My sister Julesie is a first-class photographer. Though her ability shines through with any format and any subject, my favorite pictures are the ones she’s taken of children (and not just mine!). I think it’s safe to say that my kids and the kids of her friends (to whom she is an honorary aunt!) are some of her favorite subjects.
Years ago, there was a period during which she did children’s portraits as an actual business. One day, she had to drop off some proofs at the home of someone I knew through the health club (I worked in the nursery at the time), and the boys (who were about 3 and 6, I think, and knew her and her daughter as well) and I accompanied her on the visit.
This woman lived in what we in this area call a McMansion. It was gorgeous, outside and inside; whoever designed the interior–whether it was this woman or a professional–did a magazine-worthy job. Living in a very modest home in comparison (not to mention one that always looked well-lived-in and never had sparkly surfaces like hers), I felt slightly overwhelmed being there, and kept my kids close by because I was worried they would touch something that they weren’t supposed to. Little did I know that the boys’ hands wouldn’t be the problem; the problem would turn out to be a mouth.
We all sat at the kitchen table as Julesie showed the woman the proofs from her daughter’s photo session. As Julesie and I chatted with the woman, the older boy got up and wandered around the kitchen. After a few minutes, he walked up to the woman and said to her,
“Wow! Your house is clean AND ancient!*”
I wanted to shrink into the floor. I imagined that she was wondering just how dirty our house was, because this adorable little boy was apparently extremely excited over the cleanliness of her home.
I laughed nervously (and tried to send a mental message to my son to tell him to keep his mouth shut) and we all kept talking.
After getting up from the kitchen table, she gave us a tour of the house (her offer, not our request!). When we returned to the kitchen–which was apparently some sort of truth-telling chamber–the older boy walked up to her and said, “I know why your house is so big!”
“You do?” she asked, smiling as she gave him her full attention.
“Yes! It’s because YOU’RE RICH!”
She kept the smile on her face (wouldn’t YOU, if you were rich and had a clean, ancient, and big house?) and laughed a little bit, and then got back on topic with Julesie and I. We were figuring at that point it was time to get out before he asked her if she was in the market for adopting an adorably observant and honest six-year-old, so we said our goodbyes and headed to the car.
The happy ending to this story? I think I might’ve pulled out the dust cloths and vacuum when we got home.
*Let me explain the ancient part. The older boy has a history of using words in ways that are just off kilter from their actual meaning. The big joke in our house is on Jim, because I have always understood this kid perfectly and Jim is always left with his mouth hanging open and a big question mark on his forehead. What the kid meant by “ancient” that day was “impeccably decorated”. But you wouldn’t expect a six-year-old to say THAT, would you?