This is Venus, Executive Officer of the Magnificent Seven. She's little sister to Brian Jr., big sister to Angel and Kris, and special buddies with Grandpa. That's me. These pictures were taken less than an hour ago. In the shot to the left, she's parked in my living room teasing Dude, the insane Beagle, with a potato chip; he isn't picky. She stayed over last night, and again tonight, methinks.
Venus, aka Venom, is a fun kid. What she sees in a man old enough to be her grandfather is a mystery, but I'm glad she does. She always has, and I have a theory about that. Sandwiched as she is between two siblings, she was overlooked on both ends. Brian Jr. is a year older than her, and was the first grandchild. Everyone was terribly excited about the baby. At the time she was born, Brian was a year old, a very interesting age, as he was learning to walk, to talk, to explore the world around him. Venus was a screaming alimentary canal who laid in her bassinet and bayed at the moon. About the time Venus was getting to that age, Angel was born. By then, the families were ready for another baby, and Venus was passed over by the excitement of the sibs on both sides of her. Probably didn't help that she was one of the ugliest babies ever; looked like she didn't have skin. But no matter, there was always Grandpa, saying, "Come on, Venus, let's go to the park... Let's go for a walk... Let's go for an ice cream." Now that she has the personality of a comedian, and the face of a movie star, she still knows who her buddy is.
Ah, the tales we could tell. Oh, I know what. I'll tell some! When she was a year old, and there were just her and Brian, they lived with us at our old house in Spring Valley. She had just started walking, and couldn't talk yet. She would crinkle around the house in her plastic diaper investigating everything she came up to, and I would often hear a deep, bellowing, "Ho, ho, ho," like Santa Claus. All winter long I thought it was Brian! Nope. My dainty little granddaughter commenting on her surroundings. At a year-and-a-half, we were sitting out on the porch swing together. I pointed out a fly on her shirt, and faster than Billy the Kid, she snatched it off her shirt and stuck it in her mouth; in the immortal words of Ray Romano, She Aaaaaate It!!! At two, she was standing in one of the chairs in the top picture, hopping around, rocking the chair, inches from a bad tumble. Everyone had taken a turn telling her to sit down. She wasn't having it. I sneaked around behind her, and from inches away, roared, "Sit down, Venus!" Eyes the size of silver dollars, her feet flew out in front of her and her butt bounced on the chair seat. Scared the crap out of her, everybody laughed, and she was mad for a week, but we got past it. Three years old, she's drawing with a pencil. Little sis, Angel, wants in on it. "Don't play with that," Venus tells her every time she reaches for pencil, paper, or anything. "Don't play with that." Over and over; Venus is like that, a bundle of fine single-minded persistence. "Don't play with that." Mommy tells her to stop. "Don't play with that." Mommy warns that she's about to get sent to her room. "Don't play with that." A couple more warnings, and Mommy drops the hammer. Venus ain't in the mood to go to her room. Mommy standing over her, hands on hips, tiny little Venus, hands on hips, glaring back up. This can only end one way. Venus goes to room. A few moments of silence, then the curly little head appears around the corner. "Don't play with that." Last word, Venus.
She's not all cuteness and sass, either. She is a ferocious protector of the smaller sibs and cousins, whose first sobriquet was Chainsaw. At the age of five, she engaged brother Brian in a knock-down, drag out brawl in my living room that would have had the denizens of a biker bar lining up to place their bets. Brian was punched under the chin so hard that his feet left the ground before his butt made contact. Shortly thereafter, he threw her down the length of a coffee table, face down, feet arched over her head like the tail of a scorpion. She went off the end onto her face, but anyone who thought that would have been the end of it would have been surprised. She came right back over the table, murder in her eye, where her dad caught her in the air, claws extended, probably averting a toddler homicide. What set off this half-pint tornado? Brian had snatched a stuffed animal away from four-year-old cousin Anna.
She's deep. Asked to write something about herself in first grade, she produced, "I look in the mirror, and what do I see? A child. A stranger..." There's a lot more there than just what your eyes see. My wife, Bonnie, is half Cherokee. She does some of the eerie native things, like telling you it's going to rain while the sun's beating down (it always does), and communing with the flowers, birds, and lizards out in the garden. Venus has those same traits, and we sometimes refer to her as the Little Shaman. It's legit. She knows things that can't be known through the normal five senses the rest of us get. Yet, she's still a kid. She plays video games (Left 4 Dead is a particular favorite), digs the latest music, and wears trendy clothes with the best of them.
So, that's my little buddy, and a big part of what keeps me from being just another old git with a gas problem. It's a joy to share her with everyone, because I feel like, I don't know, like I've earned her favor, which is a huge honor, and at the same time that I made a large contribution to the delightful, independent, capable young lady that she is. Maybe... Anyway, I've wasted enough time on people who don't talk to me. It's time to go enjoy my baby!