Calamity Cole, I mean. Her real name is Nicole Martinez Weatherall, but our granddaughter signs her magnificent artwork “Calamity Cole” as a reminder of her hell-raising past.
They are squeezed into a house with the tolerant Cinelli and me, a dog with long skinny legs and ample body named Sophie, two resident cats who resent the new ones, and a turtle named Turt who doesn’t give a damn about any of it.
We became Nicole’s guardians by court approval when she was a senior in high school and not getting along with her parents. We were like the 2.6 million other grandparents in America raising close to 6 million grandchildren. I couldn’t find statistics for grandparents harboring the same grandchild a second time around, not to mention one with a husband, a dog and three cats, but that’s the way it is.
When Nicole officially came to live with us at age 17, she kept her bedroom in a state of destruction not unlike a southern Gulf town shredded by hurricanes. I’m glad she had no husband or animals back then because they would have been buried beneath the detritus of her chaotic bedroom.
She was rebellious, challenging and damned well going to do what she wanted to do until she discovered that that didn’t work in our house either. She settled down somewhat and, a gifted artist, went off to the Chicago Art Institute for a year, followed by another year at the San Francisco Art Institute.
It was in a calmer frame of mind, one presumes, that she married Adam and found a job with LACMA—the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—as a kind of sentry and art commentator. She didn’t like it and has since left. Now she wants to return to school to study art more deeply and has moved in with us to allow that to happen.
It’s different this time.
Nicole and Adam are absolute delights to have around, helping us 83-year-olds keep a large house in order, the cat box changed periodically, the floors swept and the rooms cleaned. Well, actually, that would be every room but theirs. Old habits die hard. Adam tries to help by doing what men do best: not actually cleaning anything but straightening out stuff and stacking it neatly in a corner.
So far it’s working fine. At this very moment Nicole is outside painting, I am at my computer writing, Cinelli is in the kitchen creating a gourmet dinner and Adam, whose role is not yet defined, is busy piling things up in a corner of their bedroom while trying to find his underwear under the debris of Hurricane Nicole. That’s teamwork for you.