Over the years I have cherished those little moments when young in inquiring minds try and tackle the fundamental complex issues of everyday life, putting their parents and loved one’s on the spot, all in public view, asking those all important questions of life. Like the innocent mind, learning by asking can often put their conversations into a flurry of a hundred “but why” questions, as the parents try and answerer them; all the while everyone else in the room tries to look on ward, yet keeping one ear tuned, waiting for what the definitive answer will be. I am going to share some of the best, and funniest, moments that I can remember from over the years. I chose three moments in time, one about chickens, the money making machine and finally, where do babies come from.
The first story is a little moment in time way back in the late 1980s when I was living in Toronto. I was in the food market right on Front Street in the down-town area where I was waiting in line at a poultry vendor. Through the glass counter were several freshly cooked whole chickens, all lined up, suspended on a long skewering rod. In front of me were a mother and daughter. The daughter was probably four or five years old, very fidgety, and full of energy, always asking questions, telling her mother about what she did at park, and how hungry she was–hope they would stop for dinner soon. When they got to the counter the little girl glued her face to the glass counter, looking at the roasted chickens dangling on the skewering rod, in a very ordered row under the yellow heat lamps. She then started to laugh, jumping up and down, proclaiming that these where chickens, saying, “look mom, chickens!” After a few minutes of the daughter’s excitement, and amusement, of seeing the chickens through the glass, the mother turned and looked right at me, saying that her daughter really does not understand that these are same barnyard chickens she reads about in her books. I just smiled. Then the little girl asked, “How are they made?” from which the mother replied, “they come from that machine over there in the back with all the buttons on it.” “Oh,” the little girl responded. Then the mother said, ” it is very hot over there, so you need stay on this of the counter. “Oh, Okay, I don’t like hot.” the little girl said in a lowering quiet voice.
In Fort Langley, about nine years ago, I was at the IGA, buying some groceries on a weekday afternoon. There was this mother, with her young son and daughter, waiting in line patiently ahead of me. We were all waiting as the cashier was trying to change the roll of paper in the till, and it looked like we were going to be there for a few more minutes. The children were starting to wonder around the store, so the mother tried to keep them occupied by playing a game of I Spy. The mother would look around the store and then say, ” I spy with my little eye, something that is red, blue and made of shiny plastic…” Then the kids would start pointing in all directions, saying, “is that it… is that it….” And the Mother would reply, “Nop, keep trying.” After a while the children lost interest in the game, and started leaning on their mother’s legs. The finally the till sprang to life, and at the sound of the bell rang, the cash register door shot opened, and the cashier started pressing the buttons and grabbing each item that was on the counter. The little boy, looking with such amazement said, “Mom, how does that work!” The mother, in her very quick thinking said, “you just press the button.” Right to the point, end of story, tell it like it is–question answered. The little boy smiled with the look of just discovering the greatest secret in the universe, and then he started helping his sister with the bags of groceries.
I was sitting down with a friend in the theatre in Langley City, about to watch a show. The commercials were playing, so we were talking rather loudly over the noise, when I heard this child’s voice coming from behind me asked her mother where do babies come from. I trained my ear on the mother’s response, and waited while she quickly composed herself with a suitable answer for a child who seemed to be around five or eight years old. The child was dead silent, waiting for the answer, and it seem like about ten seconds went by before the mother spoke. “Hospitals–babies come from the hospital” the mother proclaimed. “Oh, you mean you just go to the hospital and pick one up?” the child replied. “Something like that, but you have to be put on a waiting list, and there is paperwork, and medical fees, not to mention registration fees with the provincial and federal governments. Then you have to register with the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, and with the department of Toys and Games…. it is a huge process! Plus, both me and your father have to have countless meetings with the hospital becuase they have to make sure that everything checks out. So, it takes about just under a year, from start to finish, before you can take the baby home, and…, you have to make sure that you have a budget in place of at least ten-thousand dollars too. Yeah, it is a lot work.” the mother said. The little girl was already bored with the answer, and she waited patiently for the show to start. I kept laughing to myself the whole night after that! What a great answer.