little kids love my greenhouse
Friday, July 20 2012
We had a prolonged soaking rain last night, the hallmarks of a warm front. The rain continued at times today, with temperatures never rising out of the 60s.
In the late afternoon, Gretchen's friend Nina from Massachusetts came to visit for a few hours with her husband Karsten and her two kids Jonas and Onica. The last time Nina had visited, Jonas was a little baby and Onica was in the oven (and Gretchen offered Nina a beer). Now Jonas is five (and, as he pointed out, soon he'll be five and a half) and Onica is three.
While Gretchen and Nina drank tea and caught up about such things as Gretchen getting fired by the Bard Prison Initiative, Karsten mostly served as baby sitter. Gretchen had baked brownies, and it didn't take long for the sugar and other chemicals to turn the kids (particularly Jonas) wild and crazy in precisely the way that makes our decision not to reproduce seem like a wise one. They were running around at top speed and obsessing about finding the cats, all of whom had wisely hidden. I suggested they might be in a "castle" or a "fort," but that just subjected me to repeated questions about where the fort or castle could be found. When Marie (aka "the Baby") materialized in hopes of another hit of wet food, the kids pursued her relentlessly and then got up in her face and barked like dogs. Any other cat would have been terrified, but she just sat there impassively with a look on her face that read, "Is that all you got?" She probably wouldn't have acted that way had she not been deaf. Then there was the matter of Ramona, who had a keen (though friendly) interest in both Jonas and Onica, though initially Jonas was overwhelmed by Ramona's size. Eventually Jonas warmed to Ramona, though in an unnecessarily authoritarian way, constantly ordering her to sit just because the command had worked once. Ramona aims to please, but even she she has her limits and she ignored all those subsequent orders. She was mildly interested in playing fetch and even tag, but she soon decided that none of this was fun if it meant continuous ear-splitting screams. For awhile Karsten tried keeping the kids entertained by building forts from our pile of cardboard (one was "no boys allowed" and the other was "no girls allowed"), but both kids remained a menacing combination of hopped-up and bored until I gave them a tour of the greenhouse.
When I was showing them the greenhouse, their behavior was completely different. They asked lots of intelligent questions (From Onica: "Did you build these stairs?" and "Where did you get all the rocks?") and offered interesting feedback (From Jonas: "I think Daddy only has a power drill, but he also had a saw you could move around... yeah like that one."). Though the greenhouse upstairs would have been any parent's child-safety nightmare, both of the kids (who were, I should mention, barefoot) were very respectful of all the sharp fasteners and dangerous power tools lying around. Perhaps because it's really just an idealized kiddie fort, Jonas was far more interested in my greenhouse than any adult has ever been, and he was excited to come back in a year to see it when it was all done. I know from my own experience that seeing such an awesome structure at this age can completely alter the trajectory of a lifetime.
Next we went up to the garden and Onica showed a surprising interest in the small pear-shaped cherry tomatoes that nobody else has liked. As for Jonas, he politely turned them down with an observation from his brief personal history, "I stopped liking tomatoes when I was four." But they both happily devoured peas and green beans fresh from the vine. At some point I realized I'd been babysitting the kids for nearly 20 minutes, freeing the three other adults to talk about grown-up things that were boring, yucky, or a combination of the two.
As Jonas and Onica were being loaded by their parents into their Prius, Jonas declared, "I had so much fun! Well, I wasn't having any fun until you started played with me." Maybe it's just me, but it feels good to be made to feel like a peer of a five year old.
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