Many years ago in a tiny little rambler that was home to a family of six, a girl got a beautiful doll buggy for Christmas. Made of a fine vinyl, black and red plaid, it was roomy enough for all the girl's dolls, their blankets and perhaps a stuffed animal and some tea set dishes.
As Christmas Eve does, the evening came to an end too soon, and the girl reluctantly went to sleep. As little girls do, she had to get up in the night for a trip to the bathroom, and she wheeled her precious new vehicle into the tiny powder room along with her. When it came time to get the buggy out of the bathroom, somehow what had rolled in so nicely was not as easy to decamp. The more she struggled to steer the buggy, calm the dolls and still reach the door handle, the more commotion she caused. The banging of the buggy off the bathroom walls woke her father, who quickly came on the scene and got both child and buggy back to bed.
This isn't the story my family tells about me, but I wish it were. I love the little girl who didn't think it the least bit silly to take her buggy to the bathroom. They tell of a girl less sweet, a little more bossy, stubborn. Supposedly I told a neighbor to keep his trap shut when he was eating, but this is said to have occured when I was so young that it had to be a phrase picked up from one of them. And that time I took it upon myself to brush my teeth with Ivory soap, scraped onto my brush from the bar by the sink because I couldn't reach the toothpaste. I'm sure it did look funny to see a child blow bubbles from an internal soap supply. At least I brushed.
I've been thinking about childhood lately, trying to remember how a child's mind works, as I adapt to living with stepsons. A boy who thinks I can't tell he hasn't brushed his teeth because they're still orange from eating Cheetos. His brother who wants to know if I've made the nectarine ice cream we now have every 4th of July for anyone else but them. Both of them tickled every time I get a good zinger in on their dad. They're wise when it comes to figuring out where in your heart they reside. But they're just not that good at practical matters, say, the logic behind closing the back door in the winter, good posture or tidying up a room.
I guess by definition kids wouldn't be kids -- happy and carefree -- if they were aware of heat bills, car problems, cellulite, sump pumps, but don't you wish you'd known then what you know now? If only toddlers understood how great it is to take naps, be transported like royalty in a stroller, and eat without calculating nutritional value and justifying calories.
I think I've met a kid who gets it. A senior at North Dakota State University, who seems to have understood all these things without trading in his youthfulness. He's been the student body president, is a member of all kinds of student groups, gets good grades. He moves comfortably in circles many adults find intimidating. For fun, last summer he climbed Mt. Rainier. Poise, he's got. I was recently most impressed by a thing he knew to do -- something I so didn't know at that age. He asked for advice. Maybe I'm just a little star struck because the person he asked was me, but I'm telling you, when I was in college, I did not have the savvy to seek wisdom, much less the contacts to know who the heck to consult. These days I ask for advice like crazy. But I just learned that inspiration can come from someone half my age.
Thank you for reading.