Yesterday, after driving the 20 miles to Salt Lake City for business, I gave myself permission to take an hour and visit one of my favorite old haunts, a wonderful second hand store called Emily Jayne’s on the corner of 8th and 8th. Jayne was working, arranging her very cool collection of stuff for sale. She has such a knack for design, and even though her inventory changes constantly, she keeps things looking like you absolutely MUST have that vintage casserole dish in your cupboard! I worked my way around the store in my regular browsing pattern. Back in the children’s room I leaned over to move a stack of baseball bats when a very round, very yellow eye peeked out from behind a lampshade. I scooched the lamp to the side to reveal a marvelous fluff of cuddle.
“Hey!” I thought to myself, “I know what that is! It’s a Snowy Owl! That’s a female snowy owl!” I could tell by the flecks of black splashed atop her fake fur feathers. And I knew those bright yellow eyes, encircling deep black pools. This was a stuffed animal Snowy Owl staring out at me!
Yes, I do know about Snowy Owls.
Sophie chose the Snowy Owl for her second grade animal report. I sat at her kitchen island one evening, chatting with her and her mama, reviewing some of her homework assignments.
“I have to make something for the Animal Fair, Gummy. What do you think I should make?”
Questions like that ring little doorbells in my head; little invitations to examine creative options. IDEAS R US, is my slogan. I rarely have a problem coming up with ideas. Execution is sometimes a little messy, but ideas are abundant and have always been so.
I asked Ash if I could take on the duty of Animal Fair Project with my grand daughter. Ash was more than happy to let me take these reigns, especially since grades were due and it was the end of the semester for her as well, Fourth Grade teacher that she is.
Soph came over after school the next day. We rummaged through the pantry and the basement and came up with the goods for a dandy Snowy Owl game. Gumps dug a cake round out of the basement for me, and I hot glued one of Kate’s oriental pot sticker sauce bowls to the center of it. Then Soph spray painted the whole thing silver out on the lawn by the driveway. She then hand colored about 100 little square stickers, which we applied to the perimeter of the game board. In the center we glued raffia to make the nest look real. Sophie’s little 8 year old fingers rubbed and rolled tiny pieces of Sculpee, which we baked into little bird eggs for the nest in the middle of the board. Next we painted peanuts white, drawing little beaks on their heads and bright yellow eyes straddling the beak. We glued the painted peanuts to pieces of cardboard to be used as game pieces.
At 8:30, about when Sophie normally goes to bed, she called her mama:
“We prolly have a couple more hours of work to do, is it ok if I stay up to work with Gummy?”
Much to Ashley’s credit, she agreed. She knows the value of teaching moments, which often coincide with bonding moments, and are unfortunately sometimes not convenient or altogether comfortable. By 10 pm we had enough done that I could drive her home. She scurried into the house, set the game on the counter, and immediately asked her mom to play a round with us. We drew question cards, moved our peanut owls round the circle, skipping ahead when we landed on a lemming, and moving back a space when we hit a predatory silver fox. The game worked perfectly, much to our delight!
The game is fun, that’s for sure…but the real joy was in the making of it. Something absolutely priceless wraps itself around moments when two creative minds are working together. I made myself pause constantly, like I was rebooting my brain, so I would completely perceive the sacredness of this time with my girl; watching her mind churn, her hands paint, her fingers write and color. I feel blessed beyond adequate expression to feel so comfortable with these children who call me Gummy. I can be completely myself, and I perceive they are completely themselves as well. I understand this as a gift. That I am able to devote time and attention is a gift. I know that, and I thank the Lord for it.
I watched Sophie gather up her little nest of eggs and pile them into the little Lancôme make-up brushes box we converted to a Snowy Owl Game piece container. I watched her arrange the game and the cards and the box in a neat arrangement, sweep her hands over the lot of it as if to bless it, and then step back from the counter to observe her creation. Her eyes sparkled with a well deserved sense of accomplishment. My eyes watered with a grateful burst of love.
The next day I drove down to Knowlton Elementary School and made my way back to the media center that was once called a library when my own kids went there. The room was filled with tables and display’s; animals familiar and unfamiliar, all colorful and vibrant and alive through the imaginations of second graders. I found Sophie over next to Abby, who had a diorama of a Cheetah. Sophie explained about her owl. Things I already knew, because I had spent the night before typing questions for her game. I can, even now, see her bright little face explaining in her most dedicated mature manner how the snowy owl can eat 1600 lemmings in one year; how they nest on the frozen tundra and lay 8-14 eggs at a time; how the father and mother help care for the little ones.
|Parker comments on Sophies display at the Animal Fair..|
Yesterday I plunked down $16 for that stuffed owl. Sophie found it in a bag on the kitchen floor when she came over to make cookies this afternoon.
“Oh, I guess I’d better give that to you now, hadn’t I?”
She held it up, arms length from her chest.
“It’s a female Gummy. See? She has black flecks on her feathers!”
I know, Soph. I never would have known this, except for you. I might have never noticed those yellow eyes peering out at me in the store.
Instead, I am more informed. And I like, most of all, to think of my little girl lying in her bed tonight, her arm curled around a new stuffed creature. And I like to think that somewhere in her little heart she has tucked her Gummy under the large soft wing of that Snowy Owl.