It's just plain hard to be four (4) years old. I don't remember it well myself, but I can tell by watching He'en. Great joys are abundantly counterweighted by great tragedies. Although "bounded in a nutshell," still her world entertains infinite emotional space.
Case in point: the garlic. A couple weeks ago, we read about seed-planting in her High Five magazine. She was taken with the idea. Magically, I had everything on hand to create two seed incubators: paper towels, black construction paper, and clear plastic cups. Into one incubator, we lovingly placed a peeled garlic clove. Into the other, after much discussion, we lovingly placed a cube of potato with just exactly the right number of eyes. Several rejected potato cubes became part of that night's soup.
It is wonderous that both garlic and potato did not go non-viable from the sheer intenstiy of the inspections they endured for the next few days.
First, I had to talk He'en out of chucking the whole experiment when there were no immediate results. By "immediate" I mean "within three minutes."
Next, we had to check the incubators at bedtime, morning time, and several times per day thereafter. Intermittently, I had to remind Helen to add water . . . and intermittently I had to pour off the results of over-attentive watering.
But, thank goodness, the garlic cooperated. Within 24 hours, the bottom started to look a little hairy. Then a stripe of purple appeared at the top. Then, glory-be, actual roots appeared, along with an actual sprout. He'en was delighted. She moved it from the bathroom into her bedroom. It didn't mind the change.Clearly having no idea what was in store for it, the garlic continued to flourish and sent out a gratifying tangle of white roots and a nosegay of six-inch green leaves. Fantastic!
At this point, I found other things to occupy me, and I largely forgot about the garlic except to give it an occasional drink at bedtime. (The potato never germinated, but we leveraged the failure: on the way to the trash, we had a mini-lesson on mold spores.)
Today, He'en came downstairs cradling the young garlic plant. It was notably shorter. The roots looked a little dry. One leaf was crooked over at an inauspicious angle. "Issss not good," He'en sighed, stroking the droopy leaf.
I forebore to lecture her on the dangers of over-petting garlic. That ship obviously had sailed. But I have great faith in the self-healing power of plants, so I suggested that she get a little nice dirt into the incubator cup and we'd try moving out from the paper towel into a real house. She immediately brightened and began charging around the house to gather shoes, digging implements, and the like. I sent her outside with sprout and cup.
After a short time, she returned, glowing, and presented me with the garlic plant snuggled into a half-inch of dirt. "That's really really good dirt, honey," I praised her.
She poked a finger into the cup with great satisfaction, modestly confessing, "It hasss a few yiddow woks [little rocks]."
"Well, you can pick those out. But how about this: find a little more good dirt just like that, and snuggle the whole thing into the dirt just like you would pull blankets up to your chin at night."
"Yep, plants like to be snuggled, right up to," -- I pointed -- "about here, where the green starts."
"I will snugg-ow it," she agreed, stepping outside again. I returned to the dishes for six seconds until a high-pitched yawp brought me back to the window.
He'en had either stumbled or dropped her cup. However it happened, both cup and dirt were on the ground, although He'en was standing. She had rescued the spout from the carnage and stood clutching it, sobbing and raspberry-faced. I watched a second (callous me!) to see if she would recover on her own, but the grief was too great. Staggering through her tears, she was headed for the door cradling the now-naked garlic sprig.
Hugs and petting followed, along with an unnecessarily -- but reassuringly -- thorough inspection of the garlic. See? It still has the top and all the leaves are there. See? The roots are not broken. See? It's all in one piece. Where did you find that good dirt? Do you think there is more good dirt over there? Are you sure? Okay, let's go see. Wow, yes, that is really good dirt. &c.
Sniff. But back onto the pony she climbed, and she returned with a cup full of dirt and the garlic sprout "snuggow-ed" nicely into it. She perched on the kitchen stool and poured water over the whole thing, very pleased.
Then followed the search for a garlic permahome. She wanted to return the garlic to her bedside table. Eyeballing the muddy sloshy mixture, I vetoed that idea. I suggested several alternate spots. This led to a go-round on how much sun it should get. "Dose windows haff sun," she argued, pointing to the southern breakfast nook.
"Well, that might be too much sun," I temporized, envisioning sauteed garlic.
"How about heah?" she suggested, clambering up to the dining room table. Biting my lip, I watched the muddy garlic cup travel up the ivory leather chair.
"Um, yes, that would be fine. It's near the other plant."
But she was not satisfied and clambered down. Undaunted, she tried again: "I want it in my woom."
"Um, no. But let's see . . . " I hauled a little bench to the dining room window. "It can be here! In a special place all its own! And you can sit on this loveseat and visit whenever you want."
She was not persuaded by my false enthusiasm and reached for the cup to move it again. "I wan' it in my woom," she asserted. But the cup chose this moment to tip a little, splashing a few tablespoons of mud slurry over the table and onto the floor. "Oh, oh, nooooo . . . " she started to well up again.
After another round of it's-fines, we agreed that the garlic would, indeed, live in the dining room in the special-place-all-its-own. I am going downstairs now to beam positive energy onto that durn thing.