Bent Words

Bent Words

September 04, 2007

She’s pretty smart for a three-year-old. Not that I have much in my past experiences to compare my niece’s intelligence with but I would have to say that she definitely ranks a little higher on the brain scale than I did at that age. Of course, that’s not saying much. I wasn’t exactly the hottest coal in the fire when I was a kid. In fact, I was pretty stupid.

It’s not my fault, mind you, but rather that of my parental units. My father was at work for twelve plus hours a day, seven days a week, and my mother was busy working as a chef for my father. They were preoccupied and we were left to our own devices. Thus my brother and I had to learn the bulk of our pre-academic education from the neighbor kids.

“Mmmmm,” my brother would say, “this green stuff is goooood.”

“Ahhh, that ‘green stuff’ is called grass, you moron,” the neighbor kids replied.

If only our parents had warned us. And fed us on occasion.

Well, it probably wasn’t that bad but you get the idea…

So, anyhow, back to my niece.

We were all out on the boat on Sunday and in order to keep my youngest niece entertained, I began asking her what kinds of creatures live in the lake. She said fish. And bugs. Of course, she was right, but that took a lot less time than I expected, and so I proceeded to ask her if, say, dogs lived in the water.

“Noooo!” she replied, “Dogs don’t live in the water! They live in houses!”

“Oh, yes, you’re quite right,” I said. “But what about penguins?”

“Noooo!” she replied, “Penguins live on the ice!”

“Oh, that’s right. I forgot. How about giraffes?”

“Noooo!” she replied, apparently getting the hang of this, “They live in zoos!”

“Well,” I said, attempting to be mightier than thou, “Giraffes also live in Africa – not just zoos.”

“What’s Africa?” she asked.

“It’s a continent,” I boldly replied.

“What’s a continent?” she asked.

“It’s a big chunk of land. For example, we live in North America and there’s also South America and Africa, where the giraffes live, and Europe and…”

Just as I was explaining, my father shot me a sideways glance which instantly made me aware of the fact that perhaps I had made a mistake in my explanation. After all, I am the most geographically challenged person I know and it’s not like he spent much time with me pointing at green spots on a map. And, although I had been quite sure of myself prior to that moment, I suddenly had to rethink the whole idea that Africa was a continent. I realize how incredibly idiotic this makes me sound but, at the time, I was just concerned with telling my niece the truth. Or at least something that sounded good.

“Okay,” I thought, “quick! There are seven continents. North America, South America, Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa and… What the HELL is the seventh one? It’s another A one, I know that… Oh, fuck it, let her parents set her straight.”

“There are seven continents, Allison, which I cannot faithfully name at this time, unless they revoked or added one recently which they may have done since they certainly were inconsiderate enough to reject Pluto as a planet so we might very well be living in a world with eight or six continents – who knows really?”

“Look, Aunt Laura! A buoy!”

She totally wasn’t even listening. She asked the damned question – didn’t she? Oh well, I don’t blame her and at least she wasn't calling buoys “boobies” anymore (although I deny the accusation, that blunder was apparently my fault, too).


Alexis, who is five, and Allison were playing with these goofy, dollar toys (my mother had purchased) in the backyard. They were sticky little balls (heh) which you could blow up (heh heh) and throw around and they stuck to things but mostly had things sticking to them (i.e. leaves, grass, insects, hair – yummy). Whatever, I don’t know what the hell they were, we just called them “squishies.”

After blowing one of the goofy things up, I gave to Allison who immediately began tossing it against a tree in order to see if it would stick. Her sister followed suit.

“Oh, no – don’t do that, you guys,” I warned them, “the bark’ll pop it.”

Alexis blinked several times and looked at me with a queer expression. You know, the one where you suddenly feel like the biggest idiot in the world despite your obvious advantage of life experience? Like you’re just about to be one-upped by a five-year-old?

“Aunt Laura – what’s ‘barkle?’”

“No, no, hehheh, that’s not what I meant. I meant the bark will pop your toy if you’re not careful. You see, what I was saying was ‘bark, apostrophe, double L.’ The bark will pop… Well, I wasn’t pronouncing my words very well and…”

But they just continued to give me that damned look and then proceeded to touch the ‘barkle’ and call it ‘barkle’ and throw the ‘barkle’ at me as though what I had just told them, that ‘barkle’ wasn’t a word and that that was a form of solecism which I will explain later, when you’re older, was completely irrelevant.

Even though they are not my own, I couldn’t help but wonder; who are you to question my authority? Who are you, as of yet unable to prepare your own meals or wash your own clothes, to doubt my superior intelligence? Who are you to be rolling your eyes in cynicism at an elder as though you should even know HOW to do that at such a young age? Who are you to act with such pompousness when I might decide whether you should go on or cease to be?

Rather than continue to be subjected to such juvenile behavior, I simply stomped away.

Because I can do that.

Because they’re not mine.

And I’m smarter than them.

So there.

Written at 3:01 p.m.