Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spring time

Molly didn't really play with toys as a baby: She would pick something up, turn it around in her hands, maybe shake it once or twice, then let it go. It wasn't out of sight after that but it was out of mind.

Then, as a toddler she did two things that I remember clearly and these puzzled me: She had a baby cup with lid and some pennies, and she carried these around everywhere. She had fashioned a toy that had some versatility: coins in or out, rattle, carrying case for towers that she intended to build, etc.

But if she had created the cup-and-pennies combo for the purpose of construction, she used objects at hand for incidental destruction. Namely, pens and flashlights--these disappeared at a noticeable rate.

It was probably a good thing, then, that my husband and I effortlessly accumulated pens and flashlights before children arrived. Years later, we would find a flashlight or pen on the floor and pick it up only to discover that it was a mere shell of its former self. The kid didn't intend to destroy these objects, but in taking them apart she would lose or break something critical in the assembly and render it useless to us.

The loss of household objects was very minor compared to the benefits that Molly derived from their discovery. When toddler Molly told me about the two different kinds of pens--those with springs and those without--I was happy to hear the excitement in her voice. 

She loved the springs, so mystery solved, right? But what of the flashlights? I couldn't crack that one for, oddly enough, whenever I found her with a flashlight, the damage had already been done.

This happened so often that, at times, after our initial collection dwindled, I couldn't determine if we were buying flashlights so often to replenish our own supply or to replenish hers.

At any rate, we would hide the more expensive ones and, sometimes, we'd be down to our last flashlight only to turn around and discover it in Molly's hands. Somehow, she always found them.

Being less than Martha-like in keeping my home, the cases of the lights and the pens didn't disappear. Today, I discovered that Molly had a proprietary attachment to this collection at the time and even now, more than two-and-a-half years later.

"Could I have a box of things to take apart again?" She asked this morning.

I explained that she was welcome to take things apart--and she didn't ever really stop--provided that she now ask beforehand out of respect for the other family members.

"Could I take apart this pen?" She asked at lunch.

It was a good pen. I mean, it had been a pen that I really liked but, as she held it up to me, I thought of "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry and the narrator's bitterness at having been discouraged from the pursuit of art in his childhood.  If I stopped her now, would she, like the narrator as an adult drawing only a boa constrictor eating an elephant, only ever be able to figure out pens and flashlights? Would I be inhibiting the growth of a future scientist? 

"Sure," I said, already mentally trying to replace the pen with another. 

A few minutes later, she sat on her knees at the dining room table, peering through a heavy magnifying glass.

Indeed, it is spring-time in our house again but I did save the universe from losing a scientist before getting lunch on the table. I guess it all evens out.

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