the coffee bean
Once upon a time, when Meredith was about nine years old, she was at the grocery store with her father. Wondering what it would smell like, she picked up a whole coffee bean and sniffed, very hard. The bean went up her nostril. When she tried to pull it out, it went up farther and got very, very stuck. Her dad tried to get it out, her sister tried to get it out. The harder they tried, the stucker it got. They ended up in the emergency room. The doctor had to use very, very long tweezers to get out the coffee bean. Meredith really, REALLY hates this story to this very day, and I am in a lot of trouble for telling it.
Once upon a time, when Zachary Jacob was about five years old, we were having a spaghetti dinner. Jacob Zachary was not known for chewing his food very well at that time. He was taking a drink of milk when Kate said something that tickled his funny bone. He laughed so hard, trying not to spit out his milk, that a piece of spaghetti about five inches long came out his nose. We all stared at it, lying there on the plate, and then broke up laughing. I’m surprised there weren’t more pieces of spaghetti produced! For some reason, this continues to be a very funny story for us – we laugh hysterically at just the memory. Oh well, we are easily amused.
kate the crooner
When she was two years old, Kate decided that she would not take naps anymore. This was not a good decision from her parents’ perspective — arsenic hour was born. So her mother instituted “rest hour” – she had to stay in her bed “resting” for one hour. In the beginning, her mother spent a lot of time putting her back into bed, and finally, holding the bedroom door shut. Once Kate realized this was not going to end, she began entertaining herself by singing. Very loudly and with great verve (think Ethel Merman crossed with Edith Piaf). She would croon her favorites: I’ve Been Working on the Railroad and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Only problem was, she had no Rs, so it was “I’ve Been Wookin’ on the WailWoad” and “Wudolf the Wed-Nosed Reindeewuh.” Very, very hard to ignore; she became indignant if anyone laughed.
Once upon a time, when Meredith was about three years old, her mother was in the bathtub, trying to take a long, relaxing bath. Her father was in his study, working on an article. Meredith decided she wanted to get dressed all by herself. She picked out a pink and green striped tee shirt with yellow and red polka-dot shorts. She struggled and struggled, but got them on right side out and with all body parts through the correct holes. She came into the bathroom to show off to her mother, who said, “Sweetie, you need either the top or the bottom to be solid; otherwise you won’t match.” Meredith sighed and marched back to her room. Next, she tried a navy blue and green plaid shirt and purple and green striped shorts. When she showed her father, he said, “Mimi, you need to have either the top or the bottom to be solid, or you won’t match.” Meredith sighed even harder and went back to her closet. This time, she got a red and white checked shirt and a pair of orange paisley shorts. Back in the bathroom, her mother repeated her earlier comment, “Sweetie, I’m very proud of you, but you still need either the top or the bottom to be solid to match.” At the end of her rope, Meredith bellowed pitifully, “What color is solid??????”
Kate went to a very progressive preschool, staffed mainly by PhD students in early childhood education and child psychology, where the clinical terms for behavior and learning assessment were the norm. Thus, the gymnasium was called the “Gross Motor Room,” etc. Kate’s arms and legs between ages two and three were disproportionately short for her torso (not to mention her enormously large head). This meant that her weakest area of performance was in Gross Motor Skills, otherwise known as climbing and riding a tricycle. When she climbed the stairs, she went up on her hands and knees, afraid that she would lose her balance if she walked. She insisted that her mother follow her up the stairs, saying “Mama, Mama, hind me be! Hind me be!”
Kate’s other weak area at preschool was table manners — she couldn’t grasp the reason for a fork, when her hand was right there, ready to dive in. She would complain to her mother that the preschool staff was starving her, not allowing her to have seconds. In fact, they drew the line at fourths.
Jacob Zachary’s Kindergarten teacher was a lovely veteran of 22 years of five-year-olds. She had a great sense of humor, and she appreciated the same in others. The “Draw a Man” test is (was) a common tool for measuring intellectual development in small children. The child is asked to draw a man with as much detail as possible. The more body parts (e.g., neck, fingers, round body rather than a stick figure) that are included, the higher the level of development is measured. When his teacher was reviewing Jacob Zachary’s test with him, she noted that it was a very nice drawing, but that the man had all his fingers and toes, but no ears. Jacob Zachary, without missing a beat, said, “I know, isn’t it sad? He was born that way.”
Meredith’s note: For the record, the coffee bean story is the ONLY childhood story that still mortifies me and the only story I forbade my mother from telling. In the spirit of not censoring her, I’ve left it in, but she’s in very big trouble. Also? My brother’s wit and table manners remain the same, and while my sister’s head is still ginormous, her table manners have gotten much, much better.