Since [S]’s birth, I have watched both with fascination and gratitude as family and close friends have bestowed on her their time, attention, and affection. As a result she’s received plenty of playtime, warm hugs, and an abundance of cuddles. She’s also been the recipient of thoughtful and generous gifts, including classic children’s books (think Dr. Suess’ The Lorax and A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh) and an educational activity table that teaches the alphabet, numbers, directions, music, and animals.
This week, a friend of ours gifted [S] a kitchen play set, consisting of a sink and an oven. Unlike many–if not most–of the play kitchen sets, this one wasn’t made of bulky plastic. And it wasn’t pink. This kitchen set was made entirely from recycled and/or recyclable materials. Various-sized cardboard boxes were used as foundation; black plastic bags were used to cover stove burners and dials; Gatorade bottle caps were repurposed as knobs; and, white paper was used as a finish. The kitchen set was personalized with a “[S]’s Kitchen” embellishment on the oven and came with its own muffin tin (a rusting no-longer used tin, painted a kid-friendly red).
The woman who created these gifts did so without my knowledge or input. Indeed, one day, when everyone was recuperating quietly at home, she texted a photo of the set and asked if it would be okay to stop by. I was rendered speechless. Literally. I was deeply touched by her thoughtfulness and amazed by her ingenuity and creativity. “I left it white so [S] can paint it whatever color she wants,” she explained. “When you leave Okinawa, you can just take it apart and recycle the pieces,” she continued. “I thought you might want it for her to play with because everyone’s been sick,” she finished.
[S] has played with the set every day since she received it. The first day, she bent down and peered at the closed oven door. “Where’s the light, Momma?,” she asked. Then, she was baking cookies. The next day, as I started washing dishes, she moved the kitchen set across from our kitchen. “Look Momma, I’m washing dishes,” she delighted. This evening, after a long day of work, I prepared [S] a peanut butter and jam sandwich for dinner. After eating, she went straight to her refrigerator (the cabinet under the sink). “Here Momma,” she said handing me an imaginary item. “It’s a sandwich.”
I am equally entertained and intrigued witnessing [S] at play in her new kitchen. Using a burp cloth as a dish towel, [S] casually threw it over her shoulder when she was finished, imitating me. “I do that,” I said, laughing aloud. My inner voice cautioned me, remember this. As caregivers are aware, my affectations, habits, and mannerisms are being passed down to a new generation, just as are my attitude, outlook, and actions.
To that end, I am proud that [S] is grateful for–and delighted by–her new environmentally-neutral kitchen set, for I am as well.