I love the way little kids think. They are way more interesting to talk to than most adults and they usually make a lot more sense. In my son’s case, it was his vocabulary. Some of his forays into the world of words have joined the family lexicon forever.

He was probably two when he called me into the bathroom to turn off the water coursing into the bathtub. “Mommy! Mommy! It’s going to overfloat!” he called. Made sense to me.

A few years later, he surprised us all by mentioning that one of Granny’s friends was “very volumptuous” emphasis on the lump. And, indeed she was!

But my favorite Charlie-ism was at the culmination of a music lesson at the Claremont Daycare School in Berkeley. The teacher was having a vocabulary review and asked, “What do you call it when two people sing the same song at the same time?” Without hesitation, Charlie called out, “A coincidence!”

Traveling with Marta

Marta, Charlie’s stepsister, had a different take on things. She must have been about 10 and Charlie was 8 when we all went on a camping trip to New Mexico. Our ultimate goal was to visit one of my colleagues in Taos, but we also spent time on the way to and from NM in Prescott, Arizona where other friends lived. I’m sure we adults thought the trip would broaden all our horizons.

My memories about the details are a bit dim now. I’m pretty sure that we stopped in a few of the National Parks and maybe took time to go to the Grand Canyon. I do remember that we spent time in the Taos Pueblo and we were treated to warm bread just removed from the outdoor oven or “horno” as it is properly called.

The other thing I especially remember about that trip is Marta’s doubts concerning the various state lines we crossed.

“But how do we really know that we’re in Arizona now? It looks just the same as California.” No amount of pointing out signs like “Entering Arizona” or “Entering New Mexico” helped her understand such an arbitrary concept.

She and I talked about that not too long ago. “Yep!” she laughed. “I still wonder about those abstract ideas.” Charlie, on the other hand, accepted without comment any explanations we gave about natural boundaries and decisions by Congress and measurements by surveyors. I’m not sure he really cared one way or another. But Marta wanted some sort of physical evidence.

Our new state

Those memories came flooding (overfloating?) back when we learned recently that we are now in “a state of emergency.” I wondered what 10-year-old Marta, the literal thinker, would have made of that. Would she have asked (quite sensibly, I believe) “How can you tell?” “Is there a state boundary sign?” “Do we know anyone to visit there?” “How far is it from California?”

Would she have wondered if we’d be adding another star to all the flags? Perhaps she’d have asked who would be in charge of this new state? Would there be rules? And what about all those “emergency exit” signs? How would they fit in? Or out?

It was hard enough to explain about Arizona’s state line. I don’t know if I could have answered her questions about this new state of emergency. And just where is Betsy Ross, anyway, now that we may need her?

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