Camels and Traplines

Niko has a highly unsettling habit of reading my mind. You may believe it or not, but I’m perfectly serious. It happens most often when I’m engrossed in a book, fully immersed. He’ll come up to me and say something or ask a question directly related to what I’m reading — maybe ask me to tell him the meaning of an unusual word I’ve just read. Other times, he’ll chime in mid-verse on the song that’s bouncing around my head. It’s inexplicable, but it’s happened too frequently to discount.

Example 1: A few months ago, I was reading a novel that referred to a tavern called the Three Pigs. Niko interrupted my absorption of a vivid description of the disreputable tavern to ask, “Why were the three pigs so dirty?” (Yes, the tavern was described as being a bit of a pigsty.)

Example 2: I’m reading Carl Hiaason’s book Trapline. It’s set in the Florida Keys, which threw me a bit because I was halfway expecting a northern setting, with that title (in the north, a trapline is the area a trapper sets his traps to catch furbearing mammals, on land). I had just gotten to the part where the main character’s trapline got cut, his shrimp traps destroyed and buoys stolen, when I had to stop to make dinner. Niko called to me in the midst of my reflection on the differences between traplines in British Columbia and in Florida: “Look, Mommy, a trapline!” He had stretched a tape measure across the entrance to the kitchen, grinning proudly.

Then there was the night not long ago when I asked Niko at bedtime what happy thing he was going to think about while he fell asleep (our magic no-nightmares trick). “Riding a camel,” he said promptly. “Could we ride a camel after we wake up?” I explained that we weren’t likely to find a camel nearby. “Then could we go to a place where there are camels?” I laughed and said, “Who knows, maybe someday we will.” But it didn’t seem likely.

Having kissed my strange little son goodnight, I went out to the kitchen and picked up my phone. There I found a text from Aaron, off on a business trip. The text read: “Want to go to Abu Dhabi?” He wasn’t completely joking. His company was looking for consultants who might be willing to travel there for three months.

Abu Dhabi. Known for palm trees, beautiful skyscrapers, white sand… and…CAMELS. They have a camel beauty contest there. And I’m willing to bet that Aaron was doing a quick bout of Google searching on Abu Dhabi right about the time Niko, who has never before expressed the faintest interest in camels, asked, “Can I ride a camel?”

Unsettling, that child is.

[Just to clarify: We have no actual current plans to travel to Abu Dhabi. Aaron’s company is at the “seeing who’s interested” stage, and my guess is they’ll send over some single analyst with no family ties so they don’t have to pay for housing for an entire family. But it’s fun to fantasize, right?]

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