We just got back from the Inyo Forests nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains. This time, the mountains were explored by the children with a friend who was just the right companion for both of them. He is aged smack in between the daughter’s age and the toddler’s age, and is an amiable, interesting fellow, thereby providing ample company to both of them. The toddler son thought him a hero and the daughter found in him another quirky little brother. He was obviously pleased with this state of things, and settled down to the hero-slash-honorary-little-brother role with aplomb.
It was quiet, and the darkness in the mountains was unreal. We could see Venus glowing brightly like a torch up in the sky. Inside the car, it was toasty and warm, and the game of Twenty Questions was thriving: it is a sophisticated game in which you think of an animal and everyone can ask questions to guess the animal you thought of. Animals were chosen and guessed at with hilarity.
“Amma! This little bobbicles knows nothing about his animal and expects us to guess it. How can you not know whether it is a carnivore or not?” The toddler said something like, maybe it likes to eat meat, but maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know. He then laughed raucously at his sister’s disbelief. He seemed to think that these trivial things should not stop a zoo-linguist-to-be from guessing the animal. (That reminds me that I have to get down to writing a blog on how the toddler plays games.)
His friend-slash-hero agreed and took the car for a spin with mythical creatures from shows we had never seen. As the going got tough, the rules got tougher – “Hey! Mythical creatures only restricted to Greek mythology or Harry Potter or till level 10 of Pokemon Go!”. The hero-slash-lil-bro was something of a Pokemon expert and went on about zilletoes and monekchoes or things that sounded like them, with glee.
“How about Hanuman?” asked the toddler in a matter-of-fact tone.
Before Spiderman and Batman were added to the mix, the husband and I swooped in with some impressive peacekeeping efforts that folks in the United Nations could learn from.
After several minutes of quiet, the conversation started up again with the daughter asking a question: If you could bring one animal back from extinction, which one would it be and why?
As the conversation gathered fervor, the surrounding Inyo Forests resounded with the spirits of animals long gone. Sabre tooth tigers romped along side mammoths, T-rexes chased Brontosauruses. A short pause later, dragons and phoenixes joined them too. If the conversation were being animated real-time, I’d have liked to see the reactions of the various spirits as they made their mystical apparitions from the dead.
“You do know that phoenixes and dragons are mythical creatures right? They aren’t exactly extinct because we don’t know whether they really existed, “, said the daughter laughing to split.
“Okay – then Pidgeot”
“No! pidgies and pidgeottos! Before you ask, chargats don’t count either. Pokemon Go is not the real world you know?”
I could hear the gears spinning in the boys’ brains. This was one tough game, they thought.
After an intense argument that examined the merit of mythical creatures in the extinct category, and the virtual creatures in the ethereal category, the conversation slowed down again and landed softly near the dawdling dodo birds. We waddled by them, and the daughter explained that she felt the dodo birds deserved to be back because those poor creatures were extinct purely because of man’s greed. The children smiled as though her goodwill towards the dodo could truly summon it back from the extinct category.
“Anyway, which animal would you bring back?”, asked the daughter.
“I want to bring back the Titanis bird.” said the hero-slash-hon-b.
We exchanged glances. It was difficult to figure out whether there really was a bird called Titanis which was extinct, or one that appeared in the fellow’s video games.
“Really, there is a bird called Titanis. They are so beautiful. I want to bring them back. “ He sounded so sincere that the daughter’s heart melted. It often happens this way. The daughter is a softie underneath the bossy exterior and coo-ed.
“Oh! That is so sweet. Why do you want them back?”
“So, I can take a gun and shoot them! “, said the h-s-h-b.
I wonder whether you have played ping-pong. Just when you think the ball went, back it comes to you again. Right at your face. It was a bit like that. Just when you got the sweet daughter version, an outraged cry left her lips. The sweet dodo apparitions were gone. The dragons poof-ed themselves out, and titanis was gone too.
“Oh! How could you? “ she cried, the animal activist in her flaring up.
“Why? They have beautiful feathers. “
“Exactly! So admire the birds with their feathers!”
“But if we shoot them, we can collect their feathers.”
“Why bring them back if you want to shoot them?”
“How else will we get those beautiful feathers?”
The three of them played in our car till the toddler son fell asleep in the gathering darkness as we drove up to our destination.
I am not sure whether the dodo or the titanis will want to come back if it means holding a conversation with the specimens in our car. Maybe we should give them a choice, what do you think?