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Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Gift of a Glove

My mother is spending a week with us, so we can celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday together. Bow and my mother have a special relationship, one that has grown over the years. When I first started Project Bow, my mother was not thrilled about it, but as Bow has  matured, while he's alienated a lot of people, surprisingly he has won my mother over.

My mother spoke to us over the phone before her visit this year, and she told Bow she was going to bring him a present when she came. Sure, enough, on the first day of the visit, my mother announced that she had a gift for Bow. At first, Bow did not seem interested, but after a while he took my hand and spelled out, rather primly, that he would like to see the present after all.

My mother brought out a little plastic elephant, and eventually, I passed it along to Bow. He accepted the gift, put it aside, and then proceeded to interact with my mother. In time, he played with the elephant, although the playing mostly consisted of mouthing it. Every once in a while the elephant lost part of its anatomy: the tip of its tail, then each of its tusks, then some part of a foot.

Did Bow enjoy the present? Yes, but he seemed to enjoy more the fact that my mother had given it to him. That was on Tuesday.

The next day at breakfast, my mother had two other gifts for Bow. One was a small piece of chocolate. (She had shared the same kind of chocolate with me and Sword the night before, after Bow went to bed.) The second gift was a small metallic packet of peanuts that she got on the airplane on the way here. Bow had trouble opening the packet, but he appreciated the peanuts very much. He actually went out of his way to say "Thank you, Grandma."

This morning, Thanksgiving Day, my mother came into the pens for breakfast carrying a small cardboard box, and Bow kept looking at it all during breakfast. Finally, after the meal was over, he motioned that he had something to say, then took my hand and spelled: "Why doesn't Grandma give Bow the present?"

My mother had no idea what he was talking about. "What present?" Then we realized that Bow probably thought the package she had carried in with her this morning was a present for him. My mother hastened to explain: "No, Bow this isn't a present. These are just some things I need to help me prepare the turkey."

Bow was reluctant to accept this explanation, but he eventually let the subject go.

All morning long, my mother worked on the Thanksgiving Feast in the kitchen, and Bow was very impatient. (My main culinary contribution of the day was the boiled eggs I prepared in advance to help tide us over.)

When my mother announced that the meal was ready and I started carrying the food in, Bow emitted lots of excited food cries. Nobody appreciates food as much as Bow.

After the meal, when Sword had already left to do her own thing, my mother and I stayed and talked about how tender the turkey had been this year, and my mother, picking up the oven mitt that was lying on the table, said: "This is a really good oven mitt. I would buy one for myself, but I seldom cook anymore."  (It was an oven mitt she had given me a few years back, an 'Ove' Glove. ) And then we talked about a lot of other things, family memories, previous meals, while Bow chewed his cud happily.

After about an hour of this, Bow motioned for me to come in with him, because he had something to say. He took my hand and spelled: "Give Grandma a present."

This surprised me. "You think I should give Grandma a present?"


"What should I give her?"

He spelled in Hebrew:   ".תני לה דוקא כפפה"

The word davka is one that is hard to translate. Bow had said: "Give her davka a glove." Now roughly translated, that means: "It's exactly a glove that you should give her!" or "Of all the things you should give her, a glove is the one." Or "In fact, it's a glove you should give her." There's no such word as davka in English, but that's what it means.

My mother and I exchanged glances. "I think he means the oven mitt, " I said. I pointed at the mitt and asked: "Is this the glove I should give her?"

"Yes," Bow spelled.

I went over to the other side and presented my mother with the glove. "Bow would like you to have this as a present."

"Thank you, Bow," my mother said. "That's so thoughtful of you!"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bow's Isolationism

Yesterday was a busy day. Because I have been experiencing a persistent cough that seems to be more to do with the unusual humidity of this fall weather than with the cold I have long since overcome, I decided to start the morning off with a foray into the world of culinary delights from the mysterious East. Bow and I prepared Ginger Garlic Eggs together and enjoyed the results. Here's the video:

The rest of the day, until about three o'clock, I worked on revising The Portrait of a Lover to meet the author's specifications which he'd made in the notes on the proof. Bow was pretty happy all this time, and he allowed me to work with minimal distraction. 

I did, of course, have to attend to his needs every time he used the potty, and this occasioned interruptions at about thirty minute intervals. But all in all, this was an idyllic situation of two family members coexisting in the same space and each doing their own thing.

As long as he has me all to himself, and he feels I have paid enough attention to him, Bow can be quite pleasant. But when someone else steps into the picture, group dynamics come into effect, and Bow wants to make sure that everybody has a relationship with him, but no two people can relate to each other without placing Bow at the center of the universe. This can have an isolating effect, not just on me, but on Bow himself.

Lawrence was not able to stay on Monday for more than two hours, because he had a project that he was working on and had to finish. So yesterday, on Tuesday, Lawrence came in for an additional two hours, starting at three o'clock. Bow loves Lawrence, and he was happy to see him. He regards Lawrence's time here as only for him, and he gets very upset if I talk to Lawrence beyond a perfunctory hello.

I was in a big hurry, because I was going to pick Sword up from school so that we could go shopping for school clothes at Wal*Mart. (Normally, Sword rides the bus home.) I was on my way out, when Lawrence intercepted me in the kitchen. "Bow says he wants a green apple," he told me. "If he can't have a green apple, he'd like a red apple. But he prefers green. Do you happen to have any green apples?"

"Yes, I do. " The red apples were on the dining room table in a big bowl, but the green apples were hidden  in the refrigerator. I reached into the fruit bin in the refrigerator and handed Lawrence a green apple for Bow. "Thanks," he said, and that was the extent of our conversation. I then rushed off to pick up Sword, since it was almost three-thirty.

When I got back from shopping with Sword, I noticed there was a green apple on the dining room table among all the red apples. So I stopped by the pens to ask Lawrence: "Didn't Bow want the green apple?"

Lawrence shook his head wryly. "He got in trouble. He didn't get the apple. When I got back to give him the apple, he had already dripped on the floor."

"Oh." Bow pees on the floor to express displeasure. We can't seem to wean him of that, no matter how old he gets. But we never give up, either. Dripping on the floor means getting punished.

"Did he tell you why?"

Lawrence smiled. "Oh, yeah. He acted all huffy after I punished him, and it was like I was the one who had done something wrong, so I sat it out while he threw a fit. But eventually he told me: 'Because you stopped to talk.'"

Bow doesn't want Lawrence to talk to me on Bow's time. Even if all we talked about was what kind of apple Bow wanted and how to get it to him, Bow was willing to risk not getting that apple in order to punish us for daring to talk to each other!

Lawrence added: "I told him that was not going to work. He doesn't get to decide that I can't talk to you. He's just going to have to get over that."

Lawrence is right, of course. But in many ways, Bow is winning that battle. When I have a deadline and a job to get done, it's very important for me to have things running smoothly with Bow. If nobody comes by, he and I manage just fine together. But if anyone, even Sword, just pops in to say something, things can get very ugly, and no matter how much Bow ends up losing out on as a result of misbehavior, my work suffers, too.

Guests sense this. They see how nervous I get when they talk to me and not Bow. So they don't come. If they do come, they don't stay long. I haven't figured out a way to combat this insidious policy of Bow's. I can't walk out on him. He can't walk out on me. And there's the devil to pay if anybody else drops in.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bow's Typical Day

The days have been getting shorter. Especially in the pens, it always seems a little dark and gloomy, even with lots of lights on, and even on a day that is not all that cold outside.

We have been going through each day as it comes along, with nothing new or earth shattering to report. We have our usual happy contented moments and also the inevitable drama that Bow demands in order to feel that he is living a full life.

Today we finally received the corrected proof of John Wheatcroft's The Portrait of a Lover. It's a book that I am publishing under the Inverted-A imprint, and it is set for publication in December.

Bow gave the book a once over. Then we went outside. He teased the dogs. He got tired of teasing the dogs, but Teyman was not tired of growling at him, so he teased the dogs some more. Then we had hot chocolate.

It's nothing unusual, but in case you want to see, I made a short video of some of these experiences.