Monday, March 28, 2011

What bears eat?

'What bears eat, Mama?'
The question comes from Oli and seems to be completely unrelated to the train track we are building.
'Fish' I say, and then thinking of Winnie the Pooh, I add '...and honey.'
The next question comes in casually, 'Bears eat peoples?' He uses the kind of tone that says, 'not scared, just curious.'
'No, fish and honey' I reassure him, but perhaps a more honest answer might be 'sometimes'.
Oli and I must have danced through this little dialogue dozens of times. I wonder whether he just likes the familiarity of knowing the answer. Because, when you're two, there's a frustrating amount that you just don't know, after all, there's so much language that just doesn't quite make sense.  Even for Max, at the mature age of nearly-five, there are words I'm sure I use every day that he'll suddenly ask me the meaning of. Today it was 'throbbing' and 'skinny'.  No wonder children get frustrated. Wouldn't you? It must be like being surrounded by people throwing in words like spissitude and temulent* to your everyday conversation. 
At the moment Max is obsessed with the sinking of the Titanic.  As well as drawing my attention to the fact that he pronounces 'sink' and 'think' in the same way, (Do you sink it sunk...), it has also brought a lot of technical language into our home; the nature of watertight chambers, poop decks and orlops. Each night Max asks me to leave him a note by his bed for the morning, with some new fact about the infamous vessel.  Sometimes I remember.
Then, the other day, Oli and I were in the car, having just dropped Max at school.
'When Titanic sinks Mama?' he asked.
'The Titanic sunk in 1912, Oli.' 
'Oh', he says, then 'When dinosaurs sink?'
'Dinosaurs are extinct, Oli.' I tell him. 'It means they don't exist any more.'
The phonetics are identical and it makes marvel again at how the world is slowly revealing itself to this child.
'Do peoples sink Mum?' he asks.
Sink, extinct, think...'Sometimes' I say.

*density and intoxicated for those of you with aspirations for the scrabble board.


Everything has lifted a little since the rain stopped. And today I heard a daffodil open. The kitchen was warm and I had a vase of buds on the table.  Inside, it had fallen quiet. Max was perfecting his moping skills.  Home from school, the sun shining, he went to lie on a bench in the garden. After a while he rolled over and lolled his head over the side of the bench, looking at the ground, his hair flopping down. I kept looking out of the kitchen window to see him examining the brickwork underneath him, or the moss, or a beetle, who knows...   Moping on a sunny day, it's is an activity that feels exclusive to Max these days.  Oli's too young to mope properly - he's either busy or tired.  Watching Max, brought back to me that feeling I used to have, in elementary school, when we were told it was time to wear our summer uniform. No more those scratchy grey flannel kilts and polyester shirts (with a tie), now it was officially summer and time for the turquoise tartan tunic, and the smell of fresh cut grass.
All I could hear were the birds. Oli and Jack were both sleeping. I stopped to take in the silence and heard the crinkle of bursting daffodil buds.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dotta Bridge

'Dotta Bridge!' cries Oli, pointing to the Golden Gate Bridge as we turn left along the Marina.  Sometimes he yells it in the middle of city traffic and I glance around to see its vanishing image on a passing bus or an impression of it high up among the electric bus cables, on a banner persuading us to visit the National Parks. I wonder how deeply the image of the bridge will be embedded in Oli's mind - the tall red ladders slung low with delicate matching string.  There are so many representations of it around the city - it's on a mural at the supermarket, in shop windows and on logos everywhere.
Speaking slowly, Max tells him 'It's the Golden Gate Bridge!' He has all the authority of someone who is going to be five.
Luckily Oli hasn't taken on board this correction yet. It's Dotta be Dotta Bridge, for now at least.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Just us

Grinning, Oli announces, 'We're having a birthday!'
It's as if we've just decided on it, a spontaneous idea.  There's a fizz of excitement in his voice.  I'm not sure how much he understands but he knows it's going to be special.  I, on the other hand, am well aware of the impending date, it's my birthday after all, and I'm the wrong side of 35. So I'm quite happy to let this birthday go, ignore it. But there's such excitement in plans for cards and cakes that I must be excited. It matters. I begin to feel more about this birthday than I have about any in the past decade.
'Who would you like for your birthday?' Max asks me.
I think for a moment and tell him I'm just fine with the 5 of us.
'No, Mummy.' It's as if I haven't understood. 'Who would you like to come for your birthday?'
This is a boy who is meticulously planning his fifth birthday party. He wants to invite everyone from school. 'Patrick, Kai, Braydon' he lists. Then he asks 'Grandpa?' I give him a look - Grandpa is five thousand miles away and unlikely to make it over for birthday tea in April. He misinterprets my look.
'You know Granny Mot?' he says, as if I need my memory shaken.
'Yes.' I take care not to be facetious.
'Well, that grandpa..they got married...they can be the people who bring the cake.'
I smile but he's back to his list. 'Alex, Tommy, Lola...'
'Just us.' I say.
Tomorrow it will be just us.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Still there?

Anyone still there? I know I've been taking some time away from the computer the past month - I promise to post soon! In the meantime you can enjoy this photo - after getting Max dressed in his warmest gear for a cold walk on the beach (they promised snow here the other day but it never materialized) I turned round to find he had stripped off several layers and found a convenient place to hang his boots - as you do!