It Feels Like the First Time

because…it is the first time.

The other day I dripped food coloring into two chunks of homemade play dough (the only kind Gbot doesn’t eat) and gave the Midgets each a lump of green,  a lump of red, and a lump of white dough and a few cookie cutters. Very Italian or very Christmasy, depending on how you look at it. Shortly thereafter, I transcribed the following conversation as the Midgets sat across from one another at the table, Mbot rolling dough industriously between his palms, a feat of coordination only recently mastered:

“Now make a ball, Gbot.”

Pause.

“Now give it to me. That’s not a ball. That looks like a flat little pancake.”

Pause.

“There. Now it’s a ball.”

Mbot helping his brother? A “flat little pancake?”

People hear more impressive things every day. But most of what we hear sounds like the adults talking in Charlie Brown specials because we’ve heard it all before. That’s one reason reading is so delightful–we’re often reading something new. Poetry, especially, which offers the language in combinations most of us would never think to concoct make ourselves, alerts us to a world of endless surprise. In an odd twist of evolutionary biology, humans prefer predictability, spending all our lives in efforts to control our environment so we won’t be surprised, yet surprises are right up there in the list of things that make us feel most alive.

Surprise is a matter of course for those of us living with a toddler and what is now referred to as a “pre-k.” Although I hear the words “No,” “Why,” and “That’s mine,” more than I care to remember, each day, a significant percentage of what both Mbot and Gbot say, they have never said before. It’s the very first time. And so, “That looks like a flat little pancake” becomes poetry. As does Gbot’s contribution: “I make a poo-poo noise. Listen.”

Did you hear any poetry today?

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