The Next Episode
Thursday night found me rippin’ down the road to L.A. I got into downtown around 11:15 p.m. or so and was burning through lights and intersections on my way to my sisters house when I came to a peculiar sight. It was a green light and nobody was moving (this is especially strange in L.A. because if you don’t go right when the light turns green, you will get an earful) and my brain didn’t process the reason why this would be, most likely because of sleep deprivation. As I approached the intersection I saw some flashing to my right in my extreme periphery and just then noticed a huge fire engine barreling down the road towards me. I slammed on my breaks and skidded to a stop 10 feet or so before the truck. Smoke from my tires enveloped my car; the fireman in the passenger seat gave me a grimace and my heart just about exploded out of my chest. I slowly reached down to my Ipod and turned the volume in the headphones down and could hear the siren and then realized why this practice was illegal…but it still hasn’t stopped me. I arrived at my sisters house in one piece (to some peoples chagrin, I know who you are so don’t play coy with me!) and arrived to a big hug, some shake n’ bake chicken, rice and wine.
Pitter-patter of little feet and the sound of a faint mama is what I awoke to at 7 a.m. My little niece Kaiya (who I haven’t seen since she was 4 months old and she is now 21 months old) was up and active along with my sister, Heidi, and her boyfriend Jeff. I was super exhausted so I didn’t get up and greet the little bundle of joy and the day but rather rolled over and continued to cook in my own juices (the heater in my room was cranked for some reason and with the door closed it felt like an oven). When I finally awoke around 11 I went downstairs and was frantically searching for something to drink as I was like a piece of beef jerky. All I could find was a baby-sized juicy juice. Jeff and I laughed about it later that day at lunch over some Thai food. The juicy juice is deceptively satisfying. At first you are so thirsty you just gulp it down and then when your thirst is almost quenched, it is gone; leaving one with a small juice box shaped hole in their dehydrated state. Jeff and I returned form our Thai lunch and hung out for a bit before he had to go pick Kaiya up from daycare. I finally laid eyes on Kaiya at around 6 in the evening. She had gotten so big from the little 4 month old I remember. She had personality, spunk, shyness, laughter, a little speech, could walk and worst of all, she was even more cute! I turned to putty immediately.
It was dinnertime for her and so she was placed in her high chair and enjoyed quite the banquet. She was so shy that every time I came over to see her she would hide her face in her armpit or with her little hands all the while trying to sneak a peek. So I went into the living room so she could eat in peace and watched some TV as I waited for my sister to return home from work. As I watched TV I noticed somebody peering from around the corner, still and quite so as not to draw my attention. That would have worked too if she wasn’t giggling while she was running over to do this little surveillance operation. I looked over at her, pointed and said, “I see you.” At which point she would run away giggling, stop down the hallway and turn around again and try to sneak another peek. This went on until my sister came home around 7. She was overjoyed to see mama (this whole thing still boggles my mind, it is my sister. Actually almost all of it boggles my mind…God is so good!) and was running up to see her and fell down and bumped her head on the tile floor. Those gorgeous big brown toddler eyes filled with tears as the bump reddened and swelled on her little noggin. Amazingly she only cried for a little bit while my sister and Jeff worked on the coordinated attack of ice pack on the head and Popsicle in the mouth…brilliant! The remainder of the night Kaiya would hang out with her huge stuffed octopus or run and jump on the couch where my sister and Jeff were sitting all the while keeping and eye on me and giggling.
Well as you can probably imagine love was in the air and this was especially true because it was Valentines Day. I remember back when I first laid eyes on Kaiya, held her in my arms and kissed that sweet little cheek how hard she took hold of my heart. This visit was no different except that she probably left a bigger presence in my heart then before. Well I spent most of the day just relaxing and watching TV (as Jason said, “What is the difference between you being there and at home since you are doing the same thing?” My answer, “more channels”). Jeff came home after picking up Kaiya with his mother (Auween [SP?]) and a full dozen of roses. My sister came home and was totally surprised which is always awesome to see. Both of the lovebirds went out for dinner and drinks while Jeff’s mom and I watched over Kaiya. I gave my mom a call to tell her I loved her and handed the phone to Kaiya and she said “gwama” and listened for a while as my mom told her how much she loved her. Then Kaiya said bye and closed my flip phone hanging up on my mom (I had a good laugh at that). My sister and Jeff returned and Kaiya was put to bed and Jeff’s mother went home so we decided to stay up and have some drinks. Well, Jeff made me this really strong and salty Vodka and Olive juice concoction and I had no problem falling asleep that night.
On Friday I decided to go do a little exploring in L.A. My first adventure was taking a super twisty and narrow Sunset Plaza Dr. up to Mulholland Drive. This scenic drive goes along the ridge of West Hollywood and is amazing. One has to be careful driving along this road because in many spots if you go off the road, you go really far off the road and lose a few hundred feet of elevation…if you get my drift and if you don’t then you are as the British say daft! I then got on I-405 (that’s right) and realized I had made a big mistake. Everybody talks about L.A. traffic, but I always thought that Seattle was comparable…not even close. It took me forever to get to Santa Monica Blvd and head into downtown Santa Monica. I headed south along the coast towards Venice Beach and found some parking near the canals. I always wondered why they called it Venice and now I know, it really does look like a little Venice, Italy. I strolled along muscle beach (had to turn down my people who wanted me to show them the proper technique for various lifts…sorry fellas, I don’t share my secrets.) and along the boardwalk (strange things were seen here) and finally ended up at the beach with my feet in the nice cool Pacific as the sun set. I returned to my car and made another big mistake of driving anywhere in L.A.; especially Venice Blvd. It took me an hour and a half to drive 9 miles to my sisters’ house from the beach! The remainder of the night was filled with peek a boo behind the huge turquoise octopus and a lengthy chat about life over some wine with my sister.
Saturday arrived with me finally figuring out how to get a comfortable temperature in my rooms so as not to turn into a prune. Kaiya was in good spirits as she ran around the upstairs and called out uncle, uncle, uncle. I got up and said good morning to the little munchkin and headed downstairs to grab some breakfast. As I descended the stairs she poked her little head through the guardrail and with her arms outstretched called out uncle again. I said, I am here QT and I see you. She would then run around upstairs and come back to the same spot and do the same thing as I tried to go downstairs to get some breakfast. She and I were having so much fun with this game that it took me 10 minutes to get downstairs. Saturday as many of you know is a day of running errands, and this is no different when good ole’ babysitter uncle Brett comes to town. I have noticed it is always in how you frame the question. For instance, this is the way they posed it to me, “Hey, would you like to watch Kaiya while we go run some quick errands? It will be really fun and you can walk her in her stroller to a park, and enjoy the sun and have a great time!” “Sure” I said, “What an awesome opportunity, I would love to hang out with her!” Reality. “Hey, we are going to be gone for 3 hours and we would like to get stuff done without having to deal with Kaiya and you are naïve, expendable and did we mention that she has separation anxiety?”
Some of the worst moments in my life soon followed as Kaiya and I waved bye bye to Mom and Dad. After coming back in the house and closing the door she immediately started asking for mama. I told her that mama was bye bye and would be back soon. As I noticed she became a little more agitated and unsettled by my answer nothing could prepare me for what happened next. She turned into Mt. Vesuvius and I was a unprepared Roman in Pompeii. She started to cry so hard that she drooled on her shirt (I thought I was the only one who really did this!) and wasn’t consoled by anything I could say. I basically turned into frozen victim of this eruption of emotion, which blanketed me and left me unable to move (this is actually serious, I was so scared!). I finally got up the nerve to ask her if she wanted a juicy juice and she stopped crying and nodded her head. Thank God! I got her some juice and she started to calm right down. I asked her if she wanted to go for a ride outside and she nodded again and so I put her in the stroller with her little hat, another juice, some cereal and a blanket and we headed out. I took her down by the Miracle Mile, over to the beginning of Beverly Hills and then around my sisters’ neighborhood. She was asleep 10 minutes into the walk with her little juice container in hand.
After walking many miles in the midday sun, I took her back to the house and just let her sleep in the stroller. She woke up a few times but I as quiet and let her go back to sleep. She then woke up and she wanted to go for another walk, I think because she missed out on all the cool stuff to see because she was sleeping. We went for another walk around the neighborhood and she was having fun pointing out things for me to tell her what they were. Tee, tee…oh yes Kaiya, a tree. That is a house. That is a car. I picked a flower and let her smell it (it really smelled good) and she smelled it and scrunched her nose up and got a big smile on her face. We had so much fun walking around naming things off, her eating her cereal and me getting tired out by all this walking I was doing (I am such a pansy!). We returned to the house and were greeted by my sister and Jeff and she was very happy to see both of them…as was I! We had to get ready though, because we were invited to a friend of Kaiyas birthday party. She had so much fun, playing with the other kids, being possessive over the toys she was playing with and going down the slide. On one slide, she really flew down and caught air and bumped her head, but she was fine (as Jeff, Heidi and I looked around to see if anybody had seen it so that they wouldn’t judge us as bad caretakers). She had fun pretending to drive the little cars around and even got her face painted. It was then that I realized that this kid has only 2 speeds: still and full speed; I will let you guess which one she uses most of the time. After this we turned in early because we had to be up early in the morning to go over to Jeff’s sisters house for her birthday.
I awoke early in the morning to head over to the Maronite Catholic Church just a few blocks away from my sisters’ house. This place is amazing, with a unique liturgy and amazing love for God. I even saw an interesting show on this very church and the Maronites themselves on EWTN while I was at my sisters. If you ever find yourself down in L.A., I highly recommend checking it out! After a great Mass (well, what Mass isn’t great?) I went back to my room and did the morning Liturgy of the Hours. The whole time I was praying, Kaiya was running around upstairs calling out uncle and trying to find me. I stayed quiet just so I could finish my prayer and then she found me. We played peek a boo until I finished my prayer and then she had to have her teeth brushed. We got in the car to head over to Jeffs sisters house and picked up his mom on the way. The whole time I got to hang out with Kaiya in the back seat. She and I would play games, I would try to give her some kisses and she would offer me “feeshies” (Goldfish crackers, her favorite! Just a side note, she is so generous, it was always one for her, and one for everybody else, are all toddlers this way?). We arrived at the house and they had a full spread of authentic Thai food (Jeff and his family are Thai). I am talking about huge shrimps with spicy dipping sauce, crazy fish, squid, egg rolls and many other treats. I really enjoyed all of the food and was amazed at how much Kaiya packed away (this kid can really eat!). I talked with Joyce and her husband Derrick (who is a criminal lawyer, very interesting talk and good food for thought) and hung out with the Jeffs side of the family. Then Derricks family came over (they are African American) and brought steak and fried chicken and all the goodies. Needless to say we ate well that night.
On our way back home, Kaiya kept calling out my name (which if you haven’t guessed yet, isn’t Brett, it is Uncle…I think she isn’t good at the R’s yet) and I would respond. We dropped Kaiya off at grandmas house and I said goodbye to her. She came up to me with her little hands outstretched (which means pick me up) and so I picked her up and she gave me 2 kisses on the cheek. It was really tough to leave her there and especially tough to say goodbye. As I finished evening prayer in my bed and thought about this time I got to share in this family, I was very thankful that God had allowed me to come down and share my life with them. It was a truly enriching experience that I will cherish for many years to come. Waking up at 4 a.m. and being on the road headed home at 5 a.m. on Monday won’t be something I will cherish though.
The final installment called simply “24” (after the TV show) will follow shortly so be patient, which if you have read to this point I am sure you don’t have a problem with. Thanks for reading and I want everybody and I mean everybody who reads this note (I don’t care who you are or how much you read or anything) to write a comment. I just want to know who my readership is. Just say something, and don’t be scared, I don’t bite…hard!
Random Factoid: Ask Kaiya what sound a Kitty makes and the answer is “Me-Mow”
Listening to: “California Love” by 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre & “Then Next Episode” by Dr. Dre. Feat. Snoop Dogg.