Sunday, March 02, 2008

500-year-old babies

My two day absence from blogging seems to have lost me most of my readers. I just checked my stats and saw that yesterday I had a total of seven readers. Has everybody given up on me? I'm still here! I was only away from a computer for two days!

Yes, that's right. I was persuaded to stay for two whole days at my brother's place, mostly by the nephews, who are greatly enarmored of their Bad Aunt. However, I have to admit that the charm had worn off somewhat after the second day, as the Bad Aunt discovered that there is only so much of, "Bad Aaaauuuunnnntie!" she could stand, and the nephews discovered that not only did Bad Aunt like to read to them she did not want to stop, especially when the story in question was Asterix and the Black Gold. Bad Aunt had not read that story since she was about twelve, and was greatly looking forward to reading the second half of the book. By then, unfortunately, the nephews had had enough. They did not understand the puns, and could not understand why Bad Aunt wanted to keep them up so long past their bedtime even though they had asked for that particular book in the first place.

"Just one more page?" I kept pleading, but no, they were tired. They wanted to sleep.

I should have noticed how weird they were when I learned that they both like to eat the whites of eggs but not the yolks. They are not normal AT ALL. Wouldn't any normal kid stay up forever to hear the end of an Asterix book? And have to be forced to eat the whites of their eggs?

The birthday gift went down pretty well, however. I suspect the book will grow on the eight-year-old rather than be an instant TOTAL success, but as it was he was fascinated by certain aspects of it (mostly pictorial), and deeply concerned by others. There was one rather ghoulish picture that caused a drawn-out and worried conversation in the car today.

"Bad Aaaauntieee?" came the voice from the back belonging to the eight-year-old. "How do they KNOW the baby is five hundred years old?"

The idea of a 500-year-old baby is rather hard to grasp, I will admit, so I tried to explain.

"The baby died when it was a baby," I said. "But it was frozen in ice, and scientists are very clever. They know how old the ice is. The ice is 500 years old, so they know the baby died 500 years ago."

"But what if the baby died and was buried?" he said. "How would they know THEN? What if someone killed it and they buried it under a tree?"

"Usually dirt doesn't preserve bodies," I said. "Only ice. If it was dirt, there wouldn't be much left after five hundred years."

"What about mummies?" he said. "Mummies are THOUSANDS of years old - MILLIONS - and they're not in ice!"

"Well, thousands," I said, desperately, "But the ancient Egyptians used special chemicals, and wrapped up the bodies. And some kinds of peat works for that, I think. I expect scientists know how old the wrapping is, or the peat, and that's how they know when the person died." (How I wished for a decent scientific education during this conversation. Seamus Heaney's bog people poems did not prepare me QUITE enough.)

"What if they buried it under a wok?" chimed in the six-year-old.

"Why would they bury it under a wok?" I asked, somewhat puzzled but welcoming the interruption. "Um, do you mean Chinese babies?"

"No, not Chinese! New Zealand ones! Just like the cwabs!" he said, and added in an aside to his father, "We found some cwabs under woks today, Daddy!"

"Oh, those sorts of woks," I said. "And yes, we did, didn't we? They had one leg bigger than the others, didn't they."

I was hoping to change the topic, but it didn't work.

"But what if the baby died, and then someone buried it under YOUNGER peat, or YOUNGER ice?" said the eight-year-old, after some thought. His brow was furrowed so deeply I worried that he would develop frown lines at a way too tender age. Also, I realized (rather belatedly) that he was worried that the rather ghastly baby in his new book was not really 500 years old, and he didn't like not knowing who it was exactly.

"If it was buried and someone found it and could see it was a baby, then it was probably fairly recent," I said. "I don't think that happens very often."

"But what if it DID?" he persisted. "What if nobody found it? Nobody would notice!"

"Oh, somebody would notice if a baby went missing," I said, crossing my fingers. "The baby's parents would be very sad, and would tell everybody. Everybody would know who the baby was and how old it was. That baby in your book was an exception. It died a very long time ago, and I'm sure its parents were very sad. We just don't know the details because it was such a long time ago."

"Why didn't they write a letter?" he said. "We could read it, and know who the baby was."

In other words, it was a difficult conversation. The topic of time, it turns out, is rather a shaky one when it comes to eight-year-olds, especially one who is also having trouble with his times tables. I persevered, but ended up having to resort to some basic mathematical facts we'd been practicing earlier.

"What's eight times seven?" I asked, and the conversation ground to a halt.

So yes, I have had a lovely two days, but before I see the nephews again I will be Googling 500-year-old Innuit babies, just in case.

5 comments:

Carrie said...

My stats have really taken a hit since the popularity of feed readers has taken off. I never click on any blogs anymore unless I click over to comment, since the posts just show up in my reader. But I read every post and look forward to them! Even though I think my head would have exploded if I had to explain all that. I think I better start watching the Discovery channel in preparation for having an 8 year old of my own.

kenju said...

I don't click on unless Bloglines tells me you have a new post.

About the children: I think I might have said (after the 15th question) "Because I said so!"

shammi said...

Hmm... I cantell you that i've been systematically - and happily - going through your old posts. I'm up in the middle of July 2005 now. I mostly read it at work when I need a break... as a bribe to myself ("Finish this report and you can read Badaunt for 5 minutes"). Of course the 5 minutes stretches to 10, and mostly i nearly give myself a hernia from trying not to laugh out loud. I'm having such FUN with your blog, Badaunt!

Anonymous said...

And the good thing about the 'Website' widget is that it doesn't glow red until the page is changed:-)

How do they know? Does carbon dating do dates as recent as 500 years? (hey now there's a thought, BadAunt explaining the decay rates of radio isotopes to the nephews - they were getting off lightly as it was:-)

Pkchukiss said...

I've been extremely busy the past 3 weeks, clocking 8am to 10pm hours in school on a project, so I spend my Sundays snuggled up in bed to catch up on my sleep. The good news is the project is finished, so I'll be trying to catch up on the 3000+ odd new posts on my Google Reader, and that's because I want to make an effort to savour every single written word. *Slurp!*