You Need a Very Big Ladder

My eldest children, three and six, are adapting to the big city.

They marvel at the loud and steady noises. They point to the double buses with the accordion-like middles and the ones with no tops that take people on street tours.

“Hey, look at that!”

There are lion faces on the façade of an old building.

“Hey, what was that?” they ask after a sudden whoosh comes roaring out of a building behind us, like it was letting off steam or something funnier than that.

They love to listen to the orchestra that plays in the theater behind us. We heard The Nutcracker the other day.

They listen intently to the stories about where my father lived as a child and how his brother walked out on the ledge of their building, four floors up.

“That’s crazy,” they say.

In our apartment, they’ve learned to play adapted versions of their favorite games from back in the pine tree paradise, racing through rooms and down the hall yelling out, “The dragon is coming!” They have to protect the littlest one, their not-yet-crawling sister. She’s the princess, the eldest is the queen and the boy is the knight. Round and round they go, jumping, running, skidding.

Now they are putting out fires.

I wanted to ask if the dragons caused them. But there’s no time. My office is on fire.

“Dad, you have to move. Quick!” my eldest daughter blurts out.

I move aside and my son deftly puts out the fire.

Then they’re off again. And back again.

“Daddy, daddy, we need your help.”

They pull me out of my chair and pull me to the back of the apartment and point out the window to the top of a building.

“How do we get up there?” my daughter asks. “We need to put out the fire up there. Before it gets too big.”

I look out and imagine the flames and the smoke and the dragon racing away. People screaming for help. “You’ll need a very big ladder,” I tell them.

“Or a helicopter?” my daughter asks.

“Yes, that’ll do,” I tell them.

They turn to each other, like in a huddle to strategize, “You get this, I’ll get that.”

Then they’re off to fight the dragons and the fires and to protect the little princess with a very big ladder and a helicopter in the very big metropolis.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Katie March 26, 2009, 12:31 am

    Kids are so flexible. Their ability to adapt to new situations is enviable. I hope the adults are faring as well as the little ones.

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