Early Childhood: 27 Little Things

Since i’ve been working with children again, i’ve been making a conscious effort to always remember what makes them tick. When i’m playing with D (3 years old), I know that for the rest of his life, he’ll remember what it feels like to squash Play-Doh between his fingers, even if he never did it again.

What are the little things that tiny kids live for and look forward to each day? What objects bring the most comfort, joy and familiarity? What smells and what sensations will they remember for the rest of their lives? I think this was one of my biggest failings the last time I worked with children. I didn’t remember these things. I was just an adult, acting as an adult interacting with a child. I wasn’t a child myself. I didn’t think about how each little word, object, action and feeling shapes who they are and who they’ll become. You can’t understand what they go through unless you can remember what it was like.

So i’ve been working on a list of the little things that I loved and lived for when I was very small. No one will understand this list but me, and I hope that i’ll never forget any of these treasured little memories.

1. Lego trees. My Grandma had a killer Lego collection. Very, very cool Grandma.

2. Jodie’s basement: Fisher Price roller skates, mini hockey sticks, the spikey roof that sparkled, jumping from the top step.

3. “Don’t touch the bait”

4. McDonald’s cheeseburgers (no sauce, made to order) on the conference table at Daddy’s office.

5. The dark hallway at the Museum of Nature that led to the dinosaur exhibit

6. Being called up to collect Brownie badges that were stapled to little yellow pieces of paper. I was a badge whore and I had to have them ALL.

7. The round, silver radiators with the little round holes in them, along every wall at Ottawa Airport. Walking on them, sitting on them, sliding on them, talking into them.

8. Counting herons on the way to church. The smell of the paper mill across the river in Quebec that accompanied these first forays into birdwatching.

9. Care Bear books at the library.

10. My Sesame Street book. The one where you had to place your nose or fingers on little coloured circles. So much satisfaction.

11. Grandma’s hamburger phone. (Cool Grandma- see above)

12. Being yelled at by my ballet teacher when practicing our routine to ‘Locomotion’. Believing the woman who sang the Locomotion song sounded really angry herself…

13. Reader’s Digest Guide to the Wildlife of North America. Always checking to see if bears lived in my area.

14. The pet store at the ‘brown shopping centre’ in Montreal. Always full of monkeys for sale. Long before ethics.

15. Metallic turquoise horizontal blinds. The sound they made when I trailed my finger across them. The way they bounced back into shape.

16. Climbing the climbing structure at the Boston Children’s Museum. Parents had to use stairs to get to the next level. Me? I could just climb.

17. Lake Placid and my Lake Placid Bumper sticker with the hologram rainbow and hearts on it. It was the most beautiful thing i’d ever seen in my life.

18. Whenever my dad came home from a business trip, i’d wake up the following morning with a new Barbie doll propped up on the floor by my door. The doll always corresponded to where he had been. ‘California Barbie’, for example.

19. Building ‘buses’ at church using chairs. Boarding these buses. Sitting at the back.

20. The downfall and resulting moral teachings of Sidney the Squirrel. On cassette each night before bed.

21. A tiny fuzzy sticker of a baby seal. The softest sticker ever.

22. “What’s under Bob’s cushion?” After MASH and before Star Trek. Usually while watching my dad eat a bag of Hostess BBQ Ruffles chips.

23. Being lifted up by my mother to push the brightly coloured buttons on the ATM at TD Bank. They made the most wonderful beeps i’ve ever heard. Love.

24. The smell of cheap shoes at Giant Tiger

25. Construction paper: ripping it, cutting it with safety scissors, gluing it to stuff, always being left with brown after the nice colours had been used up.

26. The IGA grocery store Cookie Club. “I am a child. I am at the grocery store. Give me a free cookie.”

27. Boppin’ Away: The song. The hot pink cassette it came on. The idea that Barbie herself sang it. The fact that this was my only cassette with actual music, and not bible stories on it. “A smile will set you free.” Embedding disabled, but here, if you must. And you must: BOPPIN’ AWAY

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