Sep 9, 2019

Rummaging through more of my boxes the other day, I came across a baggy with fold-dye—as opposed to tie-dye—art I made with my godkids when they were younger. Actually, I cautiously introduced Arielle to the technique when she was only two. That was the year I was busy writing A Patchwork Memoir—and just as I made a point of chronicling my outings with Earl, I described all my play dates with her:

When I arrive, two-year-old Arielle is napping on the sofa, so Leia and I talk a while to let her sleep. I tell her I’m going to give a presentation about my father at my second grief group tonight—and how nervous I am about it. Arielle’s still groggy after Leia rouses her—and looks disgruntled about being awakened.

“Did you have a dream?” I ask.

She shakes her head, rubbing one eye with her fist.

To reanimate her, I whip out an envelope with more stickers for her—cats, fish, and birds. It’s then that Leia brings out a book with waxy pages that’s already filled with every kind of sticker imaginable.

Luckily, I’ve got another ace up my sleeve. I cut paper towels into quarters, then fold the squares into different shapes, letting Arielle dip the points into bowls of food coloring—red, yellow, and blue. “Les see what’s inside,” she lisps, carefully unfolding each one so as not to tear it—a tricky business because once they’re saturated, they glom together. I don’t know if she can see that each bright kaleidoscopic pattern is different, but she’s properly enthusiastic, taking my word for it, I have a hunch, that they’re beautiful. One day she’ll have her own opinion, I think, but for now she’s satisfied to share mine. Each time I start to fold a new square, she politely asks, “Is that mine or yours?” though I invariably assure her, “It’s yours.” I was worried that this project might be too sophisticated for her—well, it is and it isn’t. Pretty soon I catch on that I’d better be the one to dunk the squares—sparingly!—into the blue dye, or by the time she gets done with all the unfolding, they’ll be murky brown messes. She loves to use her hands, I muse—I wonder what she’ll be? An artist?… musician?…surgeon? Already I’m look forward to bragging, “I knew her when…”

Two hours later we’ve got designs laid out on waxed paper all over the dining room floor. “When they’re dry, you can pick your favorites and hang them in the window,” I say. She continues to ignore even the Dutch crepes with honey that Leia has made us, though I’ve already wolfed mine down between foldings, and like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going and going.