Tell Me that Story Again

Posted: January 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Earthquakes, Firsts, Food, Friends and Strangers, Housewife Superhero, Husbandry, Little Rhody, Miss Kate, Money, Parenting, Scary Stuff | No Comments »

Last week I did two things I never do. I turned on the TV when both girls were awake. (I think Paigey’s still too wee to develop a boob tube habit). And I tuned in to—of all things—a telethon. Specifically, the ‘Hope for Haiti Now’ telethon.

Weird, right? But in my defense, replacing Jerry Lewis with George Clooney goes a long way in my book. And it was for a good cause.

Anyway, the second the TV clicked on, Kate ran out of her room like a junkie moving in on a fix. It was both thrilling and confusing to her.

“Wait, the TV?” she asked in a frenzy. “Are YOU watching TV, Mama? Can I watch too? Please? Please?!”

I swear the girl would happily watch Hogan’s Heroes if I let her.

But this was music. People strumming guitars and soulfully singing songs like “Let It Be.” So I figured, what could it hurt? She perched on the arm of the couch and immediately went into a glassy-eyed zombie stare, letting the TV’s narcotic hit wash over her.

Then Matt Damon and Clint Eastwood started talking about some courageous man, and it seemed likely they were about to get into the details of how the dude had died. So I hit Mute, and when Kate protested I made up some excuse .

Eventually I decided to venture into the what-happened-in-Haiti waters. Age-appropriately, I hoped. “Blah blah blah earthquake… Blah blah people got hurt… Blah blah houses fell down, everyone very poor. People there need help. And money.”

More music, volume back up, and me in the kitchen to check the roasting veggies.

Kate, calling out from her couch perch. “Mama?! Tell me that story again. What’s the shaky ground thing called again?”

“An earthquake.” I walked into the living room.

“Oh,” she said, turning the idea over in her mind. “Do they have those,” I braced for her question “–in Rhode Island?”

“Oh, in Rhode ISLAND?” I said, exhaling. “Nope! No earthquakes there!”


Two second pause.

“Do they have ‘em here?”

Crap. “Well, uh… Well, uhhh, nnnnnooooo. Well, not like that. I mean, it’s just not something you have to worry about.” I handled this nearly as poorly as I did when Kate asked me in front of a neighbor how babies come out of their mommies. (Don’t even ask.)

At dinner, it was like I could feel Kate’s brain processing what I’d told her. While tuned into the telethon she’d seen a doctor holding a baby with a tube in its nose and its head all bandaged up. A couple times she said, “Tell me that story again, Mama.” And a couple times I tried to get though on the phone lines, hoping I’d get a chance to chat up George Clooney or Julia Roberts as I made a paltry donation.

The phone lines were busy, which was great for the telethon, but dashed my hopes of hobnobbing with the real-live pages of People magazine. Or of doing anything to pitch in.

Kate was clearly worried about the Haitians, and getting ready for her bath asked questions like, “When those people got hurt when the ground shaked, did they have blood?” For my part, busy signals aside, I was feeling frustrated that we’re not in a position these days to make the level of donation I’d really like to.

And then, like a good Italian girl it hit me. Kate and I could cook. We roll up our sleeves together, do what we do best–bake!—then host a bake sale, right out in front of our house. We’d donate everything we made to help the relief effort.

She LOVED the idea. Her concerned line of questions turned instantly to excitement. “We’ll make Rice Krispie Treats! With little M&Ms! We’ll make chocolate chip cookies, Mama!”

On Sunday we had our sale. We timed it to get foot traffic from our nearby farmer’s market. And we made $189. People were amazingly generous, handing cash over to Kate without even taking a treat, or giving us a twenty for one item and telling us to keep–or rather, give away–the change.

I love our neighborhood.

The next day, we visited Mark’s office to sell the left-overs, and tacked another $71 onto our earnings. And since we were feeling unstoppable at that point, I called Kate’s school and arranged to spearhead a bake sale there too.

Kate said she thinks all the kids in Haiti are going to get Hello Kitty band-aids for their boo-boos, on account of our two bake sales. And damn it, I hope to hell she’s right.

The other night, in our bleary-eyed first adult words to each other after the kids were in bed, Mark told me he was proud of us. But quickly added something like, “Why is it you and Kate decided to save the world after we handed in her school applications?”


Well, this morning Kate has the first of her private school assessments. (Two more to go after that one.) We’ll bring her to the school for a 90-minute visit where she’ll play with other kids, probably do some writing and drawing, and be asked some questions.

I’m hoping that Kate won’t have tired of her “Tell me that shaky-ground story again, Mama” question. And that she’ll ask me in front of the school’s Admissions Director. That’ll give me a chance to gently recount once more what happened to the people of Haiti.

Then I can set her up by asking, “And what did we do about it, Kate?”

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