March 27, 2004

The Animals' Colors

Eric and I were busy cleaning his office yesterday. Johann watched TV and played with his animals. Johann sometimes gets into things when left to his own devices, being so smart and curious. On a break we came out to check on him and found him happily dunking his animals into Eric’s coffee. Eric was already having a rough day, so he, naturally, was not amused. I reminded him that he had left his coffee there unattended. If he didn’t want it to be touched, he shouldn’t have left it there. When asked what he was doing, Johann answered matter-of-factly, “All the animals wanted to be a different color. They all wanted to be brown.” I stopped thinking about the mess. It wasn’t that bad. I thought about what Johann was doing and the light bulb went on.

Eric looked at me quizzically. Usually he gets it right away, but on bad days we both sometimes miss it. I told Eric when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. We’ve been tie dying T-shirts with Johann. We talked about synthetic and natural dyes. We told him that some people even dye fabric with tea or coffee to get various shades of brown. Eric’s been reading a book on the history of color (Color: A Natural History Of The Palette). Eric shared some excerpts with Johann about how a few paint colors are made and what countries they originated from. At the time, Johann wasn’t fully understanding until I said it was just like Chameleon’s Colors. He perked right up. He understood that. That’s one of his favorite picture books. Chameleon makes natural dyes and paints all the animals who don’t like the way they look anymore. Then the animals realize they can’t blend into their surroundings or recognize their dinner for all the bright colors and patterns and want to be themselves again. So Johann was acting out the book with his animals and being the resourceful boy he is, he used the brown dye that was most readily available to him, Eric’s coffee.

Coffee was dripping all over the table from the animals who’d already had their coffee bath. I started wiping down the table and the animals with a damp paper towel, while we convinced Johann not to dunk anymore animals. I gave Eric his coffee to hold. We played along and finished the story to its logical conclusion: now Johann’s animals were being cleaned just like the book animals were cleaned in the rain, the colors were washed away and they all were happy to be their old selves again.

Eric cracked a smile and said he was glad I was enjoying myself, when he saw how I couldn’t contain my laughter. Johann has such a wonderful imagination. When I picked up tortoise, I noticed just his hind end had been dipped. Eric had a wry smile on his face as I doubled over. Once I could speak again, I asked Eric as he took a huge gulp of coffee, “So does this mean tortoise had a coffee enema?” Eric was frantically looking for someplace to put down his coffee, so that he could rush to the bathroom to spit out the coffee before it came out of his nose. Somehow he managed to swallow it. Then another thought occurred to me. “So, Eric. Does it taste like Kopi Luwak now? Does the coffee have a richer flavor?” (For those of you who aren’t familiar with this Indonesian coffee, Eric wrote about it October 12, 2003 and October 13, 2003 on Eclectic Echoes. The civet eats the ripest coffee berries in the canopy, which are digested. The indigestible seeds or coffee beans pass through the animal’s digestive tract. Local people harvest the coffee beans from the ground, wash it, A LOT, and voila! Kopi Luwak, a coffee like no other!) After that crack, Eric retaliated with tickling, but Johann came to my rescue. Mission accomplished: we protected Johann’s imagination and ingenuity from being crushed, while we got him to stop making a mess with the coffee, and my jokes cheered Eric up.

Posted by Tammy at March 27, 2004 06:46 PM | TrackBack
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Re: The Animals’ Colors

What a choice story!!! I love the patient thought and perception into what it was that Johann was doing. And, I love the gentleness with which you handled the situation. My heart is warmed and joyfully smiling. Thanks!!!

Posted by: Dad H. on March 28, 2004 09:19 AM | Reply to this