Remember the flash cards J hid a while back? They’ve been found, and hidden, and found, and hidden…again. The first hiding place was -although we never actually SAW them there- the pantry; J’s insistence on following us into the pantry and anxiously lingering while we did any work in there; more than ten minutes sorting laundry, starting the washer or emptying and reloading the dryer would inspire J to shoo me out the door, taking over whatever I was doing and banishing me to other tasks. He must’ve assessed the location of the cards as high-risk for them being found because, out of the blue, I was once more allowed in the pantry/laundry room, and I could work at my leisure.
Last night, though, I didn’t head for the pantry. Last night I assembled some cardboard boxes and started working on the under-the-stairs closet while J was upstairs helping Dada with the kitchen clean-up. When he walked down the stairs and realized I was hard at work in that closet, he sat on the couch looking pale and disbelieving… If he had ticker tape coming out of his ears to let his thoughts be known, I’m sure the message would’ve been “UH-OH!!!!!”
J sat glumly on the couch, watching me pack away all sorts of crafts and learning materials. I would announce every category as I stored it in boxes: “look! Your plastic canvas is going to the other house!!!,” “hey, J, we’re putting your construction paper, glue and scissors in the walk-in closet in the room where your TV will be!,” “and let’s not forget the soap-making!,” and so forth.
And then I got to “that” basket…
I said nothing. I simply turned around and grinned as widely and brightly as I could, and J rolled his eyes, covered his face with his hand and said GOOD EVENING!!!!!!!!!
This morning he saw the pack of cards on top of the dining table and pointed at them, asking me to hand them over. I told him to simply NOT bury them so deep I’ll never, ever, ever find them again, and I just saw them in the same box with all the other learning material I packed (but didn’t seal) last night.
As I’d been searching for the cards I wondered why J would feel compelled to hide them. The cards are seemingly harmless, depicting all sorts of people who work in the community: police officer, Emergency Medical Technician, firefighter, mail carrier, nurse, dentist, doctor… The logic behind J’s desire to hide the cards dawned on me quite slowly, but it dawned alright.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you seven year-old me facing the hardcover edition of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer, and slowly backing away from the dustcover that displayed a black swastika in a white field over a black background. I was terrified of this book. I know it sounds completely silly, but I was deathly afraid of the sight of that swastika, and the book (which I’ve yet to read, and which is on my reading list for this year) was moved to a shelf where I couldn’t easily encounter it when I hunted for things to read in my great-uncle’s well-populated library.
Those cards are J’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. As I developed an aversion to the swastika and a fear for what might be between those covers based on very general knowledge of what had happened during WWII, J prefers to maintain the cards out of sight because he knows what doctors, dentists, etc. do. When I was young and I went to visit my parents, I’d sit with my dad to watch Rat Patrol, Combat!, Hogan’s Heroes and any number of WWII movies that might be airing on local TV. I’d ask what the war had been about, and my dad would explain in as general a way as he could because I was, after all, very young. That we watched the 1959 version of The Diary of Anne Frank didn’t help matters. Shirer’s book, to my young mind, was full of things that scared me. Forty-one years later, I am no longer scared of a book, but the experience has helped me understand why J wouldn’t want those particular cards around.
When Dada and I decided to assemble each of us into this bigger US that is our family, my advice about relating to the kids was simple “NO is harder to say, but more necessary than YES” (boy, have we put THAT to the test!!!,) and “never forget what you were like when you were their age. Don’t gloss over your experience, and talk to them in a way that would have been acceptable to you at whatever age you’re dealing with at the time.”
This morning we didn’t have time for our energetic and happy sing-along of Five Little Monkeys, and J was trying to get it going as he climbed the steps into the bus. This afternoon I intend to welcome him with the monkeys, and I intend to sit him down and explain that I understand about his hesitation to keep these cards handy. I will also explain that I would like him to learn the names and tools of each trade so that he is familiar with them should he encounter any of them some day. I will, in fact, give him a little wooden box with a hinged top to put the cards in when we’re not studying them. If I expect him to face his fear (or hesitation,) I will move the book up on the reading list and let it follow in the heels of Angels & Insects.
Forty-eight year-old me needs a yogurt. Between packing, ordering J’s beanbag, trying to figure out WHAT I have on this desk, and making the solemn vow to deal with the cards and finish reading my current book so I can move on to the next one, the morning has flown by…
And another day is quickly progressing toward to one-less-day in the countdown calendar.