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Land of The Littles

I know I’ve written before about
both girls’ love for collecting and organizing things,
whether it be in purses or boxes or little piles on the floor.
I’m used to one girl or the other starting a collection of
something random – shoes that all have black in them, or
rocks with an uneven number of sides, for example. But
Maddie’s latest obsession leaves even me scratching my head.

Maddie has a small stuffed dog – I mean almost dollhouse
small, like three inches tall tops. And even though she’s got
a Fisher Price dollhouse crammed with rooms full of furniture and
accessories, she’s on a mission to collect as many
“useful” things as she can for her dog.

This collection started a few weeks ago at
the dollar store. Those of you who know me well know I’ve got
an innate unhappiness about the dollar store: the whole time
I’m there, I’m thinking about the poor kid in China who
was paid eight cents a day to make the crap in that store,
permanently burning his fingerprints off with the lye-based dye
used to color the stuff. But when you’re buying goodie bag
items for a birthday party, your standards slip a bit, and I found
myself there.

I’d warned the girls that we were going to shop for very
specific things, and wouldn’t be buying any impulse stuff.
Even so, at the end of our trip Maddie sidled up to me and said,
“I want all the things I have in my hand. I need them for my

Sighing wearily, I unfolded my daughter’s hand – and
saw all pieces of trash she’d picked up off the floor. There
was a blue bottle top, which she said was the dog’s swimming
pool. There was a plastic flower fallen off a larger bouquet, which
was apparently the dog’s garden. A bent piece of plastic was
his watering hose, and so on. She looked up at me with big eyes and
said, “How much of my piggy bank money do I have to give you
to buy all these things?”

Needless to say, we went home with a handful of free trash.

Since then, Maddie’s interest in this collection has not
waned. And I can’t really complain, since she has built her
entire collection out of other people’s discards, which
thrills me on the environmental stewardship level. Just two days
ago she jumped up and down with joy when she found the piece of
metal that clips a ballpoint pen to a shirt pocket, dropped on the
sidewalk outside. “Mom! When I find a small bike for my dog,
this will clip onto it and be his water-bottle holder!”

Maddie has designed a water tower out of a nut found in her
grandpa’s front yard, with broken toothpicks for legs and
some leftover aluminum foil for the “attic access
door”. She’s gone all-out on this, I’m telling
you. I think it inspires her on a couple different levels: for one
thing, she adores scavenging, constantly getting “new”
stuff. And for another, I’m guessing that she loves
reinventing something and using her imagination to create a pool
and patio, rather than buying one ready-built at Pottery Barn Kids.

Or maybe that’s just wishful (read: cheap) thinking on my
part. Dare I hope that when Christmas rolls around, she’ll
still be thrilled if Santa fills her stocking with miscellaneous
trash and says, “Hey, kid, it’s whatever you think it
is! Knock yourself out!”

Whatever the case, we’ve got Dog’s friend Chick (fallen
off an Easter decoration, and standing half an inch high) on
permanent vacation on the kitchen counter, where she’s
sitting in front of a smooth rock – a camp fire - surrounded
by miniature sea shells from a broken shell necklace – the
camp fire circle. Dog’s pool is set up on the piano, with the
accompanying debris, er, toys. Every time I clean up around the
house I have to stop and think what’s trash and what’s
Not Trash.

A few days ago I was working in the kitchen and handed Maddie a
small scrap of something to put in the recycling bin across the
room. She walked slowly, then came to a dead stop.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. “Nothing,
I’m just thinking. I’m sure that instead of recycling
this I can repurpose it. Give me a second.”

That’s my girl.


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