Jan 22, 2020

I love this picture of Arielle at two, heading out all by herself across a snowy field to a distant playground—a photo that, to me, embodies better than words can express her adventurous spirit. From A Patchwork Memoir:

Arielle was away in Illinois for a month; then, as soon as the family got back, everybody came down with the flu in succession—and just about the time the last one recovered, Arielle got head lice. I did manage to see her once during this time, when we went to the Little Farm in Tilden Park, her very favorite thing to do. On the drive up Marin, I asked if she’d gotten to make a snowman in Illinois. “Her cousins made one for her,” said Leia. “It melt!” cried Arielle from her car seat in the back, still apparently wonder-struck by the fact. (She hasn’t mastered the past tense yet, but it occurs to me that at her age you wouldn’t need it much.) She went on jabbering happily in accents of her own, as incomprehensible to me as most of those in British movies. I realized I’d been foolishly hoping, considering how fast toddlers learn, that she’d come back from the Midwest with an accent like mine (Ella says I still don’t sound like a Californian), and at long last I’d be able to understand her completely.

As we always do, we brought a box of tattered lettuce leaves, discarded from the Berkeley Bowl, to feed Jenny and Tillie, the two donkeys, as well as an assortment of sheep and goats. There are chickens too, geese, two pigs, a cow, and the newest arrival—a calf that we’re not supposed to feed because it’s still nursing. Arielle has no trepidation about being bitten; she’s as liable to hand the donkeys a broken bit of stalk that puts her fingers at no distance from their teeth as a large frilly leaf which does. They take the greenery delicately with their lips—and all you feel is whiskers.

After we made the rounds of pens, she started off on her own up the muddy path along the upper field and into the eucalyptus woods, like Little Red Riding Hood. There aren’t any wolves, only coyotes, I’ve heard, but I hurried after her anyway, worried about her straying into poison oak.

On our previous visit to Tilden Park, she went on the pony ride, swaying in the saddle she was so tired—she hadn’t had her nap but was determined to ride, anyway. I walked alongside, in case she nodded off on the pony’s back. When the man in charge suddenly stopped us all for no apparent reason, I looked around bewildered. “Step back!” he shouted. I didn’t know what he was talking about until I felt pony pee splattering all over my white canvas sandals.

Now Leia is telling me over the telephone that she just shampooed Arielle’s hair with Rid to kill the lice, but she still has to comb her hair to get out the eggs. At the moment Arielle is in the living room, she adds, twirling to the tune of “Skid-a-ma-rink-a-dink, Skid-a-ma-rink-a-doo” on the tape of silly songs I bought her.

When Leia had told me they were going to visit relatives in Illinois for Christmas, I ran directly out to Mr. Mopps’ and spent the hour before closing time looking over every toy in the place; hard-pressed to top playdough, I hadn’t bought Arielle a Christmas present yet. I considered number and letter games and puppets and tea sets and doctor kits and Legos and musical instruments of all kinds… But once I saw a little “kid-tough” tape recorder with bright buttons and a microphone, it was no contest—the only question was whether she already had one or not.

The next morning I was at Toys ‘R Us (well, it’s cheaper than Mr. Mopps’) when the doors opened at 8:00 a.m., I was so eager to give Arielle her present. It occurred to me that since Manny is Peruvian and Leia Dutch, they wouldn’t know the songs American kids learn growing up, so I also bought a tape that had everything from “Old MacDonald” and “Michael Finnegan” to “Mares Eat Oats” and “Do Your Ears Hang Low?”

At home I picked up my guitar for the first time in years and made up a little song for her to play on her tape recorder. “If your smile feel saggy, and your feet feel draggy, and you don’t know what to do…”

“Our chief want in life,” said Emerson, “is someone who will make us do what we can.”



When your heart feels happy and your fingers feel snappy

And you don’t know what to do,

You can sing a song or hum along,

Beat a drum or strum a strum,

Or play a buzzy kazoo.



You can buzz and jingle and clap

Or tap on a tambourine.

You can sing a song or hum along,

beat a drum or strum a strum,

And have a jolly jamboree.

You can find the sheet music and second verse if you click on my Home Page, then choose the last the selection, “LISTEN to funny kids’ songs.”