There was an old woman


“Oh, I look old.” I cringed at my reflection in the rearview mirror. “Do I look old?” I asked my oldest, regretting asking him even as the words came out.

“No,” he replied solemnly. “Not at all.” He thought a bit and added, “People in their thirties are not old.”

“You’re right, of course,” I replied hastily. But still – it is jarring to see oneself growing older and wrinklier.

“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…” I guess I am not too old. And our house is unique but it’s not even remotely like a shoe.

We had a quiet day, blissfully free of incident. We’ve been playing “family” a lot lately, my four-year-old and I. He plays the dad, I’m the mom, and the baby is the baby. Yesterday we began by taking many family naps. We piled up on the sofa, dad, mom, and baby, kissed each other goodnight, and slept until the rooster crowed, then we got up. We repeated this process several times. After that it was time to go into town, which is downstairs.

Once in “town,” the baby wandered into the guest room (there is an alarm clock radio in there, and he loves to turn it on) and “dad” declared, “All right. Let’s go to the kid store and get a kid.”

The guest room is the kid store, as it turns out, and I thought (like a grown up) that the “kid” to be procured was the baby. But shortly after, outside by the swings, J informed me that he had a son of his own, whom he was swinging in the baby swing.

“That’s wonderful!” I said. “What is your son’s name?”

“Canoe,” he replied. “He’s really cute.” I said I could well believe it.

“He has the power to transform into a fish,” he added, in an offhand way.

“Well, that’s handy,” I replied.

After a while he and baby and I wandered to the top of the hill. It must be nice, being a baby. All you have to do is point to a little bike, look up, and say “Ma!” and you get gently rolled all around the yard, with your little feet resting on the frame. Rough life.

After a while I saw J twirling under the trees. “Where’s Canoe?” I asked.

“Oh … he blew away,” he replied.

“What!? You can’t just let your baby blow away!” I made as if to “catch” the imaginary blowing-away baby, but J objected strenuously to this. I objected myself, saying that he wasn’t being much of a father.

We’ve been watching Bugs Bunny and other Loony Tunes lately, and one of the episodes introduced the boys to the term “poop deck.” To their glee, this provides a loophole to be exploited in the face of the household prohibition on potty language. I ignore their frequent and gleeful references to poop decks. Things like this make me long wistfully for a child rearing handbook. But, all will come out all right in the wash, I do firmly believe.

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