by Sherwood Smith
One way to instantly entertain a toddler if you’re stuck somewhere with no toys, is to haul out the hand people.
Pinchies were invented in desperation when we were riding in the car as children. I, at twelve, was frequently responsible for my toddler brother, riding in my lap (no car seats in those days, much less seat belts) and if he cried, my dad would get angry. Believe me, you did not want my dad angry.
So I invented crawling hand people, or pinchies, and used them while babysitting through my teens, and again when governessing, and finally with my own kids. Pinchies talk in a high voice, and the kids would invest them with personalities and even stories. I am told there are thirty year olds who are now introducing pinchies to their kids.
For some reason it’s easy to believe in the separate existence of pinchies. Kids—including my own—have insisted that I hand off the phone to the pinchies, when called long distance. I have received postcards addressed to the pinchies.
My daughter was eight when she finally figured out that pinchies were hands, attached to arms. Woe and grief! But she began using them when she started babysitting.
This led to an event a while back when she put her hand inside a new stuffed turtle she bought as a surprise for the six year old child of a friend. My daughter made the turtle walk about and talk, which the child watched in fascination, then she frowned and declared, “You didn’t fool me! You’re not talking, turtle! It’s the pinchie talking!”
I was thinking back to the schoolyard of my youth, specifically schoolyard songs. Many have talked about how certain ones were never taught in classrooms. Were discouraged. But they still spread across the country without any help from adults. Like “Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts.” But the one I was thinking about was “Don’t Ever Laugh.”
Now, when it hit our campus, I was in fourth grade. What we learned was Don’t ever laugh when a horse goes by, or else you’ll be the next to die. They’ll wrap you up in a bloody sheet and throw you in a hole about sixty feet deep… Etc.
After the delight of learning the verses and getting the EEEUW creds from singing it to those who Weren’t In The Know, I pondered the words. Don’t ever laugh when a horse goes by. Why a horse? I couldn’t quite resolve that to my satisfaction, except that the horse’s feelings might be hurt if you laughed at it. But how would you die from it?
A couple years later a teenage babysitter corrected us from her lofty position of knowledge, telling us the word was ‘hearse.’ We didn’t know that word. I think it was considered vulgar at that time. If we saw a funeral cortege go by on the road, the adults would say repressively ‘That’s a funeral car.’ When you heard that tone of voice, you knew better than to ask any more questions.
The floor dropped on that one when I finally read about the plague years, and various memento mori songs, of which this was one, surviving for centuries. That made sense at last . . . but I have never forgotten that horse, and how we kids reasoned things out on our own when the adults wouldn’t communicate, therefore we either turned to the schoolyard for the real skinny, or else figured it out with kid logic.
Anyone know of things that kids figured out about the world with kid logic?