A 4-year-old is counting her piggies as she calls them.
“I have nine piggies, Grandma.”
“If you have nine piggies, something is terribly wrong. Count them again.”
“I have 11 piggies, Grandma.”
To me, this is very funny. It is not funny to her. She knows that the expected number of toes is 10, but in her world, some days you might have nine, 10 or even 11. She is not yet bound by the precise and finite expectations of numbers.
There is a gaggle of kids and grandkids in the backyard. One of the grands peels off when she sees a robin in the grass. Stepping ever so gingerly with her arms stretched out to her sides, as though she may need to take flight herself, she silently encroaches upon the bird. Closer and closer and closer, and then the bird lifts off, soaring into the trees.
She returns with an “oh well, another one got away” smile. She is not the least bit frustrated, even though this is the third bird today that has slipped away. Unaware of the laws of aerodynamics that govern winged creatures, she is confident the next time will be the time she holds a bird in her hands.
A grandson, not yet 2, has appeared over the back of the sofa and is preparing to propel forward. He probably launched from a large round can with a lid that holds toys and sits behind the sofa. Sure enough, he did. But the tin is not upright; it is on its side ready to roll. He was not, and never is, restrained by the possibility of danger. In his world, if it is there, it is to be climbed.
Our 4-year-old grandson arrives with a plastic bag of animal bones he found in the country. The bones have been cleaned and dried and are safe to handle. He spills them out on the patio and crouches over them. “What’s this, Dad? Is this a leg? Look at this tooth!” He is oblivious to social etiquette that dictates the only bones at a cookout are ribs. He is mesmerized, imagining how the bones connect and once held an animal together.
And then he returned home to Chicago without them. He sent a desperate message via his father, “DON’T THROW AWAY THE BONES, GRANDMA!”
I would not throw away the bones anymore than I would discount the possibility of extra toes and birds yearning to be held. I would sooner outlaw circus tricks on the sofa than to discard those bones.
The bones and birds and toes and tricks are part of the wonder years, where life is unscathed by the skid marks of cynicism and the sneers of skepticism. The wonder years are rich with curiosity and imagination, a place where every gust of wind is a delight and every dark cloud looks promising.
In the wonder years, children believe what they see and even what they don’t see. All things are possible.
Oh, that these bones of mine might relive the wonder years, too.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.