Vanities of the Ear
January 9, 2011 2 Comments
Dear Carla Fran,
This morning I went to my favorite doughnut shop to try to read “Vanities of the Eye” (fantastic book, by the way) without the distractions of the internet. Didn’t work. The doughnut shop filled up, I was taking up a table for four, and a mother and daughter sat down next to me.
The daughter was six. Hair in a bunch of braids, wearing a fashionable beret and cool leggings. She couldn’t take her eyes off the group of four kids at the other table. While mom was buying doughnuts she kept dancing in her seat and singing at the group of kids, playing an elaborate game of Look At Me. Sometimes they did. Occasionally she would poke at the white paper bag containing my plain croissant (with which she was singularly unimpressed).
I enjoyed her total absorption with the kid-table and her total oblivion to me; this is the beauty of having a book when you’re out (and the beauty of being a grown-up to kids). When the mom came back I had to stare at my page, but I overheard the following conversation, which I’m reproducing (in abbreviated form) just because it was so bizarrely complete in its portrayal of what I imagine to be the spectrum of mom-kid conversations:
Kid (eating doughnut hole): Thank you, Momma. That was delicious! Thank you, Momma.
Mom (young, low voice): You’re welcome.
Kid: Can I have another one? Thank you, Momma. That was delicious!
M: You can have another one if you’re ready to run around the schoolyard five times.
M: You have to burn through all that sugar in your system. You’re going to have too much energy after eating another one. So you can have another one if you want, but you’ll have to run around the schoolyard five times.
K: What if I just hold it?
M: I’ve seen what happens when you just hold one. A bunch of them are gone from the bag already. I know. You know how I know?
M: Because you’re just like me. And Uncle Cormac used to make me run around the schoolyard when I ate extra doughnuts too. Sometimes you have to do things like that. You have to do your homework, and go to school, and work hard so you can go to college.
K (straining dimples): Just one more, Momma? Please?
M: That’s an adorable face, but it’s not going to work. Those faces don’t work on mommies. Do you know why?
M: Because we made you, that’s why.
K: John doesn’t have to run around the schoolyard when he gets doughnuts. I’m going to marry him.
M: Well, first you have to go to school, and study hard, and do all your homework, and go to college. I know you like John, and that’s okay, but he’s too old for you. He’s almost 8.
K (delighted): And then he’ll be nine, and then he’ll be ten, and then he’ll be eleven!
M: Exactly. That’s right. Now, what did Uncle Cormac tell you about John?
K: Uncle Cormac says hugging is okay.
M: That’s right. What else did he say?
K: Hugging is okay, but no kissing.
M: That’s right. You can hug John if you want to, but that’s all.
K: Can I please have another doughnut, Momma? Please?