RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Derek and Uxey -- A Teachable Moment

Today we visited a favorite haunt, Happy Hollow Zoo. We joined our neighbors L and J, and another playgroup pal, L and her daughter A. A very nice morning, though exhausting. Going anywhere with BJ and BB these days is a challenge, but it's usually worthwhile.

Much of the park was closed, thanks to the construction that has begun. BB was hugely disappointed that the merry-go-round wasn't running, She kept circling the closed ride, alternating between the sign for "more" and a multipurpose sign which in this case clearly meant "merry-go-round." (She wheels her hands in a roundabout way, exactly the way you'd do the hand motions for the song "The Wheels on the Bus." It means many things to her -- wheel, go, around, turn, merry-go-round....) It took quite a while to get her to understand it was "all done" for the day. Just about broke my heart.

BJ wanted to ride the Danny the Dragon train, mostly because of a recent library book we've been reading about Blue (from Blues Clues) and Blue's Bad Dream. In the dream, Blue meets Ralph the dragon. At first, Ralph is fierce. Later, it turns out to be a friendly dragon. Since BJ has been pretending to be Blue on a regular basis, naturally I'm "Ralph." Many times a day, I'm asked, "Mom, are you a dragon? Do you have claws and fire? Are you a nice dragon?" Of course I answer yes.

Alas, the dragon train was not running either. But BJ took it mostly in stride, and as usual the visit to the petting zoo was the highlight of the trip. Both kids just LOVE the goats. We had fun feeding them and touching their wiry coats. After, as he always does, BJ asked to go visit the boa constrictor, whose terrarium is right by the goat pen.

When we went over, my heart immediately sank. Posted on the glass was a sign with the information that Derek, the boa constrictor, had recently passed away due to age related illness. He was 30 years old.

Of course, BJ wanted to know why the snake wasn't in its cage. At first, I told him the snake was gone and maybe next time we came to visit there would be a snake. This hardly satisfied him. Keeping in mind that BJ can now read, and not wanting to be evasive, I decided to take the teachable moment. I explained that the snake's name was Derek and that Derek had died. (We'd not known the name before, and given BJ's attachment to language and names, I thought -- correctly -- that having a name would be useful.) We've been talking a bit about death in the context of the cats, and BJ clearly doesn't "get" it entirely, but that's to be expected. For the rest of the walk back to the car, he kept asking me if Derek would be there the next time we came to the zoo. I kept telling him, gently, no.

On the ride home, BJ started to tell me that he has three snakes. Up until that moment, he'd had just one -- Stuxey, the rubber snake. Now, he told me, he has Stuxey, Derek, and Uxey. (Uxey being the direct influence of Richard Wilbur's children's book, The Disappearing Alphabet; when S goes missing, snake becomes "nake" and serpent becomes "erpent" and snakes cannot hiss.) "My Derek will be alive for ever and ever," he told me. As would the other two snakes.

I love to see his toddler mind at work like this. It makes me nostalgic for that time when the imagination could cure (or at least make more tolerable) a world of problems. It truly is magical, and he utterly believed in the spell he was casting with his words. If only things were so easy, huh?

No comments: