The pages are falling out, and we probably haven’t used it more than three times, but it’s always been on our bookshelf.
On Tuesday night, Ellie got all dressed up in some costume that, in her imagination, must have been appropriate for a waitress or a chef or something, then she laid out the book in the middle of the stairway on one of the steps.
“Daddy, I need you. Come here, please,” she called to me at least a dozen times that evening.
“I’ll be right there, honey.” I tried to be enthusiastic for the first seven or eight trips down half the stairs to her perch, but the game lost its excitement earlier for me than Ellie. When I got tired, she called her mother and then her siblings, until they got sick of it, too.
When I did respond to her calls for a command performance, I stood over her display and inquired, “What do you need, Ellie?”
“Do you like this?” She pointed to a picture from the cookbook.
“Mmmmm, that looks like a great salad. Yes, I like that.”
“Then how about this?” She turned the pages to another picture.
“Oh yes, that’s corn and tomatoes. I love that!”
“Okay, thanks,” she would respond as she leaned over to the notepad laying on the step next to the cookbook. In the middle of the page, she would write a strangely formed “Y”, apparently indicating an affirmative response. No category or description of the dish was included; just a giant “Y” in the middle of the page.
I’m not sure she could have written an “N” if I had replied negatively to any of her questions, but I didn’t, so it wasn’t necessary.
She ended up with several pages of nothing but Y’s written all over them in no semblance of order.
The next evening I went upstairs to put the kids to bed and there she was again on the loveseat with the cookbook and the notebook. I ordered her off to bed, but she wouldn’t have it until I gave her my order.
“Wait, Dad! I need to take your order first, please. Do you like this?”
“Oh! Fried Catfish: that’s one of my favorites.”
She wrote the giant, mutant “Y” and then packed up her stuff and headed off to bed.
So, what’s the point? There is no point, and that’s the point.
For Ellie, the joy is in the imagination . . . the activity . . . the interaction. She couldn’t care less about life lessons, or even death lessons. She was just enjoying her family and pretty pictures of food and imagining that somehow what she was doing had value.
As it turns out, the only value in her game was that it made her father laugh for a few minutes and appreciate the beauty of not having a care in the world. That’s value enough, I guess.