suffered the indignity of a home haircut with clippers. Thank god I have a forgiving cat.

Snowy and Clumsy were all ready shaved when I moved in. Here at the end of my second week in the house, the three cats are finally friendly.

The other two toddlers I see all the time are Ruel and Ellie, who belong to my Aunt Laura and Uncle Doug. Ellie is this small contrary ball of baby about 18 months old. She says NO even when she means Yes. A "No" that means no is a sharp, decisive yell, while a "No" that means yes is less sure, begins with a slight pause and ends a little unsure. I'm lucky in that Ellie likes me, and so tolerates me occasionally picking her up or driving her somewhere. Ellie favors my sisters as babies, with feathery hair and similar features. Her current favorite pastimes are reading board books and drooling while yelling No.

Ruel is four, incredibly talkative, and obsessed with trains. He has his own little boy fantasy world construct all ready, and plays by himself fairly well, and for this reason I don't know him terribly well yet other than as a small, active blur that runs around outside the house, often without clothing. And before anyone gets all judgy about that, let remind you - this is South Georgia in late August. All children under the age of 5 tend to be naked in their own yards. Have you ever tried to keep clothes on a kid when it's 95 degrees with 50% humidity? And if so, why were you bothering to ever try?

When I visit my aunt and uncle - the parents of Ellie and Ruel - everyone inevitably ends up out in the garage, where the plastic chairs are that face the front lawn and street. The garage is a huge affair with one large door, so the adults can hang out in the relative cool of the cement structure while facing where the children run around and ride their trikes. The adults talk about anything and everything here, and the children aren't listening at all, but running and yelling and fighting over gum or who pushed who. Adults in the garage are just the people who are too old to play in the yard. My cousin Karina, 16, smokes without fear of reprisal in the garage, like most of the adults after dinner.

I love sitting and talking out there. Not just because Doug and Laura foster a very open sort of casual atmosphere where anything is up for intelligent discussion, but because you can just sort of sit back and watch the kids if you want. They're pretty darn entertaining. Last week, when the air was so heavy and thick it was like a blanket that you breathe, the sky suddenly opened up into a light easy rain while the kids were in the yard. Three toddlers got naked and jumped up and down in the driveway puddles, laughing when they discovered a place where the water ran off the garage roof a little heavier, and a waterfall full of naked happy babies was right there in front of us.

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