saturday afternoon with a three-year-old

Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.
~Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943

In went a small notebook with the letter H on the front, surrounded by an orange background and white polka dots – part of a birthday gift. Then, a leaf newly plucked from the bush outside the house. Followed by mini-colored pencils that were no longer encased in the jewel case carrier in which they were presented as part of the aforementioned birthday gift. Some of the sky blue is tested out on black pavement before it, too, goes in. Finally, the fire engine red metal pail is ready to be transported and the toddler of the hour leads the grown-ups into her house but not before commanding her mother to hurry up and please open the door. The exquisite autumn Saturday bids farewell to us temporarily as we retreat into the open arms of a living room that, too, is squarely toddler domain. Only inside the warmth of a house does the outside chill reveal itself in the form of a shiver that has been building and awaiting the perfect time of release. Once inside, the pail and its contents are emptied into a miniature, metallic, silver and red, real life replica shopping cart acquired during the previous holiday season. The contents, which have grown in number inexplicably between the short path from the front porch to the inside foyer – and expectedly for the adults but as a shock and surprise for the toddler – fall through the square holes. The toddler is undeterred. A grass green pencil takes a ride through the obstacle course of objects and falls again at her feet, but before it lands two other pencils (taupe and violet) and a plastic, yellow screw top cap (belonging either to large tube of something or is a gear looking for a home) have also been unwittingly launched only to land, unceremoniously, again and again on the hardwood floor below. And once again the items are gathered into the shiny, metallic, red pail which is then placed, using its rounded, silver colored steel handle, into the top of the cart where, in an adult sized cart, the same toddler might sit with her legs dangling out of the back. As before, the adults, who have been talking and watching throughout this performance, are led into the living and as they continue to talk while seated on the boomerang (not quite L) shaped sofa, are made to share the coffee table with a determined toddler. Where must these items go? Which to address and engage with now? Which to save for later? Before any of that can be answered, the items must be laid out on the low, glass top table with rounded edges. The pencils here, the notebook there, the yellow screw top and wooden faucet… perhaps to the right of the notebook. Yes, that seems right. Each of the sixteen, slim, colored pencils are placed in succession to the left of the notebook until the display comes to resemble the desktop of a mad genius. I half suspect that Einstein was moved toward a theory of relativity when he wondered how to make sense of the co-existence of objects that were chewed, organized, manipulated, represented, mildly wet, and remained a mysterious anomaly all in the same space and surface!

Baby Genius surveys this makeshift workspace with scrutiny, surveys the surrounding room for what attention is coming her way, and appears to survey her own simultaneous acts of surveillance. Sensing, it seems, a time for a change, the maitre d’objects composes a new organizational scheme and proceeds to take two items at a time and rearranges them with varying placement on the cardboard box that sits, unopened, a foot behind her. The height is even more perfect and the red pail remains empty a little while longer as pencils, gears, notebooks (there are now two, one large and the other pocket-sized), a single leaf, a few coral colored berries, an assortment of plastic in various shapes, a larger, thicker, pinker colored pencil, and a piece of string – spoiler: the string is not an actual object, but one that thought it could hitch a ride on the Great Object Express; it was sadly mistaken and summarily discarded. – find new temporary residence.

The red pail does not wait too long and the express continues, lured by the siren call of the miniature (although not too much smaller than city-size), wooden kitchen setup along one wall in the adult kitchen (perhaps grown-up kitchen or life-size kitchen is more apt?). The living is strangely quiet with only the conversational voices of the over-three crowd filling the room.

But not for long.

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