Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kiss Your Brain Thought of the Day

Katie and I, and Will if he's not at work, enjoy our walk to and from her school each day. There are many fun and odd things to look at in our old (by American standards) Fifties-era suburban neighborhood. There's a hole in a tree that reminds me of Scout and Jem and Dill's hole. (Insert 12 year old giggle.) No, not that kind of dillhole. I'm referring to the one in the best book of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Katie's a little nervous as we walk by it because she's convinced herself a grumpy owl lives in it despite the fact that we've never seen an owl in there. She told me one morning she doesn't like that grumpy owl because, "Owl's are nocturnal and so if we wake him during the day he'll be grumpy at us."

I knew where she was going with this thought. "You mean like the grumpy owl in 'Bambi'?"

"Yes." Katie whispered, looking back toward the tree. "But, Mama, how come the owl in 'The Fox and the Hound' is awake during the day but she's not grumpy?"

"We'll, maybe she's not a night owl but an early bird. Or maybe she's just in general a nicer owl than the one in 'Bambi'. I'm sure, like people, not all owls are alike." Much of parenting I've learned involves pulling answers to absurdly wonderful questions out of your ass.

As we walk farther down the sidewalk we check each day to see if any new mushrooms have appeared and which ones have disappeared from a neighbor's yard. Either they're at work and unaware or they secretly watch through the window and giggle at this little kid tip-toeing through their yard scouting for mushrooms. I've never seen them, but I hope these neighbors are gigglers.

There are many barking dogs to say hello to. Squirrels to laugh at. Tree limbs to jump over. Smiling old people out for their morning constitutional. Sky above us that changes every day. Funny fat trees with skinny leaves. One old tree, its roots taking up about half the yard, has such a wide trunk it's had to have been here since before the area was developed. I explained to Katie that the wider the tree, the older it is. She looked at my behind and smiled.

This morning as we approached her school, we noticed they had planted some new trees. "Teenager trees," Katie decided. They're skinny and tall and have to be held up by poles so they don't snap in a strong wind.

Before we got to the teenager trees, though, we passed the turtle. The one Katie likes to point out every day is the one I thought was real. Since we approached it the first time and discovered it's made of ceramic, Katie has not let me live this blunder down. Then I have to explain to her that the reason I thought it was a real turtle and not yard art is because turtles are so slow you can hardly see them moving, which in my mind explained why this immobile turtle was on top of our neighbor's tree stump.

We were still talking about the turtle statue as we walked by the teenager trees when Katie asked me why turtles move so slowly.

I hadn't had my coffee and the owl question had evidently pulled all my creative answers from my ass, so I said, "I don't know."

Without hesitation, Katie said, "Maybe they move slow because their shell is so heavy?"

Why of course. Kiss your brain! As her kindergarten teacher says.

So I kissed my Katie and watched as she walked through the doors to her school, worried yet hopeful that her public education, with its state and federal budget cuts, rules and focus on conformity, will not stiffle her thoughts but instead will broaden her brain so she can one day be as wise as that wide old tree.