THE SONIC BOOMER
Just in time for our planned Memorial Day weekend cookout, I bought a play stove for my two-year-old grandson Skippy. Let him do all the cooking.
He wouldn’t complain. He loves to do anything that takes a spotlessly clean room and turns it into a royal mess. Cooking is good for that.
Last week, I got him a hammer, a pine board and 100 roofing nails. He turned the floor of the garage into a minefield in nothing flat, but you’ve got to keep these kids entertained. He doesn’t quite have the muscle development to give a nail the whack it needs to stay put, even into a soft wood like pine, but he’s working on it.
I think he likes the stove best anyway. He has been watching his Grandpa Mark cook for years now (well, for two years now), and he was just itching to get going. When he ran into the family room and saw it, he squealed. Then he got to work, dragging all the play dishes out of their hiding places and arranging them on the stovetop. He was busy; he was happy; and I retreated to the real kitchen.
The stove came with a little toy can of beans, which got a lot of attention. He immediately wanted me to fetch him a can opener. The line between real and pretend is blissfully blurred in childhood, but it does require a lot of explanations along the way. Skippy finally accepted that the can opener would not work on the plastic can, and that he would probably be disappointed with the contents anyway.
He then turned his attention to a frying pan, running into the kitchen on those propeller feet you see into cartoons and looking up into my face while he tried to communicate with his two-year-old vocabulary. “Need a… need a…!” (This was evidently urgent.)
“Need a hamburger flip over!”
I handed him a spatula and had to laugh. His great-great-grandmother Anna Polivka had trouble with vocabulary, too. She came to this country from Poland at age 16 and needed to buy a colander. She walked down to the local IGA grocery store (which she pronounced “Igga”) and struggled to tell the clerk what she needed. In frustration, she finally came across with, “I need a water-go-through-spaghetti-stop!”) It was fun to realize that Skippy’s mind worked in the same way.
The “hamburger flip over” only led to another necessity, though. The Skipster came running back in, pulled out a drawer and said, “I need this!”
He threw two hotpads onto the floor and extricated an oven mitt. He pulled it on (up to his shoulder, as it was rather large for him) and ran back to his work. He clattered around in there for another minute or two before darting back to me, looked desperately up at my face and yelled, “I need meat!”
OK, I had to draw the line there. Nails and oven mitts are one thing, but raw meat is another. Fortunately, the set came with a little plastic hamburger, tomato slice, some onion rings and a bun. Now he was cooking with gas on the front burner, as the old saying goes.
The joy on that kid’s face! The effort! The pride! Never mind that the rest of us will be stubbing our toes on that painted hunk of wood for the next several years. It’s worth it.
In the meantime, I’m still waiting for my cup of tea. I thought it was a simple request, and I can see the teapot up there on his stove, but whenever I ask for it, he says the same thing all the adults are always saying to him, “Three more minutes!” I guess I’ll wait.