Last year, after our visit to Australia, my partner and I returned with gifts for Boss & Cherub.
For Boss, we got a kangaroo hand-puppet from the Australian Geographic Shop and a copy of The Magic Pudding from the ABC Shop. Boss is a great reader.
For Cherub, we got a wombat hand-puppet and a copy of Possum Magic from the same respective shops. Cherub likes picture books and loves being read to.
We gave Boss & Cherub their furry animal gifts first, Boss was most appreciative and thanked us. He was in a ‘big boy’ phase, methinks.
Cherub unwrapped the wombat hand-puppet, took one look at it and buried his head in his mother’s lap and said, close to tears, “It’s not what I wanted!” I bit my lip and looked over at my partner, pulling an “Oh no! We’ve made Cherub cry!” face. B&C’s Mum, mortified, tried to reassure us, “He’ll like it soon. It will probably become Favourite Wombat before long! Really.” Equally, I tried to reassure her, with a smile, that it did not matter if he did not like the gift. After all, giving a gift is half the fun and it’s really okay by me if my gift languishes in the back of a cupboard.
B&C’s mum started telling Cherub about gratefulness when receiving gifts, irrespective of what they are.
I then pulled out the rectangular wrapped objects and said, “Um, there’s another, each.” Now, some people like to receive books as presents. I am one of those people. My partner is another. B&C’s Mum is another. We are not a rare breed, certainly, but book-giving is difficult, especially for children, which is why we had also bought the furry animals. We were both a little worried about how the books would go down and really did not want to make Cherub actually cry. “It’s, um, well, it’s obvious what it is,” said I as I handed them over. The books were what we had really wanted to give the kids.
Boss opened his and seemed mighty pleased, sounding out the title and flipping through the book straight away to have a little read, as much as he could, anyway. My partner and I started talking over the top of each other to explain The Magic Pudding to B&C’s Mum, to explain who Norman Lindsay was, who the Lindsay family were and what they meant to Australia’s literary, creative and artistic culture at the turn of the century (or thereabouts). I think I got a plug in there for Joan Lindsay and Picnic at Hanging Rock, too.
Cherub moved to his own chair and opened his book. Once fully revealed he looked up at us with huge eyes and said, “This is EXACTLY what I have ALWAYS wanted ever since I was VERY LITTLE.”
Trying to repress our laughter, we nodded seriously at Cherub and said something along the lines of, “Oh good,” while B&C’s Mum interjected with, “From one extreme to the other!”
I find Cherub’s announcement difficult to believe as his mother, a children’s books aficionado, had never heard of the (Australian) best-selling Possum Magic (it’s pretty darn famous in Aus, and I remember it fondly from my childhood.)
This year, we got them both books without worrying too much that they would not like them. It was a less eventful present opening and both were appreciative.
But Cherub, despite being another year older and now in school, still came out with a few gems.
The first was pre-gift giving. He had been just larking about quite happily when it became obvious that something had just occurred to him and it was Very Important. He clambered onto the chair next to mine and said, “Oanh! Oanh!” to which, of course, the only reply is, “Yes, Cherub?” His hand reached up to my left cheek – he likes to hold onto you when he’s talking to you – and rested there. Without breaking eye contact or blinking he said, most seriously, “You and Partner do not have any children.”
“No, Cherub. This is true. We don’t.”
“And you don’t know if you are going to have any children, either. Do you?”
“That, too, is also true.”
And he left, to return to his larking.
The next was after gift-giving, when it was Cherub’s bedtime. He wanted to paint a picture. He had been briefly diverted by the gift giving but as soon as it was unwrapped, appreciated and thanked for, he went right back to his earlier plan, “Okay, I need some paper and black paint. Then I am going to paint one layer and wait for it to dry. Then I’m going to paint another layer and wait for it to dry. Then I’m going to paint another layer and wait for it to dry. And then I will need green paint.”
“Right-o,” said I. “And what will you do with the green paint?”
Cherub looked at me like I was daft. “I don’t know yet. It takes a long time for paint to dry. And I will probably do something else.”
I tried to persuade him that watching paint dry could be fun but he got a bit upset, so I dropped it. Later, he said to his mum with utmost concern, “I don’t have to watch paint dry, do I? I don’t want to.”
The best, however, was pre-dinner, as we were all trying to work out who sat where. Cherub chose a seat next to my Partner and then said to his mum, “I want to sit next to Oanh because I like Oanh.” This made me more ridiculously happy than anything else at all. And I’m still chuffed about it.
Best. Present. Ever.