2002.10.09 From pickles to payroll

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

When our now 13-year-old Maddy was a preschooler, she spent a fair amount of time accompanying me to work at the Observer. Vestiges of that time still remain: a bag of story books, a box of markers, a few puzzles, an animal lotto game. Now that four-year-old Valerie occasionally joins her mother, Felicia, our ad designer, at the office, other items can be found: a bucket of chalk, coloring books and crayons, a stuffed animal.

Even though they don’t necessarily add to the efficiency or speed of getting things done, kids are a welcome addition to the Observer environment. They may not contribute to the bottom line, but they do provide a note of levity and put a smile on the faces of workers and customers alike.

Several Mondays ago, when we needed Felicia to get a jump on scanning photos, she offered to work at night and brought Valerie to the office with her. When I went home for dinner I invited Valerie to go with me so Felicia could complete some work without interruption.

Our house isn’t really baby or kidproof anymore but Valerie is a pretty smart cookie and not likely to lick the outlets or bang on the windows the way 20-year-old Ben did when he was a tyke. And even if Valerie were to eat dirt the way 16-year-old Rosie used to, I’m still enough of a hovering mother that I would catch her in the act and squash the attempt before she could sully her mouth.

Our house is kid friendly, though, so Valerie found a variety of entertaining things to play with and munch on. Pocky chocolate covered biscuit sticks from Japan (“A wholesome life in the best of taste”) was a new treat and Valerie is game to try anything once.

Pocky has been a favorite at our house ever since our friend John brought a box of it, along with a wealth of other Japanese snack foods, the Christmas before Ben went to Japan. Pocky looks like a very skinny long pretzel dipped in chocolate, but it took a back seat to leftover candy from the birthday party loot bags my friend Kay gave the kids when we were in New York in early September.

Our dress-up collection provided more amusement with its wide array of wacky clothes and shoes, along with several masks, a fluorescent yellow wig, and Billy Bob and Dracula teeth. Exploring the house after losing interest in a scary punk rocker mask, Valerie wondered if she could go upstairs.

“Oh, no, it’s too messy up there,” I said. She tried to talk me into letting her go up anyway, but I imagined her embarrassing me by telling her mom the state of affairs regarding my housekeeping abilities—assuming she didn’t get permanently lost in one of Rosie and Maddy’s voluminous piles of dirty clothes.  

So I said no, again. “It’s way too messy up there, Valerie.”

Nice kid that she is, she moved on, discovering other attractions, such as the piano.

A few weeks after this visit, Valerie came home with David on a Friday at lunch time. I was in the middle of doing laundry and as she played the piano, I headed upstairs to quickly retrieve the dirty towels from the bathroom.

“Can I go upstairs, too?” she asked.

Intent on getting the laundry done and not wanting to spend time watching her upstairs, I said vaguely, “Oh, I don’t think so.”

She didn’t miss a beat when she asked with pure innocence, “Is it still too messy up there?”

And then, bless her four-year-old heart, she said, “Maddy and Rosie should clean up their rooms.”

Later, we were out on the porch and Valerie noticed the unusually dark green watermelon sitting on the bench by our front door. She stared at it for a long second and then sagely observed, “That’s a puh-giant pickle.”

If she can keep us laughing with comments like that, maybe we should put her on the payroll.

    – Oct. 9, 2002 
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