Friday, May 24, 2013

"Grandfather Knows Best"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

Now that I am a grandfather, many people whose children have recently had children have asked for my brilliant advice on how to be a good grandparent. As a world-renowned expert whose granddaughter is not even 2 months old but is already more mature than I am, I’d be happy to comply.

For new grandparents, changing diapers is the No. 1 concern. It’s also, of course, the No. 2 concern. But more on that later.

First, you should know that my precious little pumpkin is the most beautiful grandbaby ever born. It is important to acknowledge this and to stop thinking that your grandchild is more adorable than mine. He or she may have been the most beautiful before my granddaughter made her grand entrance into the world, but not anymore. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

With that settled, here is a vital grandparenting tip: Don’t brag. Nobody wants to listen to you babble on about how alert, wonderful and beautiful your grandchild is while looking at 100 photos you have just taken of the little cutie. Fifty photos are more than enough.

Yes, you are proud to be a grandparent, but a little humility goes a long way. You might say something like, “My grandbaby isn’t as alert, wonderful and beautiful as Jerry Zezima’s, but then, whose grandchild is?”

This brings me to your interaction with the baby. As a grandparent, you will have a profound influence on your grandchild, for better (as in the case of my wife, Sue, also known as Nini) or for worse (as in the case of yours truly, also known as Poppie).

As evidence of this, I have already baby-sat for my granddaughter a few times. I fed her, changed her and played with her. I also watched baseball and hockey games with her. I even told her jokes while I held her. She looked up at me and smiled. When her mommy heard this, she said, “That was just gas.”

Now we come to the crucial part: Caring for the baby. It may have been 30 years since you were last entrusted with an infant, but it will all come back to you in pungent waves of nostalgia.

As you will recall, babies do three things: sleep, eat and poop. Nice work if you can get it.

The main difference between babies and adults is that babies not only can get away with it but are actually praised for their efforts.

“Yay!” is the typical reaction when the baby polishes off a bottle faster than you have ever chugged a beer.

“Good job!” everyone says when the baby burps.

“Way to go!” they all exclaim, coughing slightly, when the baby does his or her business.

Speaking of which, being on diaper duty is not nearly as bad as it seemed when your kids were babies. In fact, it’s a refreshing change. Well, maybe not refreshing, but it’s breathtakingly simple, even if it’s not a good idea to breathe while cleaning up.

This helps you bond with your grandchild and is the ultimate proof of your love and devotion to the little darling.

There you have it, new grandparents. This is just a primer, and I will impart more wisdom to you as your grandchild gets older, but at least now you have the basics.

So go ahead and enjoy being a Nini or a Poppie. There’s nothing like it. You can even brag a little. You can also feel free to show unsuspecting people all those pictures you just took because I know that the new addition to your family really is beautiful.

And don’t forget the most important thing: Despite what anyone says, when your adorable little grandbaby smiles at you, it’s not necessarily gas.

Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, May 10, 2013

"It's About Crime"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a private eye (my other eye, I figured, would be public), but I never pursued it because I was sure I’d end up investigating myself.

Now that I am an adult who does not (as yet) have a criminal record, I thought it would finally be a good time to take a class on how to be a detective.

So I signed up at the Center Moriches Library on Long Island, N.Y., for “Jr. Crime Investigators,” a four-session course that teaches kids how to investigate crimes like those seen on the TV show “CSI.”

The instructor was Larissa Froeschl, a forensic science teacher who has worked with law-enforcement officials and has a master’s degree in biology.

The class was composed of about 10 kids, all of whom were 12, and one geezer, who was almost five times as old but only half as mature.

The first session, which like the others lasted an hour and a half, was a fingerprinting workshop.

“Your prints are hard to read,” Larissa told me as she looked at them on my personal identification sheet. “Maybe you would be a good criminal.”

Then, while wearing rubber gloves, the kids and I used ostrich-feather brushes and nontoxic powders to dust for fingerprints we put on items such as a glass tube, a soap dish, a butter knife, a hair clip and, the one I used, a fake jewel.

“I could bring it home to my wife and tell her it’s real,” I said to Larissa.

“I can see your thumb print on it,” she replied as she inspected the item with a magnifying glass. “Even though your fingerprints aren’t too distinct, with modern forensics, you’d get caught.”

“There goes my criminal career,” I lamented.

I went from crook to kidnapping victim in the next class, which focused on ransom notes.

“You have to give handwriting samples,” said Larissa, who instructed each of us to write the following sentence three times on a sheet of paper: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Then she divided the class into two groups. A member of each group had to write a ransom note for the other group to solve. The note our group had to solve read: “We have your mustache! Give us two million dollars or we will sell it on eBay.”

“It looks like you’ve been kidnapped,” Larissa said.

“Who would want me?” I responded.

Possibly the cops, as I found out in the third session, for which Larissa had created a crime scene that was cordoned off with yellow police tape. Scattered over the floor were pieces of evidence, including a purse, a key and a knife with ketchup on it.

“It could be the murder weapon,” Larissa said.

“Or maybe somebody was making a sandwich with it,” a student named Jack theorized.

After we all gave hair samples and looked at them under microscopes, Larissa said to me, “You have a nice medulla. Your hair has a very distinctive structure.”

“I thought only my hairdresser knew for sure,” I replied.

I escaped the hairy situation (Larissa was the guilty party), but I was a suspect in a jewel heist in the final class.

Actually, I was two suspects because I played dual roles: the husband of the princess whose jewels were stolen and a long-lost friend of hers. Larissa played the princess, her maid and her secretary.

The kids had to use the skills they learned in the previous three classes to deduce the identity of the thief. They correctly collared the secretary.

“At least I’m not going to jail,” I told Larissa at the end of the class.

“No,” she said. “But maybe you can be a detective and get your own show.”

I can see it now: “CSI: Column Stupidity Investigation.”

Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima