This might be the most fun I've ever had working. I'm lying in bed propped up on pillows, writing a column on my laptop, while 2-year-old Charlotte sleeps beside me snoring softly like a baby woodchipper.
Charlotte is my husband's granddaughter, but I claim her, too, just as he claims my three grandsons. That's part of the deal with second marriages. You get to share each other's assets.
Charlotte and her parents live in California, some 500 miles from our home in Las Vegas. They flew in yesterday to spend a few days with us. Las Vegas may be better known for adult entertainment, but there's plenty to do with kids. We have lots of plans. But today they just wanted to kick back and hang out. My favorite kind of day.
My husband took the first shift this morning, sitting curled up with Charlotte in his recliner watching "Shaun the Sheep."
Papa Mark duty often involves cartoons. But after lunch, when Charlotte and her parents opted to go in the pool (despite the fact that the wind was blowing hard enough to knock the pigeons off the roof like bowling pins) Papa Mark was the good sport who jumped right in and pretended he wasn't freezing.
He's better at pretending than I am. I sat on the sidelines and played lifeguard. When we all got too cold to pretend any more, we went inside. Papa Mark crashed in the recliner. I went to our bedroom to check email. And Charlotte's mom gave her a bath to thaw her out.
A bit later, I heard a knock down low on my bedroom door.
"Who's there?" I said.
I'm good at playing dumb.
"It's me!" Charlotte yelled, adding something that sounded like "duh!" She was wrapped in a towel. Her hair was wet. Her mom asked if I'd like to brush it.
I laughed. "I can do that," I said. It had been years since I brushed a little girl's hair. But some things you don't forget.
Charlotte climbed on the bed, plopped her wet head on Papa Mark's pillow and pulled the covers up around her.
Her mom handed me a brush and I went to work, humming a little made-up tune, smoothing Charlotte's honey blonde curls, and remembering all the times I did the same for my daughter.
Can you imagine a better gift in this world or the next than getting to brush the tangles from a sleepy child's hair?
Charlotte fell asleep, but I kept brushing and humming and remembering. My daughter's hair was such a beast we called it the Dragon. I spent years trying to tame it. She tames it on her own now, without any help whatsoever from me.
Charlotte is quite a Dragon Head, too. Finally, when all her tangles were tamed, I sat for a while watching her eyes move behind her silvery lids. I tried to picture what she was dreaming. It looked like a good dream.
She smiled in her sleep and I smiled back. Then I inched my way off the bed, grabbed my laptop, climbed back in beside her and began to write.
Her dad tiptoed in to hand me her stuffed rabbit. "If she stirs," he whispered, "give her this and she'll go right back to sleep."
Her mom offered to bring me a fruity drink. And Papa Mark slipped in to snap a picture and tell me he was cooking dinner. He's good at cooking and taking pictures and making people happy. Especially Charlotte and her boy cousins and me.
Charlotte won't be 2 forever. Some day, she'll be too big to let me brush her hair. Or read her books. She doesn't even wear diapers any more -- except when she's sleeping. As she is now. Without a diaper.
It's OK. I'm not worried. She's on Papa Mark's side of the bed.
And her hair looks fabulous.
(Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson, Nev., 89077, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service)