Spilled Milk

I am reading The Ticking is the Bomb by Nick Flynn, a memoir about the months leading up to the birth of his first daughter, but also about torture, specifically Abu Ghraib.

It’s Fourth of July today, and Marta and Nico are gone. They left for Spain two days ago and last night I woke up twice in a panic because I couldn’t find Nico. Both times I thought I had lost her somewhere. When I finally became fully awake, I realized I was just alone. I asked for this time. The idea is that I will use the next month to write.

But I’m writing to you all now because there is a quote in Nick Flynn’s book that reminded me of something that happened the other day with Nico. In a section called “The Broken Bowl,” he writes:

In The Child’s Conception of Time, Piaget claims that at some point in his or her development a child cannot tell which comes first–the photograph of a cup on a table, or the photograph of the same cup broken on the floor. Until the age of four it is just as likely the broken cup comes before the whole cup, that the floor is just another table, that milk can be poured into the broken cup, that the broken cup can be put back on the table and it will be whole again. I tell myself to try to remember this, for the day my as-yet-unborn daughter pours her milk into her broken bowl.

So what happened was this: the other day, before Nico and Marta left, I suggested that we make muffins. We’d found a muffin tin at a garage sale, and I thought Nico was old enough to get into baking. She was super excited. I got out two bowls and put them on the kitchen floor. We put all the dried ingredients in one. I cracked the egg and poured milk, which Nico dumped in to the other bowl. I then got up quickly to put the dirty measuring cup out of reach, and when I turned back I saw Nico overturning the mixing bowl of liquid ingredients.

“Nooooooo!” I shouted, as if to turn back time. She didn’t get upset or laugh. She just looked at me impassively, as if waiting for me to understand that she, too, was following the steps of a recipe. I was mad for just a flash of a moment.

But after I’d cleaned it all up and after I’d filled another bowl with milk and butter and eggs and put that one out of her reach, I felt kind of amazed realizing that Nico had overturned a bowl full of milk simply because she had no idea she shouldn’t. To her milk and egg on the floor is just as good (maybe even better) as it is in a bowl. It’s bewildering but also thrilling, really, to live with someone who sees life like that. Even if it won’t last forever (or maybe thankfully it won’t last forever)

And here she is, in the airport before leaving. My Oblivious Little Milk Spiller.


4 thoughts on “Spilled Milk

  1. Very funny story. During your time alone, btw, I’m here for you. But my friends and I have a rule: No calling before 10:00 a.m. to discuss writer’s-block problems you’re having. Good luck!


    • Thanks, Bob. Also good advice. In my time alone I’ve basically decided I don’t talk to anyone before noon (that includes Finn)


  2. Just wait till she uses the potty! Linnea joined her Tia mid-shower and pooped right there in the tub!
    She sits on the little potty a lot and never a drop or plop. It’s like Nico sees you prepping dinner in a bowl and later you pour the contents out for eating then the same bowl gets washed. I think your daughter was trying to be like you in the kitchen.


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