Monday, May 30, 2011

I'm the Fourth Child - An Urban Fable

One blustery, gray day in Ithaca, an urchin child was spotted driving a Big Wheel, aimlessly, through the aisles of Target.  When stopped by a kindly old woman, who asked, "Don't you know you're not supposed to play with the toys in the store?  You could run into someone.  Where's your mother?" the urchin child replied, "I'm not sure where my mother is.  She's in here somewhere.  She told me to go play while she did her shopping in peace.  You see -- I'm the fourth child."

Later that same week, in the Tompkins County Public Library, the urchin child was seen randomly grabbing books off the shelves in the children's section, and tossing them into a pile behind her.  The children's librarian touched her gently on the shoulder and said, "We musn't mess up the organization of the books.  You aren't even looking at the titles.  Books are not meant to be grabbed up and thrown around.  Didn't your mother teach you to respect books?"  The urchin child smiled and said, "This is what I do when my mother is folding laundry.  She doesn't care what I do as long as I'm quiet.  You see, I'm the fourth child."

A family in Panera Bread watched as the urchin child retrieved a dropped cracker from the floor and placed it in her mouth.  In horror, the family rushed over and grabbed the cracker in the nick of time.  "Where's your mother?" they asked.  "I'm sure she wouldn't want you eating food that's been dropped on the floor!"  The urchin child gazed at them in wonder and said, "It's fine to eat food off the floor if you blow on it.  That's what my mother says.  You see, I'm the fourth child.  With my brother, who was the first child, she boiled and sterilized everything that came in contact with a foreign surface, but that was a LONG time ago.  We don't do that anymore."

The urchin child peered in at the local Mom & Me play group and watched as the moms & tots spoke to each other using sign language.  Using sign, one mother gestured for the urchin child to join them.  Of course, the urchin child didn't know what she was saying.  The mother tiptoed over and said, "I was inviting you to join us.  Hasn't your mother ever signed with you?"  The urchin child thought, "A few times.  I know 'please' and 'high five' and I know what thumbs up and thumbs down mean.  Does that count?"  The mother frowned as the urchin child continued.  "She did a lot of signing with my siblings, but she's more tired now and says I'll communicate when I'm ready.  There's always writing if the speech thing doesn't work out.  She says if I know how to wave, I will be set, as I can use that for flagging a cab, saying 'good-bye' AND 'hello', and fanning myself if there's no A/C.  It's different when you're the fourth child."

Right at that moment, the urchin child's mother appeared.  "Wave 'good-bye' to the nice lady, sweetheart.  It's almost lunchtime.  I bet you'd like a Frappachino."

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