One Sunday last month, we went to a local farm and winery for an hour of pumpkin-decorating and Halloween storytelling led by our beloved former school librarian who, in characteristic fashion, was dressed as Joy from the movie “Inside Out” (fortunately, she already had the perfectly purple hair for the part). Kids, most wearing costumes, rubber boots, and raincoats, gathered at picnic tables spaced out under a capacious, canopied sailcloth tent. It was a soggy, foggy morning, certainly the coldest outdoor experience my kids have had since early spring, and despite being dressed in terrycloth-lined windproof slickers, they nonetheless complained about the chill. We’d bought them hot apple ciders in hopes of warming them from the inside out, but the cups had gone basically untouched, the contents being dubbed “too hot” (shocker).
My pod mom friend, Ellen, and I were standing by the table while the kids painted their pumpkins, after which came the clarion call for snacks. We’d prepared for this, of course (she with stainless steel containers of individually portioned home-baked blueberry bread and I with a bag full of processed snacks fresh from Costco, most containing nuts or processed in a facility that handles nuts; our school is entirely nut-free, so any chance I get to ignore labels when packing snacks is such a liberating experience that I can almost hear angels playing trumpets while I’m reaching past the sun butter for Cracker Jack and Luna Bars). We told them to sanitize and that they had to stay at the table if they were going to take off their masks to eat (which, really, is the only way). Summerly, eight and a third years old, came back from sanitizing, saying that her hands were freezing cold, so I suggested that she hold her drink. The cups of cider had cooled down but were still warm, so it seemed like an easy fix. Isn’t it nice when there’s a readily accessible, tried and true method to counteract discomfort just sitting there in front of you? “Hold your drink,” I said helpfully, delighting in the sensibility and simplicity of that idea. Two palms curled around a warm paper cup wrapped in a corrugated insulation sleeve…what an iconic cold-weather method for warming one’s hands! And it felt like a win for me because here was a way to help her help herself without my having to move or DO anything! Maybe some day in the future when her hands are cold, she’ll reach for a warm cup herself and think of her mother, that beacon of reason who taught her this and so many other useful things, and that thought will warm the cockles of her heart.
The child nodded, ostensibly understanding the implicit logic behind this idea, and then Ellen and I, honest to god, watched her pick up her cup with one hand, pour warm apple cider into her other hand, which she’d cleverly cupped for this purpose, and proceed to rub her hands together. “Good idea, Mommy,” she said. “That really helps!”
If anyone was wondering about Summerly’s literal thinking skills, I think she’s got some.