Another Day in the Country

What do you mean?

© Another Day in the Country

Adults should have a 6-year-old around for a couple of weeks, just to keep them on their toes.

“What do you mean resources?” Dagfinnr asked.

Jana, Jess, and I were doing the dishes and discussing gas consumption moved over into the price of water and the prognosis of the scarcity thereof. And so his mother, used to constant interrogation, began explaining what a resource was and how we hoped there would be plenty for generations to come.

“What do you mean generation?” came next, and when he found out the next generation was him, he got worried. “What do you mean no water? Everything needs water!”

He was still wondering about resources the next morning when he woke up. I came into the bedroom to say “good morning” and heard Dagfinnr ask, “Mom, the ocean is full of water so what do you mean run out?” and then he caught himself: “Oh, I forgot; it’s salty: But can’t they remove the salt?”

Jana began an expose on desalinization (and no, she didn’t simplify the concept and call it “taking the salt out”) and how expensive it was, and I backed out of the room to fix breakfast.

When you aren’t always around a child, you forget how they always are listening, absorbing the conversations and conviction (or lack thereof) of the people around them — good or bad.

When our cousins would come from California to visit us here in Ramona with their children, we’d marvel at how much they knew and what concepts they were exposed to in comparison to the children we knew here in town. While these California kids certainly weren’t driving tractors at 10, they were concerned about cats proliferation and recycling, which hadn’t yet been raised as matters of public awareness in Ramona.

Ten years later, these kids are back visiting us, and we were proud to announce that all of our cats are spayed, and “yes, we now have recycling in Marion County.”

Cory, now the college kid, laughed sheepishly and said, “Was I really all that concerned about your cats?”

I assured him that he was, to the point where he volunteered to send me part of his allowance so that we could get our cat spayed.

We were sitting at the table after lunch, laughing at a story that Jana was telling us when suddenly the 6-year-old, whom we had thought was playing in the other room, poped up and said, “What do you mean, old fahrt,” (He still has some trouble with his r’s.)

The whole family suddenly was talking over, the top of each other trying to explain the concept.

“It means a grumpy old guy who stinks,” said Jana’s voice, giving the final ruling. “It’s not a nice thing to say.”

Called to task, we vow to be more discerning in the stories we repeat.

Watching her favorite program on television the other night we suddenly realized it was going to take a violent turn. Jana and Jess (who’d seen the show before) began a spelling conversation about whether to shut it off or divert Dagfinnr’s attention because he was not used to seeing violence.

“He’s about to s-h-o-o-t himself in the h-e-a-d,” Jess said. Immediately, Dagfinnr answered, “What do you mean shoot himself in the head?”

We and Dagfinnr laughed our heads off because here we were trying to be discreet, and he’d figured it all out, No more s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g!

I think there should be much more of this “what do you mean?” stuff going on to remind us that we are accountable for what we say, and, to encourage dialogue and understanding — whether amoung generations, the in-laws or the neighborhood.

This holiday has been so much fun! In fact, this whole year has been a wonderful experience, and here we come to a new calendar. A little boy comes tumbling into the room where I’m writing.

“What are you doing, Baba?”

“I’m writing my column for the newspaper.”

“What do you mean column?” he says.

It’s another day in the country, and I’ve got some explaining to do.

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