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Digging To China

As I was walking Maddie home from school
one of the first days of school, I asked her what she did during
recess. Recess time, I have learned, is a little window into her
day: if something good happens at recess, she’s had a good
day, and if something bad happens there, chances are her entire day
tanked. It’s become a rather good barometer of her
post-school mood.

This day, Maddie was in a good mood, and she said, “I played
with a couple of my friends, but not on the playground – on
the dirt near it. We’re digging a hole.”

“What kind of hole?” I wondered aloud, bemused.

“We’re digging a hole to China.”

Immediately I was back in elementary
school myself, when my friends and I speculated just how hard it
would be to dig a hole deep enough to hit China. Apparently, this
is still a popular playground pastime.

Maddie was still chattering on. “We’re working on it,
but we know it’s going to take some time – like, maybe
all of first grade or maybe even second and third grade too.”

Clearly this was something that had seen much discussion.

Back at home, Maddie began instructing the family in their packing
orders. My list: three iPods (grown-ups’, plus one each for
Cora and Maddie); a change of clothes; and some scuba gear.


“Well,” Maddie said practically, “In all
likelihood we’re going to encounter a major body of water and
we’ll need some underwater breathing apparatuses with us. You
see,” she continued as I stared dumbfounded, “Elise
pointed out that digging straight down will hit the magma core and
cause a volcano. So we’ve decided to dig down for a bit and
get as close to the lava as we can, then circumnavigate the liquid
core by digging around it, coming out probably in some ocean. So
you see, we’ll need some scuba stuff.”

Yeah, my planning on the playground looked nothing like this.

Cora said nothing but listened intently as the adults all nodded
solemnly and agreed to have our prescribed lists ready at the
appropriate time. But a couple days later, Cora and I were swimming
by ourselves when she burst out, “Mommy, I’m worried
about something.”

“What, puppy?” I asked.

“Mommy, I don’t – I don’t – I
don’t want to jump in a hole to go to China!” she said,
and burst into sobs.

I took my literal-minded baby in my arms and explained that is a
game Maddie’s playing, and she’ll never really dig to
China. I told Cora that if we ever go to China it won’t be
through a dark, dirty hole but on an airplane. Relieved, Cora
smiled and five minutes was laughing about the game.

Since then the excitement continues; last week Maddie told me the
hole is still going, and they tried to disguise the cast-off dirt
pile as an ant pile so people wouldn’t get suspicious;
apparently the digging gang poked holes all over the pile to mimic
ant exit spots. They’re serious, I tell ya.

And this week I hadn’t heard anything so I thought perhaps
the game had worn its course – until Maddie had the following
conversation with Brian:

“Daddy, I need you to make sure you come pick me up on the
last day of school when I’m in sixth grade.”

(Brian, bewildered) “I’m sure I will – but why

“Because we’ve calculated that the tunnel to China
won’t be ready until then, and that will be our last
opportunity to go before we’re moved up to middle school and
not let back on the playground. So if you’re going to China
with us you’ll need to come the last day of school;
we’ll jump in right after school gets out so we’ll have
the whole summer there.”

I guess I better start scrounging up some scuba gear.


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