Yesterday my granddaughter asked me to read her a book she'd found among the many children's books sitting neglected downstairs, this time a Little Golden Book called We Help Daddy, in which little Benjy and Sue lend a hand while Daddy has a Very Busy Day--pulling weeds, painting a fence, giving the dog a bath, and more.
I remember these little big-eyed round-faced children from my own childhood, but today the book reads like a dispatch from a different world: Daddy smokes a pipe without a worry about lung cancer or second-hand smoke; Benjy and Sue spend an entire day outdoors, only lightly supervised, without a flickering screen in sight; and Mommy stays in the kitchen baking cookies without getting a single grain of flour on her elegant silk blouse. Sue and Benjy work really hard without ever getting dirty, a trick I've never observed in children living outside of books. In fact, very little inside this book resembles the life I see my two-year-old granddaughter living.
She loves to help Daddy grocery-shop or help Mommy pick strawberries ("Only the red ones!"). Yesterday she helped us make a peach pie: Mommy rolled out the crust, Grandma sliced the peaches, and little E stirred the peaches, sugar, and spices in the big bowl, narrating all the while: "Stir stir stir! All stirred up!"
"It's delicious!" she says. And you know, she's right.
She also helps Grampa throw rocks in the creek, a never-ending task since the creek is always delivering up more rocks to throw. She helps Grandma wake up in the morning ("Grandma! Come in here! I'm awake!"), and she helps Uncle Steve loosen up ("Push me higher! Higher! Again!"). When her baby-doll is hungry, she puts colorful blocks in a bowl and calls it soup.
"What kind of soup is that?"
"It's purple and yellow soup," she says. And you know, she's right.
There are no pipe-smokers or silk-blouse-wearing bakers in our house, which is not surprising since we don't live in 1965. Maybe in 2065 our more enlightened descendants will look back at our current way of life and find us hopelessly quaint and backward, but let them think what they want. The past is a a closed book that the future sneers at, so I'm glad to have a grandchild around to help me focus firmly on the present.
"It's time to play!" she says. And you know, she's right.