Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I was cleaning off my desk a little bit ago and came across a page from my journal. Don't know why it was out, unless I'd printed it out to send to Paul. Anyway, I so enjoyed reading it again that I'm going to reprint it here. When I wrote it, Jen was about ten. (She's a bit over thirteen now.)
Jen and I had what I'd have to call a perfect day today.

I picked her up at her house, arriving at nine-thirty in the morning. She and her brother, Joe, were still in bed, each of them with their radios tuned to their own particular music. It wasn't too obvious if you were in one room or the other, but standing in the hall between the bedrooms it was an unintelligible cacophony of male and female voices, guitars, and drums.

Jen lay face down on her bed, her face buried in her babyhood blankie, but I could see her smile as she looked at me out of the corner of her eye. She still loves the scent of that aqua blanket, made of the typical thermal material that little ones seem to gravitate to. Or is it just that thermal blankets are so danged durable? I know my daughter's Love Blankets, as we called them, were thermal, and I can't think of any other material for any other child I've known either.

Anyway, I sat on the bed beside her, giving her a teasing bump with my hip to nudge her aside to make room for me.

"Doesn't look to me like you've had breakfast yet," I said, and got a small shake of the head in response. "Hmmm. Well, what do you want to do today?"

"Hang around here."

"Oh, no. I would die of boredom. Tell you what. Get dressed and come downstairs, and we'll go over our options. I have a whole list of things we could do, and you can tell me what appeals to you."

She was down a short while later, and I told her the ideas I had, with Jen throwing in a few of her own.

One of the things she wanted to know was where I get my notebooks, which are, 90% of the time, graph paper, my preferred writing material. Unfortunately, I get them at estate sales most of the time, and there isn't an office supply place nearby that's likely to have any. I told her I did have several on my desk, and if she wanted one of them I'd give it to her. She was happy with that, and went to the kitchen to find a pen like mine.

I'd suggested she could have her favorite breakfast at my house, green beans, butter, and garlic, and she was delighted by that idea. We went into the office, where Joe was playing a computer game now, and talking to his new, and old-enough-to-be-idolized, stepbrother.

I put my hand on Joe's shoulder once while we were talking, and he said, still facing the monitor, "Don't touch me, Anitra. Your hands smell like poo-poo." Right. Sophisticated thirteen-year-old humor at its best.

So I put both hands flat on his head, and stroked down to his neck and shoulders, and then down his arms and rubbed and patted his back, and then put my hands back on his head.

"Yuuuck," or something like that was the cry from my young friend.

"Now you'll have to take a bath," I told him, defusing his slam by joining in with it. Step-bro sat grinning in the chair.

Jen and I left, and took care of the notebook choice as soon as we got to my house. Then she wanted a bag to put it in. I showed her every bag I had, and she hadn't liked any of them except my leather briefcase, which wasn't available, and then, just as I was about to give up, I spotted one more strap, to a colorful handwoven shoulder bag. I rarely carry it anymore, and when Jen said she liked it, I gave it to her. She promptly stashed the notebook and pen in it, and for the rest of the day, pulled them out whenever we needed to add or cross off something from the to-do list she made while I fixed breakfast.

I loved the little codes she devised for herself, so as not to have to write entire words. It wasn't until almost the end of the day that she told me what three particular ones stood for, and they were all about me:

C = Crazy
N = Nice
NETE = Not Easy To Explain

You can imagine my smiles.

What we did today:

Breakfast at my house

A trip to Michaels to get the biggest crochet hook they had, so Jen can learn. We also picked up t-shirts on sale for two bucks apiece, and t-shirt transfer paper, acrylic paints for painting rocks, and a child's scrapbook kit, also on sale for two dollars.

A visit to the hardware store, since we were driving right by it, for fender washers I use in making China Blossoms. We also found two really great perennials on sale.

Goodwill, to find a Hawaiin shirt for DH, for a party we're going to tomorrow night, and sunflower seeds to feed the squirrels at Glendoveer

McDonald's, where we picked up grilled chicken salads, an apple juice for Jen, and a diet cola for me

Glendoveer Fitness Trail, where we sat at a picnic table and ate, and then walked two miles. Unfortunately, feeding the squirrels is no longer allowed. We read the signs telling why, and decided they were right to forbid it.

While we had our salads we talked. (Actually, we usually talk nonstop, but, you know, this was serious conversation over a meal.)

A nearby sign said, "No Pets Allowed". Jen pointed it out, and I said, "Oh. Well, I can leave you in the car," and she gave me A Look.

"If it said 'No Animals Allowed', we couldn't go," she said.

"That's right."

"'Cause we're animals, too."

"Yes, but we're different. What do you think the difference is?"

We had quite a little talk about that, including some discussion about whether you could worship if you didn't have a church, or a preacher, or a Bible.

"I think all people have an idea that there's a God," I said. "That's why everywhere you go in the world, there are people who believe and worship their idea of who God is, God the way they understand Him."

"Not everyone believes in God," she said.

"Yeah. Come to think of it, you're right."

I was wondering if Jen would come up with the existence of a soul as what made us different from other animals. (Forgot about "self-awareness". duh.) We did finally come to that, don't remember how, but I asked, "Do animals have souls?"

Jen put her spread fingers against her chest, and tilted her head. "Well, I think they do," she said.

"What is it that makes you think so?" She'd surprised me, but I didn't want to show that. Kids sense it when you're patronizing them or skeptical, and Jen obviously had thought about this. I wanted to hear her thoughts.

"Well, the soul is the part of us that's inside us, and makes us who we are, right? It's what makes each of us different."


"Well, if animals didn't have souls, they'd all be the same."

WHOA! Let me tell you, my mouth fell open, and I had to give my head a smart shake to put my brain back straight. The child just blew me away. I was speechless for a minute.

"Jen. Jen, that was absolutely profound."

"What's that, 'profound'?"

You, I thought.

We had our walk then, two full miles, talking and singing all the way, and stopping to sit on a bench and chat with a lovely white-haired elderly woman, and throwing a few sunflower seeds to a squirrel that absolutely intimidated us into it, and then we went to Party Place and looked for an eye patch. Didn't find one, but bought a grass skirt and a bra top with hibiscus flowers for the cups for DH to wear to the party, as a surprise joke. (He says he doesn't think he'll wear them to the party, but he'll put them on and I can take a picture for Jen. She's going to put it in her scrapbook, she says.)

We came home, and she worked on her scrapbook in the next room, and emailed me from DH's computer every five minutes or so, and I sent her replies and pictures.

And then I took Jen home.

Came back, talking to Bruce on the way, who says he now has some peripheral vision, and fixed dinner, and watched TV with DH. Perfect end to a perfect day.


coffeemonkey said...

I love this story! You're a very talented writer! Not only do I love Jen's answers, but that line about the squirrel intimidating you into feeding him had me on the floor laughing. Thanks for the post to my blog, btw. And just for the record ; ) I do tell people where I am from and I am definitely self-conscious, but I am mainly making fun of myself in that post. That's my general way of dealing with things. I thinks that's healthy no? : ) Talk to you soon Anitra-with-poo-smelling-hands. That cracked me up also! : )

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