Jonah boy is an amazing little kid. He is what I would love to have been at his age but probably wasn't. He is gentle and kind, the type of boy who would give you the best seat or his last gummy worm. He asks delightful questions, like "how long would it take if you could walk to the moon?" and "who invented bubblegum?". He will try new foods, pack lunch for his little sister, and go along with it when you try to make a game out of cleaning his room, even though he knows what you are up to. I don't even know about half of the times little Nano has cried about a hurt or disappointment, because he comforts her himself (only moments ago, they both came in crying. She was sad about not watching a movie with grandpa, and Jonah had called her to him to comfort her, whereupon she accidentally bonked his lip with her melon head, and given him a bloody lip). He is a tender and artistic child. Every night he draws scads and scads of amazing pictures before bed with the discipline of an Olympian. The boy inspires me.
Also, he still likes to cuddle. He's the whole package.
Jonah and I have been reading books together, but up until recently he seemed only vaguely interested. Then we began the book The Indian in the Cupboard, the tale of a young boy who is given a magic cupboard that would make small plastic toys come to life. Suddenly, my own boy came alive. He couldn't wait for us to read each night. Every evening he would get himself and his sissy ready for bed quickly so that we could read together.
As Christmas approached, I got the idea to create a cupboard for him like the one in the book, complete with a little bronze key. Of his three gifts, Needful, Joyful and Meaningful, this would certainly be his Meaningful gift. I put the word out on Facebook and in just one day, had the offer of a perfect little cabinet, free. "I just put it out by the trash last night. I'll go bring it back in," the poster said. One night while reading our book, I asked Jonah what he would do if he had a magic cabinet like the one in the story. He thoughtfully told me about the different things he would bring to life, and those he would not, because it would not be kind or safe. Next, I asked him my most important question... "what color do you think the cupboard was?"
"White!" he said, as though it was a fact.
In the evenings after the Littles went to bed, I worked on the cupboard, sanding, painting and then distressing it to make it look old and well loved. I ordered a sweet little bronze lock with a skeleton key, because as anyone who has read the book will know, the key is almost another character in the story.
Next, I set out on a quest to find a little plastic Indian for "Little Bear", hopefully like the one in our story. I looked high and low online and in stores, but had no luck. They don't make cowboy and Indian toys anymore, because of the disrespect it implies. But having read the book, that treats the Native American culture with great care, I knew Jonah would play lovingly and respectfully with the little toy, if one could be found.
On the night I waited for the family to arrive to the Christmas light parade route, I had wandered the shops, enjoying the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers, and the carols that were the perfect sound track for the moment. I wandered into an antique shop with toys crowding the the shelves and sought out the shop keeper.
"I'm looking for a little plastic Indian figure, like they made in the 70's." He glanced off into space at some memory of a hiding place, held up one finger, and then with a nod of the head that told me to follow, turned and dashed off toward the back of the store, weaving between the shoppers. I followed and arrived to the stairs where he stopped and stooped down over a little set of wooden drawers. He pulled open a small, ancient drawer and retrieved a plastic bag, promptly dumping its contents out onto the bottom step of the wooden staircase. "Ten dollars for the bag," He called as he buzzed around looking in other corners for other possible options as I sorted out the little figures.
There I found him, cast in shiny red plastic, a bow and arrow poised at the ready; the Little Bear I had been searching for. I examined the other figures in the bag and chose a well worn horse to go along with him. "I'll give you twice what they're worth if you'll let me just buy these two," I said, smiling.
"How 'bout three bucks?" he nodded, returning the smile.
"It's a deal!" I said, feeling ridiculously proud over my little accomplishment. I layed $3 on the pile of antique books on the desk by the register and tucked my treasures into my sweater pocket.
Wanting this cupboard to be about far more than the one book we were reading together, I thought back to our last book, Charlotte's Web. A pig. I needed a sweet little pig. You would think a pig would be a much easier acquisition, but without dropping ten bucks on a whole barnyard cast, with a fat sow, her teats heavy with milk, no pig could be found.
Asking around, a fellow at church gave me a ray of hope. "Go to Tractor Supply," he said confidently (as though I would know what and where the heck that was!), "Up at the front, by the register. They'll have one."
So I did.
And they did.
I was so tickled! I held my little pink pig, admiring the carefully painted face and teat-less belly, as one would hold a little bird fallen from a nest. I had to tell the cashier of my conquest. In typical Amador Counrty fashion, she beamed and shared my cheer.
The lock finally came in the mail, and I worked away on Christmas eve to drill out and install the lock, but heartbreakingly both screwheads broke off before they were completely in, leaving the posts jutting out from the wood. Having no other screws to use, I grabbed glue and tried to fix the lock in place, at least temporarily for Christmas morning, until I could get new screws. I kicked myself for not having finished the cupboard sooner, feeling heavy with failure.
The next morning I rushed ahead of the children to the living-room, feigning that I needed to put on the tree lights and light the fire. I knelt down by the cupboard which I had hidden beside the couch, and tried the key in the lock. It was stuck. I fought with the lock for a moment, and then opened the cupboard to find the hasty glue job still wet. The lock fell off in my hand. Defeated, but knowing that Christmas must go on, I hid the cupboard again and called the children to come see their stockings.
Christmas unfolded (or unwrapped) as most do, until the moment we gave the "Meaningful" gifts to each child. Ellie loved her new recipe book, and Tessa her horse sculpture, but I worried that Jonah's gift would be a disappointment. I brought out his gift, set in a large bag under tissue, and sat it in front of him. His eyes were huge as he only half-listened to me explain that I would need to fix something on his gift. He pulled away the tissue and I helped him lift the cupboard out of the bag. After a little moment of confusion, his face melted into a huge smile of surprise! "It's from our book!" He beamed, opening the door to reveal three little bundles on the top shelf. Carefully, he unwrapped the first.
"Whaaa...?! A pig?" he blurted.
"Not A pig. Wilber." I said, then jokingly added, "He's Some Pig!"
A look of realization came across his face as I put words to what he was beginning to understand. "This is a special place to put a little memory from each book we read together."
He didn't miss a beat. "We need a Dribble!" he said, naming the turtle in the book we had just begun, having finished The Indian in the Cupboard only days before.
We went back to the antique store after Christmas. Jonah couldn't let go of the idea of having a Boone to keep Little Bear company. Luckily, he agreed that the trapper we found amongst the little plastic figures would have to do, as no cowboys could be found.
I am sculpting him a little green turtle for Dribble. Who knew it would be so hard to buy just one pond turtle?
(but if you want to know where to get sea turtles by the dozen, gim'me a call)
We are reading Where the Red Fern Grows now, and I am now on the prowl for a pair of Redbone Coonhounds.
I think I may have started something here.