We spent the last weekend up in Seattle, being hosted by my wonderful brother and sister-in-law — wonderfully generous people who don’t bat an eye at their house being overrun by small children.
All of us appreciate different things about hanging out at Bob and Amy’s house. I revel in the luxury of someone else preparing dinner; the boys immerse themselves in the toys in the play room; but for Mica, the trip really took off when she saw the dog through their window, and she was all about the animals from then on.
There were two pets she interacted with: a nice big lab named Henry and a very active cat named Hobbes. Henry was stolid and patient, putting up with her exploration of his ears without protest. When she sat on his back and said “Horse!” he simply put his head back on his paws and endured. In fact we think he developed a fondness for Mica by the end of the trip, mostly because Mica discovered the joy and delight of feeding him.
Once she’d grasped this notion it was in fact very hard to feed her. Because Henry will eat anything — cherries, cereal, yogurt, fried rice, blueberries — and the pleasure of watching him munch up a tidbit was apparently so engrossing that Mica considered that the highest and best use of her food. Sometimes I had to put Henry outside just so Mica would eat. I felt sorry for him — after all, it wasn’t his fault — but it wouldn’t have worked as well to put the baby outside, so he got the short end of that stick.
Her other favorite part of the trip was Hobbes. In fact, by the end of our stay she’d learned his name, and said it more clearly than she says any of ours (coincidence, I’m sure). “Hobbes!” she’d say, when I came downstairs with her, and promptly wriggle down to go check out his ears.
Now, Hobbes was remarkably patient with her — not as patient as Henry, but then he’s a cat. I was astonished at how much he put up with. But Mica, even after repeated exposure to them, consistently failed to respond to Hobbes’ warning signs when he’d finally had enough. Flattened ears, hissing, even a mock-attack elicited nothing from her but laughter. (“Look, the cat’s interacting with me!” was how Dave and I interpreted this.) We told her that in Hobbes’ language those signs meant “all done” and “go away,” phrases that I know she knows. It didn’t matter. Hobbes ended up biting or clawing her four times during the visit, and frankly I can’t really fault him.
Each time it happened, Mica would wail terribly. “Bite?” she’d say, pointing at her arm, as though in disbelief that one of her favorite animals — with such awesome, twitchy ears! — could do such a thing. Then within half an hour she’d be back at him.
This is not to say that the humans in the house were unimportant to Mica. She spent a fruitful session looking at Bananagram tiles with her uncle Bob, for example, and I think it stuck — yesterday she correctly identified P, S and R for me. And she thought her aunt Amy’s garden was pretty awesome, especially the strawberry patch and the apple trees. But let’s be honest, here — she didn’t learn any of their names.