Alice and I slept in last Saturday while David was out of town. As we were finally eating breakfast, it occurred to me that if we didn’t get up and moving fast, we were going to end up spending the whole day indoors. In our pajamas. Which, don’t get me wrong, is often my kind of weekend. But last weekend, I was feeling ambitious, so I got us dressed and packed and drove to the Children’s Museum, which we had never visited.

The world is full of visual cues that tell Alice when something is “for her,” “for kids,” “for fun,” and she picked right up on the giant toy soldiers standing outside the museum’s entrance. “whatzAAAAAT?”

And when we got inside, she shrieked: “A chair!”

There’s a little lunch table set up near some vending machines at the front of the building. It is not an exhibit.  Alice just has a thing for chairs.

The museum starts with a sad story. Twenty years ago, at the school that is nearest our house, a man walked onto the playground with a gun and killed five children. The museum was opened in their memory. It is modest and a little tired, maybe, but bright and happy.

I took Alice there because they have a fire truck, a police car, an ambulance, a bus – real ones – inside, and all week long, she had been waving to buses and ambulances. “Hi, bus! Bye, bus! Choo choo!”

Sometimes I can’t believe how small she was to start. And other times, I remember how small she still is.

A bus from the backseat of my car, a siren from inside the living room are exciting, but safe.

Up close, the proportion is all wrong. They are fobiddingly large, the real things. She wanted nothing to do with them. She was afraid.

But where real life was scaled down, she was at home. She could size things up and make sense of them. Then, she let go of my hand.


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