I found myself caught in a conversation with one of Noelle's finger puppets the other day. It was slightly disturbing - my inability to let the conversation drop once Noelle wasn't interested anymore. She toddled off and I sat arguing with her little pink pig wiggling back and forth on my finger.
It began this way: Noelle sat at her little table. I sat beside her, slightly bored, unsure of how to play with her.
I remember talking with my friend, Rosie Bills, who has the joy of staying home with her little ones. She said to me, "Sometimes, I think about going back to work, but then I have such good days with them.." She trailed off and looked at her nine month old baby boy wiggling on the floor. A smile crept across her face.
"What makes a good day?" I asked.
"Well, I just have really fun playtimes with them" and I forget the rest of what she said. I just remember thinking that I didn't know what that felt like. That it has been hard for me to just relax into playing with Noelle. It's like the engine of my imagination is cob-webbed and rusty.
But then, I also worked nearly full-time without child care last semester. I was pretty stressed out. I worked when Noelle was asleep, and when she was awake, I felt my blood pressure rise and rise with the pile of neglected papers to be graded.
Now it's summer break. I have no classes to teach. No papers to grade. Just the delicious feeling of being present in her waking hours, no to-do lists ticking through my mind.
So I sat next to her on the floor, nervous, scanning the room, like a girl making a new friend. "I hope she likes me. I hope I'm not too boring."
In a flash of inspiration, I picked up her little pink piglet off the floor and pushed it down on my finger. The piglet popped up over the side of the table. Noelle giggled. I started up a conversation.
"Well, Noelle, Piglet, this is what we're going to do this afternoon..." both watched me with anticipation. "We're going to color for a bit, then mommy is going to put out the pork chops to thaw for dinner tonight."
The pig was outraged.
"How could you!?" she squeaked in a voice the size of her little body. Noelle squealed and laughed out loud.
"Oh piglet, don't be offended. I'm sure the pork chops weren't related to you."
"But really?! You didn't have the decency to keep quiet about it in front of me?"
With each outraged exclamation, Noelle laughed harder and harder. I was on a roll. The pig and I went back and forth like this, arguing over the meal. Before I knew it, I was engaged in a full-on reasoning match with...my finger.
"Why don't you just have something else for dinner?" the pig asked impatiently.
"'Cause I don't have anything else planned!"
I almost didn't notice that Noelle had stopped laughing or that she was getting up and walking away. It wasn't until she was at the toy box, half way across the room, her back turned to me, that I realized I couldn't leave the argument with the puppet unresolved.
But as irony would have it, and as you already know, the puppet was me.