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Speaking Their Language

search “Gran, do you know where my Michelangelo is?” my Grand asked thirty minutes after I arrive for a week’s visit at his family’s home.

“No, but I’ll help you look,” I answered. “Tell me what it looks like,” I said. I was impressed that Dean who was almost 4 years old had a Michelangelo. Was I looking for a painting? A sculpture?

“He’s green. He’s got an orange mask,” Dean said. I nodded my head and frowned. “He’s got nunchuks,” my Grand explained. Nunchuks? Weapons?

“How big is Michelangelo?” I asked.

“Wait,” Dean said and held up his hand as if he were stopping traffic. He ran to his and his brother’s toy box and searched and then ran back to me holding an action figure that I’d seen Dean’s younger brother carrying. “It’s like this. This is Neil’s.”

“Oh! He’s a Teenage Mutant Turtle!” I said, feeling a bit silly that I didn’t realize that right away. I know the ‘turtles’ have been around for a long time. I don’t always remember their names.

“He’s a Ninja!” Dean said. A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle to be exact. Dean and I searched his house. On the floor. In the toy box. And getting into the spirit of the hunt, I called, “Michangelo, where are you?”

“Gran, you can call him Mikey!” Dean said as he threw sofa pillows onto the floor. “I found him!” Dean held him with both hands and shoved him toward me. A six-inch tall plastic action figure with a broad smile showing a mouthful of big white teeth and wearing an orange shield and mask. And it had nothing to do with the Renaissance artist who sculpted David.

Dean sat in my lap and showed me how the tiny nunchuks fit in Mikey’s hand. “Aren’t there other Ninjas?” I asked. My Grand rattled off the names. “Leonardo and Raphael and Donatello.” He only had Michelangelo and there are lots of Ninjas, but these four are the most important. I mentioned that all these are famous artists and began to tell about Michelangelo. “I know. Mom told me,” my Grand said.

“I’ve got a Bumblebee,” he said and ran to his room. I didn’t expect a yellow and black flying insect and Bumblebee wasn’t. Dean put a good-looking sports car in my hand. “Bumblebee, that’s a good name for a yellow and black car,” I said.

“Look,” Dean said and he grabbed Bumblebee. He pulled and twisted movable parts and transformed the car into a fierce looking warrior robot. My Grand likes to play with balls and cars and play dough and blow bubbles and run outside, but he’s really into action figures and his and his brother’s birthdays were only a few days away.

I shopped for Leonardo, the hard-working, honest, fearless leader, and found a huge display of Ninjas. Leonardo hung front and center. Easy and fast shopping, except I needed identical Ninjas, one for Dean and one for Neil. Ffter searching through dozens of packages that kept falling off long metal display rods, I finally found and bought two Leonardos.

Dean jerked Leonardo out of his birthday gift bag and held it high above his head. “Look! He’s like Michelangelo! And you got Neil one, too! Gran, do you know where my Michelangelo is?”

I knew what I was looking for. Not a painting or sculpture. I’d become Ninja literate.







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