On the surface, if you ask me what I made today, I would say my daughter and I made a mess in the kitchen sink.
We put a few inches of water in the sink, then experimented with drops of vegetable oil and food coloring, watching to see how these liquids would dance and swirl and sink. We watched one drop of food coloring drop straight through a circle of oil, bleeding ribbons of color, while another—unable to penetrate the oil—sat still and round, creating an eyeball on the water’s surface. We agitated the pool with a skewer. We read the garbage disposal label through the bubbles. We watched colors and curves change and blend.
We made a mess. Then we cleaned it up quickly with nothing more than the pull of a plug.
But if we go a little deeper, my daughter and I made much more today. To celebrate her first day of summer break, I took the day off for “girl time.” (Little sister had museum plans with a friend, and teenage brother slept ’til God-knows-when.) We slept in, had iPad time at Starbuck’s, collected books at the library, invested in our sanity at our favorite art supply store, had lunch with friends, poked around a resale shop, talked with the old lady who runs the yarn store, tossed pennies in the fountain. And just before bedtime, we played with water and oil and color while discussing words and stories and creative concepts.
I learn so much from this 10-year-old person. As a drop of pink food coloring snaked its way into the water, she coined the phrase “the stain of a sunset,” saying it would make a great book title. “What would be the story behind that title?” I asked. Hannah answered with a remarkable idea: a disabled student attending a public school. Sunset School. The student’s disabilities are dramatic, and so is her presence in the school. She makes a huge mark (like a stain) on that school. “I think her name should be Myla … M-Y-L-A.” But Myla gets bullied, and her parents decide she need to go to school somewhere else. Ooooooohhh …
Don’t you want to read that story? I do. I love listening to my little girl develop ideas. Her concepts and stories flow and merge and morph, like the circles of oil and food coloring that danced in our kitchen sink this evening. She makes it seem so easy, so natural, so effortless.
My daughter has a gift for story. I can learn from her.