A Matter of Life and Death
From the archives. I took a group of tots to the Museum of Nature. The focus of today's story is wee Suzie, who was three at the time. Suzie was fascinated by the stuffed animals in their glass dioramas. "Is that a real fox, Mary?" "Well, once it was, but it died. Someone gave it to the museum, and they fixed it up so that we can see what a fox looks like." Which is as detailed an explanation of taxidermy as needed for a three-year-old. The idea took hold, and we repeated this exchange for the next twenty minutes for each of the many stuffed animals, birds, and reptiles we encountered. After that, she seems to have grasped the concept. Now, instead of asking, she observes. "That's a dead bird, isn't it, Mary?" "Those snakes are dead." "Look, Johnny, there's a dead rabbit!" She wasn't the least distressed by this, but one of the more sensitive little guys is beginning to look a bit green. Let's divert her focus, shall we? "Oh, look, everyone! See these ducks? They look kind of like the ones we see in the river by Mary's house, don't they?" The children look and agree that yes, they do. I expand their edification. "Only these ones don't have green heads, do they? What colour are they?" They discuss this a bit, and I'm pleased to have shifted our conversation. "What colour is that duck's head, Suzie?" Suzie chirps: "Brown, and it's dead!"