It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Small mysteries of life

“What is that present, Mary?”

“It’s a present, Nigel.”


The package is very toddler-attractive with its lilac, ladybug strewn birthday festive-ness. And now I am wrapping it again, this time in postal-quality brown paper, this layer adorned with hats and party horns. This is very, very interesting.

“Why are you putting more paper on it?”
“Is it a birthday present?”
“Why it gots bugs onnit?”

“This is a present for my friend Jen. It is her birthday soon, and this is her present.”

“It is a birthday present?”

“Yes. And now we have to get our shoes and coats on, because we are going to mail it.”

“Why we gots to mail it?”

“Because Jen lives far, far away. A long way away.”

We set out. It’s a little over half a mile to the SevenEleven which houses the post office. The sky is clear, the air mild, the day sunny. Altogether perfect day for a stroll. The package sits in the otherwise empty stroller, with Timmy and Anna holding onto either side. Nigel and Malli walk ahead.

Where is Emily this week? Yesterday morning I got a call somewhat later than I was expecting to see her. Emily had been a little cranky that morning, but mild crankiness in a two-year-old, even a sunny one like Emily, is hardly cause for concern. Halfway here, a little voice informed her mother,

“My tummy feels funny.”

“Oh?” slightly anxious mummy. “Funny-good, or funny-bad?”

The answer was non-verbal but very clear: Funny-bad. Definitely funny-bad. And the poor child must sit and stew in it, because there is nowhere to pull off. So Emily is not with us today. I now await eruptions from the rest of the crew. So far, however, all is well.

“Is THAT Jen’s house?” Nigel points out a charming three-story on a corner lot. (You’d like it, Jen. The boy has good taste.)

“No, lovie. Jen lives a long way away.”

I live a long way away!” Anna is assured. Given that two of them live on my street and one lives a block over, Anna, at a whole ten-block remove is indeed the furthest-afield. These things being relative and all.

“You live pretty far, but Jen lives very, very far away.” These is no point in using map or globe: on either of those Jen would be less than a couple of inches away. How does that make any sense? One resorts to simplifications and repetitions. “Very, very, VERY far away. Much, much too far to walk. Even too far to bike.” (Anna comes in the bike buggy most days.)

“Ooooh.” She is suitably impressed.

“Is that Jen’s house?” Nigel doesn’t tend to be easily dissuaded from his ideas.

“NO, Nigel. Jen lives far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far AWAY!” Anna has absorbed the notion, at any rate.

“That’s right, Anna. She lives a long way away, and this is her birthday present.”

“And we are going to her birthday party!!”

Oh, dear. We’re going from bad to worse here. “No, I’m afraid not. She lives too far away.”

“She not have a birthday party???” Anna is horrified at such deprivation.

“Yes, she probably is, but we’re not going to it. Because we live too far away.”

“We are not going???” Anna is horrified at such deprivation.

At the post office, the children watch with interest as the parcel is weighed, labelled, stamped.

“Is that a stamp?”
“What are you writing?”
“Did that lady give you a paper?”
“Does that paper stick on the present?”
“Why did you put the present on that table?”
“There are numbers on that thing!”
“Can we have some candy?” (This is a SevenEleven, after all.)

Outside in the sunlight, present successfully dispatched and the tots candy-less, we resume our walk.

“Hey! Where is Jen’s present?”
“I mailed it, Nigel.”
“But that lady took away your present!!”
“It’s okay. I gave it to her, Nigel. That was the post office. The woman in there will send the present to my friend Jen.”

“For her birthday?”


“For her party?”

“Yes.” Ha! I think he’s finally got it!

“But where is Jen?”


April 16, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. THAT was AWESOME!

    I totally want to show up sometime and say, “Hey, Nigel, I’m JEN!”

    Can you take a picture of my Ottawa houses for me sometime? LOL

    If you show up and do that, Anna will be wanting to know why the hell she wasn’t invited to your party. Just warning you. And sure, I’ll take a picture. You’ll love it, I’m sure!

    Comment by jen | April 17, 2008 | Reply

  2. Ha. I seem to remember not having much concept of where things were in relation to each other for quite some time, either.

    There is a great book that might help illustrate mailing the package and having it taken away by other people a long way away, though – it’s called “Send it!” and it’s by Don Carter. Your library would likely have it.

    And um, happy birthday Jen!

    Abstractions are difficult, aren’t they? Oh, thanks for the recommendation! I will look it up when next we go. (Monday)

    Comment by kittenpie | April 17, 2008 | Reply

  3. My birthday is July 24th.

    I live far, far, far, far, far away too.

    I’m just sayin’.

    Bwah-ha. So what’s on your birthday wish list?

    Comment by Childsplayx2 | April 17, 2008 | Reply

  4. Love this, totally captures the toddler thinking.

    Any mention of birthdays around here, we better be heading to a party or else there will be tears.

    Toddler thinking is the best part of my job. They’re so funny!

    Comment by mamacita tina | April 17, 2008 | Reply

  5. Mary, I’ve been reading your blog for what seems like forever but (I think) have never commented. It suddenly occurred to me that you probably don’t know this, but just about every day or so I wander around to see what the kids are up to. Why? Because your posts are so well-written, the points so thoughtful and apt, and because of the hi-larious.

    This one, too.

    Hey, thanks. 🙂

    Thank YOU. It’s nice when the kids write my posts for me and I get the credit… Heh.

    Comment by CT | April 18, 2008 | Reply

  6. My 4yo went biking with his father last weekend. Far, far away. About two blocks from home he asked his dad, “Are we still in Georgia?” Later he told me he and Daddy had ridden their bikes a long, long way, but they were still in Georgia…. But we were *almost* to Aclanta!” (We *live* in Atlanta!)

    Aren’t those conversations the best? They’re trying to sort this out, but it’s tricky! We get the “I live on X Street, and you live in Ottawa.” And then we try to explain that all their streets are in Ottawa — but wait! Don’t we live in Canada? How can we live in three places at once??? It’s all very confusing.

    Comment by Jill in Atlanta | April 18, 2008 | Reply

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