Friday, November 22, 2013

So....whatcha been up to?

I was finally back in my office space on Thursday morning this week after almost 2 weeks away from the space. One of the regulars was asking me where I'd been so I said that we drove down to Washington, DC.

She asked me why sort of expecting the standard answer of monuments and museums when I mentioned that the purpose of the trip was to see the only Giant Squid on display in a museum. We had high hopes that we could introduce F to a scientist working at the Smithsonian; one that she had been writing to and reading up on for almost 9 months but he had not confirmed that he would be there so we weren't betting the farm..

When I tell people about this their reactions are like Christmas to me. Especially in Toronto. Faces change from a somewhat protective grown up expression to one of earnest, open, honest, true curiousity.

How did she hear about Giant Squid? Then what happened?  Your husband did what?  You knit what?  He wrote back? Then what happened? Did she like him?  You paid for it with your TTC money by biking to work?  She's how old?!

Around about 10 months ago or so, CBC Radio ran a short story about how a Giant Squid had been captured on film - FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.  Fenner was immediately curious and expressed it to Jason, since we live in the future he looked it up and watched it.

And so it began.

They began to take books out from the library on sea monsters and giant squid. Giant Squid: Searching for a Sea Monster by Mary Ceruillo became her favourite book. What was most surprising was that she loved everything - even the stories that were more graphic than normal kids books. Whale disembowelment?  Really?! I found knitted patterns to cater to the fascination.  Knitters are true nerds.
Soon, they started recognizing Clyde Roper's name in a number of different videos, stories and news reports so Jason looked him up and got his address at the Smithsonian.  They started writing notes and Fenner drew pictures - she's got a mean squid and whale motif going.
Then he started writing back...and that's when she said the fateful words. "I must go to the Smithsonian. I must see the squid."  That night when I got up after bedtime I found someone had googled directions to our friend Judy's house and from there to DC.

Clyde sent us his schedule for the next six months and that was the last we heard from him...until we arrived.  Turns out the day we got there was his first day back since June.

"I am Freaking Out."
He asked Fenner to sign the picture of the squid and the sperm whale that she had drawn him. Then, he asked her if he could have her permission to display it in his office. Adults that speak to small people like people with private lives and boundaries like the rest of us are exceptional and he was so thrilled to be meeting her.

That's when he had my heart. He noted that she had drawn the whale's teeth and sockets so perfectly. Isn't it cool that they are engineered perfectly to eat squid.  They discussed it for a minute and then moved on to real business.
Giant squid.  Here they are talking about how they preserved the squid. 
Discussing why the feeder tentacles didn't seem as long as she was expecting
Vampire squid!
Clyde, hoping that she will be a marine biologist. Fenner, committing to be curious about things that interest her. Me, hoping that this experience will reduce the possibility of her growing up to be a crack whore with an intense interest in the natural world.

There by the grace of the Fates go Mothers doing their very best with what they have everywhere.


Lynda Ryba said...

That is an amazing story. What a wonderful memory for her and you!

Kiwicanuck said...

Terrific story! Start saving - there's a Colossal Squid on display at Te Papa museum in New Zealand!

Dani said...

Jen, this is the most amazing story. You two are incredible parents with wonderful children!!

Angie Burnett said...

I too, am blown away Jen. What a lovely story. And memories you made from thi

Jennifer R. said...

You don't know me but I love reading about your committed parenting. I raised two daughters in the 80's with no manual and they have turned out awesome. Neither one is a crack whore, yay. But when I read this I see there would have been room for oh so much more. Love Jasons bog too, tell him to catch up. Best of the season to you.