Helping Mookie turn this kit into the actual working model feels like a vindication. She gets the credit for that, since she did all the painting, briskly, without undue agonizing over the correct shades. My slightly nagging feeling of incompleteness about models dates back to the one model I recall making, a Visible Woman I badly wanted when I was about her age and had a hankering to be a doctor. My parents gave it to me for Hanukah, and I did put it together, a model of the female body with transparent skin so that you could see all the organs. I painted most of the organs, but the perfectionism that would haunt my years had already set in, and there were a few complex colors I never did mix. This made me dread the solar system project, but Mookie jumped right in, I had no trouble with my assembly responsibilities, and I feel much better now.

It spins when placed in sunlight–we tested it!

Mookie believes it should include Pluto and the moon, but she’s still able to consider it a completed job.

First dinner

Some time ago Joy proposed that Mookie be responsible for one dinner per week once she turned nine. That is still several months away, but Mookie has been eager to get on it. So tonight, with only minimal help from the assistant chef, she made her first dinner: pasta with “sprinkle cheese,” marinara that Joy had made and frozen some time before, and a side dish of carrots. She also got the drinks and set the table. Everything was delicious.


She plans to make dinner every Thursday.

A big day

“Today was a big day,” Mookie said. Two big things happened: we said goodbye to our sweet, almost-four-year-old across-the-street neighbor, after spending several hours with her at the farmers’ market, lunch, and the playground. She and her parents are moving out of town tomorrow, and we’ll miss them.

And then we went to rent Mookie a violin so she can begin lessons the week after Labor Day. She has gone from grudging to very excited about learning to play an instrument. The choice of instrument was hers.

I wish I could show you the look on Mookie’s face the moment she made her first stroke and got a sound out of her new violin. Her eyes went wide just like Harry Potter’s when he took hold of the wand that was meant for him. These photos are from just a few seconds later.


The music store did bear a strong resemblance to Ollivander’s shop. It was a second-floor apartment on Divisadero that I hope the proprietors don’t actually live in, but I wouldn’t bet against it. A row of cellos standing in line on the landing announced that this place had been given over to stringed instruments and any people who wanted to share the space would just have to squeeze in somehow. A woman was trying out a new violin by playing beautiful classical Indian music, and she and her four companions pretty much filled the place, like the sonorous drone that filled the air from the moment we reached the top of the stairs. We managed to get just past the doorway to stand by a stack of violin cases, and a family who arrived a few minutes later in search of a cello had to cluster in the doorway and on the landing.

Like Ollivander’s, the shop didn’t appear to have been dusted for decades nor to have any chance of being tidied in our lifetimes. Violins hung from the ceiling like gleaming hams, every nook was stuffed full of instrument cases, and hundreds of bows were stacked up in what was surely once a kitchen, though they were allegedly strung with hairs from the tails of horses instead of unicorns. The proprietor had a slight accent I couldn’t identify, and deep, dark eyes that, no lie, twinkled as he bent down to ask her if she were a careful girl. He initiated her into the first secrets of the craft. And then there was the glow of magic on Mookie’s face as she looked at the beautiful thing in its green velvet. “I’m so excited!” she whispered.