Considering the past life of things.
Yesterday, I bought Opal a shirt with a glittery owl on the front that is offering a perpetual wink as if to say your secret is totally safe with him. When I slipped it over her head, she donned a prideful grin and stated, to me, Mommy made this for me!
No, sweetie, mama bought this for you but mommy didn’t make it. I don’t quite know who made it. Then the onslaught of considerations began, as they so often do in the wake of such Opal-statements:
Lordy, I hope this shirt wasn’t made in a sweatshop. It is clearly not handmade (purchased at a popular kids’ chain), so I hope the person who runs the screen-printing machine gets adequate breaks and a decent wage. I hope he gets paid holidays and doesn’t get flack from his boss if he needs to come in late because of a sick kid.
Opal is at a phase in life where she’s trying to figure out where things come from before they are brought to her attention and where things go once they depart. She is trying her best to keep tabs on the items that comprise her environment, as well as to understand and consider the history of those items. This newly applied habit is yet another thing she does to make it quit difficult for a mama to be lazy in the head. In this case, it’s becoming quite the challenge to see things as, well, just benign stuff with no prologue. When inquired about and attended to, items instantly inherit personality and spirit.
With regards to the shirt, her face clearly expressed— So, if mommy didn’t make me this shirt, then where did it come from? And so it goes.
To the same end, during dinner last week Opal announced, Grammy made me this poom (spoon)! just as she shoved a heaping mound of applesauce into her little mouth.
Things have to come from somewhere, it’s true. And those spoons came from a mid-level shelf at Target. Why is it that it’s never previously occurred to me to consider what happened before that? I certainly thoroughly think through where our food comes from before it reaches the plates on our table. (Which is one of the major reasons I returned to vegetarianism once Opal stopped breastfeeding.) But apparently that’s been where it ends.
There I was, yet again ruminating on the stock-boys who worked the graveyard shift to dangle the spoons on their appropriate hooks. The truck-drivers who shipped boxes and boxes of Gerber items to their appropriate destinations. The massive factories that created these marvelous half-kid-half-grown-up toddler utensils in the first place. The masterminds behind the factories. The schooling behind the masterminds.
So you see what lines of thinking Opal’s innocent investigations prompt. Few adults get me thinking in such a way!
Another one of Opal’s talking-points in trying to understand the existence of things when they are not directly in front of her is researching her subjects with the question where dis’ come from? Most times, my answer is the obvious one of where it came from most directly—that blanket came from the house, or that book came from the car. But there are occasions when I do take the time to mull it over and stumble face-first into some gems: Wow, that blanket came from your daddy’s grandma, your great-grandma, and I’m pretty sure she hand-sewed all those little people in the quilt-squares herself, probably close to 60 years ago! I can only imagine how long that would have taken, and the patience required! And this happens to be the blanket you wrap up in every single night, sweetie. How lovely is that?
I recently took Opal on a very particular bike path to point out a massive cottonwood tree that sits along the creek and has a trunk as big as a turned-up sofa. The shade it creates covers a count-of-ten as one bikes beneath it at a moderate pace. I parked the bike right beside it, turned Opal to face it (adjusted her helmet so she could see) and said Look, honey. This is one of mommy’s most FAVORITE trees!
I had prepared an answer in advance for her question where dis’ tree come from?
Well, I planned to say, it started as a seedling then grew bigger when the rain came and even stronger with the sun helped it grow… (a slightly lame explanation upon reflection). But she never asked. She just sat there looking sweaty and ready for mama to get back on the bike and get the breeze going.
But a little later, as I peddled, the tiny voice from behind me asked where da tree go, Mama? As if she half expected this thing I introduced her to so formally to come along with us as an old friend would, or to join up with us again later.
And as I was changing her diaper later that night, she asked what the tree was doing, the same way she asks about the people we visited with during that particular day. What Grammy doing? What (our neighbors) Ryan and Nga doing? What kitty doing? What peoples doing?
It’s standing along the creek where we left it, honey, sitting in the moonlight. I said. Did you like that tree?
Yea, she said. Mommy made it for me.