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.


Flappy Flappy

A little ways outside our motel room was a tiny baby bird, apparently uninjured but out of the nest. As we were trying to keep it warm and wondering what to do, the motel’s owner came by and shared our concern. (We could hold it and breathe on it to keep it warm; people used to say that if humans touched a baby the parents would reject it, but I’ve been assured that’s not true.) The motel owner thought she knew where the nest was, and we could hear the cheeping of other birds overhead, so she went to get a stepladder. Then she said, “You ladies will have to hold it steady for me,” and climbed up to the second rung from the top (I don’t know if I could have done it, even for the sake of a baby bird). I handed up the nestling and she took it so gently and put it into the nest. She reported that there were two other babies there.

Mookie is elated that we helped save a baby bird. Now she is telling the whole story of Flappy Flappy, as she named it, to her stuffies.

I hope the parents are close by and that all the nestlings will be okay. I’m feeling grateful for kind hearts, like my wife’s and the motel owner’s, who think a baby bird is worth our trouble. And for brave ones, like Mookie’s, who stayed outside in the dark to guard the bird while Joy went looking for something to help with. And for the love between mamas and babies, in families and between species.


Yesterday Mookie asked if she were weird; a girl had said, not approvingly, that she was. We affirmed the general virtue of weirdness and said pooh pooh to the girl.

Tonight Mookie was hunting through a drawer for the bag of dried mangoes.

Me: Honey? I don’t appreciate the way that girl made it sound like a bad thing, because it’s a good thing–but you are weird.

Mookie: Why are you saying that?

Me: Well, sweetheart, you just called to the mangoes, “Come to Mummy.”

She started laughing so much she literally rolled on the floor. Hey, I was just quoting her.


Story at six

For her sixth birthday, two years ago, Mookie received a write-your-own-book kit in the shape of a castle, with stickers and gems, no less. I took a picture of the proud author for her to attach to the front, which she will be doing tomorrow because I’ve finally printed it out in the right size for the little tower window provided.


Here’s the complete text, with transcriptions.


Once upon a time in a little pretty castle there lived a pretty queen and a handsome king.


And also a very pretty fairy that they had rescued.


And she had a little bunny rabbit and she fed it every day.


But this day was special because I found a book.


And when I opened it everything turned green, and purple stars started to shoot out of the book.


When I opened my eyes I saw trees.


Apple trees, in fact, and they looked ripe to me.


So I picked one and ate it.


I saw the sun shining.


I saw wizards juggling stars. I saw jewels and valentines and flowers and butterflies and green grass.


I love this story so much. It moves effortlessly from the castle with its conventional queen and king, to a fairy and bunny rabbit, to the fairy’s own telling of the adventure of the magical book, to the things that happen when she enters into that book. I love the way Mookie supplements the stickers with her own drawing, such as the carrot she’s added to the bunny and the impressive beard on the king. I love the spiral in the sun. She takes her cues from the stickers and makes the story her own, such as when she bridges the tree sticker and the apple sticker with a drawing of an apple tree (“Apple trees, in fact, and they looked ripe to me” is a line that always makes me laugh out loud with sheer happiness). It’s also very cool to look at it two years later, enjoy her creative phonetic spellings (“oso” for “also” being a particular favorite of mine) and also be stunned at how quickly she has learned more orthodox spelling. Mookie still loves this book, showing a tolerance for her ignorant younger self that I found difficult to muster at her age–I was often a little embarrassed by my previous lack of knowledge, sometimes more than a little. Mookie’s way is much happier.

She still loves to write, filling blank books with multi-chapter tales. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.


Woke up at 5 (hello kitty). Mookie heard me. “Mama, is that you?” “Yes.” “I just want to kiss you.” She reached up, hugged and kissed me, said, “Goodnight, Mama,” and slipped back into sleep.

The quote from Rumi that Joy and I put on our wedding order of service comes back to me.

“I am so small I can barely be seen.
How can this great love be inside me?”


Mookie is pretending to be a baby bird. Naturally, since it’s breakfast time, I mime regurgitating chewed-up worms into her beak.

Me: Ew! I’m glad we don’t eat that way.
Mookie: It’s better than touching tongues.
Me: (laughing)
Mookie: Why are you laughing?
Me: Because grown-ups do that, on purpose. They like it.
Mookie: Really?
Me: Yep. (Wondering: didn’t we cover this in the last “What is sex?” conversation? And how many of those are we going to have to have?)
Mookie: Really really really?