“I know what happens at the end,” the younger announced, knowingly.
She paused for effect. “The spider dies,” she declared.
“What! How do you know that?” I demanded. We had only read the first five chapters of Charlotte’s Web.
“You told me,” she said. “You told me about reading it and crying.”
“Oh,” I said. “Yeah, well, that’s true; I might cry when we get to that part.”
“You don’t have to read that bit,” the younger assured me consolingly.
“Oh, it’s OK; sometimes being sad is also good.”
“Yeah, like when Liam [a former preschool classmate] left? I was sad …. but he was always coming up to me and saying, ‘—, can you play with me,’ over and over, and I needed a break from him, so it was actually good that he left.”
“Right,” I said, uncertainly.
We were walking to preschool. The younger walked into someone’s front yard and ran her fingers through the soft, feathery leaves of a fern that was growing out of a tree.
“Oh!” I said, experiencing what is, for me, a rare phenomenon: botanical recognition, “this is a fern: that’s what the girl in the book is named after!”
“What?!” asked the younger, scrunching up her face in a mixture of incredulity and excitement.
“Yes!” I said, equally excited.
The younger widened her eyes.
“Maybe,” she said, “they were walking around trying to think of a name that was also a plant and then they saw this and they thought, ‘Oh! Fern!’”
I was unsure whether by “they” she meant Mr. and Mrs. Arable or E.B. White, and also unsure as to whether she imagined that they or he had seen this here particular fern … but no matter: I was quite enchanted by this account of perambulatory inspiration.
“Maybe!” I said, laughing.
I think I may now use “Oh! Fern!” whenever inspiration strikes.