Four-year-old Allison Jackson dashed down the hallway of the Jackson home and into the family room where Jennifer sat reading, her legs curled up underneath her on the old sectional couch and a cup of tea half finished on the end table beside her. Jennifer barely had time to move her book out of the way before Allison launched herself from the middle of the room onto her auntie’s lap.
“I didn’t even know you were still here!” Allison threw her arms around Jennifer and gave her a long hug. “Did you sleep over?” she wanted to know.
“I did sweetie,” said Jennifer. “I slept in my old bed upstairs.”
Allison thought for a second. “Why?” she asked.
“So I could see you in the morning!” said Jennifer returning the little girl’s hug. “And so I could go out and look after the cattle with your daddy later.”
“Oh, OK,” said Allison, satisfied. “But first we have to play,” she added.
“Of course,” said Jennifer. “First we play and then we work, because that’s how it is when you’re four.”
“Yup,” said Allison. “First I play and then everybody else works. I don’t work. I’m too little to have a job.”
“But don’t you do chores sometimes?” asked Jennifer. “Like putting away toys and helping Mommy set the table for dinner and stuff?”
Allison shook her head. “Nope,” she said. “Mommy tells me to but I never do.” She giggled. “Oh you’re just being silly,” said Jennifer. “Your
mommy would never let you get away with that. I know your mommy.”
“I was kidding,” said Allison, still giggling.
“I knew that,” said Jennifer. “Because of course you do your chores when Mommy asks you to because you’re that kind of little girl.”
“Yeah, I do” said Allison. “But sometimes I make a huge fuss.”
“How does that work out?” asked Jennifer. “I bet you get in trouble for that and then you have to still do the chores anyway.”
Allison nodded. “Yeah,” she said. “But I can’t help it, because sometimes doing chores makes me really upset.”
“Me too,” said Jennifer.
“Once I made a fuss when Mommy made me toast,” said Allison. “When I was little.”
“Really?” said Jennifer. “Why?”
“Because I was starving,” said Allison. “And Mommy asked me if I wanted some toast and I said yeah and then when she put it in the toaster I cried really hard and said ‘NO Mommy! Don’t put it in the toaster! It takes too long!’”
“You remember doing that?” said Jennifer.
Allison nodded. “I was only three,” she said. “I didn’t know you had to put toast in the toaster. I never noticed before.”
“I guess you had never been quite so starving before,” said Jennifer. “Aren’t you hungry now?” she added. “You haven’t had breakfast.”
“I want pancakes!” Allison dove off of her auntie’s lap and dashed headlong back down the hallway. “With maple syrup! And chocolate milk!”
Jennifer followed more slowly, and by the time she got to the kitchen the little girl had a skillet out of the drawer and was looking for a mixing bowl.
“Slow down sweetheart,” said Jennifer. “Pancakes don’t take long.”
“I can make pancakes in 50 kilometres an hour,” said Allison. “Or faster.”
“Tell you what,” said Jennifer. “How about I make pancakes at a normal speed while you have a glass of chocolate milk at about two kilometres an hour. That way the pancakes will be ready when you finish your chocolate milk.”
“OK,” said Allison agreeably, climbing onto a chair at the table. “I love chocolate milk soooo much!”
“It’s good stuff,” said Jennifer. “My mom never let us have chocolate milk for breakfast.”
“I guess my mom is better than your mom,” said Allison.
“My mom is your grandma,” said Jennifer. “She’s pretty good.”
“Oh yeah,” said Allison. “I forgot.” She picked up the glass Jennifer had just set down in front of her. “Where is my mommy?” she asked, as an afterthought.
“She’s at work,” said Jennifer. “That’s the other reason I’m here. To babysit you and Andy.”
“Andy sleeps till forever,” said Allison. “Unless he wakes up.”
“Should I make him some pancakes?” asked Jennifer. “In case he wakes up?”
“I wouldn’t,” said Allison.
“Well, I will,” said Jennifer, “because I’m the babysitter.”
“You’re the best babysitter I’ve had today,” said Allison. “I love you.”
“I love you too, kiddo,” said Jennifer.
“I know,” said Allison. “Everybody loves me.”
Jennifer reached out and tousled the little girl’s hair. “Indeed,” she said. “How could we not?”