Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmastime is for hippos

Yesterday I picked the girls up at daycare and they were both in good spirits. I carried Sarah down the hall with the pixie-like Kate nimbly skipping beside me, in front of me, behind me...it's a lot like hiking with the dog (except it's a short walk, indoors, on level ground and, mercifully, neither child ever runs off and finds poop to roll in subsequently requiring me to bathe them in a the freezing cold river.) Lately Kate has taken to wanting to climb into the car on Sarah's side. So I opened the door, let her in and buckled Sarah into her seat with the usual affirming nod of my head and a "buckle up for safety!", which I cannot stop myself chirping when I pin her down to her carseat for some reason, and a kiss on the forehead.

As I approached the other side of the car to buckle up Kate for safety she was licking the window. I tell myself I've seen her lick more disgusting things and live to tell about it and open the door to get her situated. "Do you have Big Boned Gal?" She more demands than inquires. Yes, I do. As I fumble for the KD Lang CD Kate begins to sing from the back seat. "She was a BIG boned gal from mmmmble mmblgberta, you just couldn't all her SMALL!" Once the song is playing, she grows weary of singing and tells me a series of things, all very important, most completely out of context to me and therefore seemingly nonsensical, ending in "and I want to see hippos!"

She wants to see hippos. I am instantly transported to Mrs. Gochenour's English classroom - a portable classroom - where we met in the evenings to review our grasp on vague and often obscure literature references for Valley Academic Competition for Excellence (VACE). A quiz game at which I played on the English team. At Christmastime the inherently hilarious Mrs. Gochenour read us A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas*. This is my favorite Christmas story. Out in the very deep snow the children, whose Christmas the story is about, make big footprints, telling each other "people will think there've been hippos!" and asking "what would you do if you saw a hippo?" The answer to this, of course, would be to roll him over on his back and tickle his belly. Having seen what Kate does when faced with a Caterpillar, I'm guessing she would not attempt to roll a hippo over. Mrs. Gochenour's rendition of the story still plays in my head as Kate babbles on and I hear her read "...what would you do if you saw TWO hippos?"

By the time we roll into the driveway (Kate has still not stopped talking and, to my delight, I see Sarah is looking at her with what must be a mixture of awe and annoyance) I have gotten to the part of the story when the fire department is called. The author's aunt comes down the stairs, sees the firefighters and, the consummate hostess, says "would you like anything to read?" Yes, I think, I know exactly what I'd like to read.

*Thanks for the link, my brothuh. Now I realize I was wrong about what you should do if you see a hippo, they prefer to be tickled behind the ear.

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