Another conversation that has been repeated ad infinitum recently is the following. It started when Annika said she wished she could have a pet dinosaur. I told her it would be nice, but it’s not really possible because the dinosaurs are extinct, which means they all died a long, long time ago.
Annika: Tell me the dinosaur story.
Me: OK, the dinosaurs lived millions and millions of years ago. There were brontosauruses, and stegasauruses, and triceratops and tyrannasaurus rexes and pterodactyls…
Annika: …and red ones, and green ones, and yellow ones…
Me: Yep, all different colors.
Annika: And they had long necks.
Annika: And there were little girls…
Me: No, there were no little girls when the dinosaurs lived.
Annika: Well, they wish they had little girls.
Me: Yes, I bet they did. Anyhow, the dinosaurs were all living on the earth, and one day a big, giant rock came from space and crashed into the earth. And it started fires, and made big storms.
Annika: What color were the storms?
Me: I don’t know.
Annika: I think they were white (mixing in the Rudolf story here, I think).
Me: Maybe. In any case, all of the things that the dinosaurs ate – the trees, grass, flowers…they all died. And then the dinosaurs didn’t have anything to eat, and they died too. And now all we have left are their bones.
Annika: Oh. Tell me again, mommy.
Well, the other day, at the end of the story when I said the dinosaurs all died, she paused, thought about it and said “Yeah. They died in Duluth”.
Oh my word. I have wondered all along, and still do, how Annika has processed all the events of the last year plus. We have not hid anything from her, explaining everything as simply as possible, and letting her take the lead with questions.
She talks about her brother and sister, and her grandma (and grandpa), generally following up a statement with a serious “But they died”. But I don’t know what she understands about the meaning of “died”. It appears, though, that she thinks that dying is something that happens in Duluth. Or that people go to Duluth to die. Or who knows. I mean, for a long time, she has known that her Grandpa died, and has recognized his “stone”. Then, she was there when her Grandma died. Then Cole died and we took him to Duluth. Then Lina.
It was just a bit of a shock to realize that at least on some level, her 3-year-old mind associates Duluth with death.