Wonder 12



“Tia Berry!” Charlie said this morning. “Guess what today is?”

“Chips-for-breakfast day?”

“No, silly! Kickball day! And if I get there first at recess, I get to be the captain!”

Charlie ran off to school full of excitement.

The day passed quickly. Beryl painted. I cleaned house and watched a boring movie on TV. It felt good to sit for a few hours and let my mind go numb from bad acting.

We were standing out in the yard chatting by Beryl’s easel when Charlie came home in the afternoon.

He stood out front for a moment.


I wondered if he was taking in the view. Sometimes the clouds over the mountains steal our breath. Berry spends hours telling us stories about the captains and crews of the tall ships sees in those clouds.


“How was kickball?” I asked Charlie at supper.

“Good,” he said.

“Not great?”

“It was OK. I was captain, and we won. No big deal.”

After supper, when he was drawing, I came over to listen to him. When we were kids, Berry used to talk so much when she was drawing. That’s when she’d really open up with me if something was bothering her. I thought maybe Charlie might be the same.

“Why do there have to be losers?” he asked.

“What do you mean, Charlie?”

“When our team won, the other team lost, and they were sad. Pierce said they were losers, and Martin started to cry. I don’t want to be a winner if it means it’s gonna make the other guy sad.”

Huh. I didn’t know what to say. Did I think about ethical dilemmas when I was a little kid? I guess I did. I never thought about how my winning made someone else feel badly, though. I always wanted to do my best, and if that meant I won, so be it.

“I’m not sure I know the answer to that one, Charlie,” I said at last. “Some questions don’t have easy answers. But that’s cool. That means you get to think about it. So, you can keep on thinking about this one, and maybe you can talk about it with me, your pai, and Berry, and you can fill us in on what you discover. This can be one of those lifelong questions you explore.”

“Do you think the robber goes faster if his car has more glitter or less?” he asked me, turning back to his drawing.


Berry brought out a surprise she’d gotten him: his own fiddle. She showed him how to hold it, how to use his left hand to play notes and his right to hold the bow, and, to our surprise, within half an hour, he was actually sounding decent.


After forty-five minutes, we could recognize the tune he was playing, the team song for his dad’s old soccer team.


I expected he’d grow bored, or his fingers would hurt, or his bow arm would get tired, but he stayed out in the garden playing for hours.

“Should I let him keep playing?” I asked Berry.

She laughed. “You’re the one who insisted that he be allowed to play computer games to his heart’s content, and now you’re wondering if you should restrict his time on his violin? What happened to ‘every obsession is a chance for mastery’?”

I had to laugh. I guess, for me, playing computer games for hours on end seems like fun, so why curtail fun? But playing a violin for hours seems like such hard work! To Beryl, it must be the other way around–the computer’s boring, but the violin is heaven.

Charlie loves both.


He came in for a snack eventually.

“You like the violin, then?” I asked him.

“It’s all right,” he said. “I like Berry’s scrambled eggs better.”


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Wonder 8



I can spend all day watching Charlie. When I was a kid, I remember my mom sitting near where Berry and I were playing, doing nothing but looking our way with a smile on her face. I caught myself doing that the other day, and I understood. My mom didn’t spend the years of my childhood doing nothing: she spent those years being a mom.

“What are you drawing?” I asked Charlie the other evening.

“Those pointy things,” he said.

“You mean roofs?”

“No, like roofs but more… more anywhere. Like the blue line comes down like this, and the other blue line down like that, and it makes that pointy thing.”

“A triangle?”

“Right! This whole drawing is all about those. Triangles.”


The program wants us to have Charlie tested to establish a baseline against which they can measure future physical, social, creative, and mental development. The administrators say it’s a requirement for all participants to undergo evaluation at regular intervals. So far, my requests for special dispensation have been accepted. I just don’t want Charlie to be tested.

Berry and I are letting him develop in his own way. We know that he probably won’t develop intellectually, creatively, physically, and emotionally in the exactly the same way that we did: he’s his own person, with his own personality, his own style, his own approach, and rather than comparing him to us, we want to enjoy and support his own unique blueprint for success.

I’m not sure he’s all that smart, truth be told, but he is curious, friendly, and enthusiastic–and that goes a long ways.


Chess doesn’t interest him that much as a mental pursuit, but as an activity that lets him meet interesting people, he’ll give it a try.


What has captured his interest is an arithmetic game I downloaded for him.


He’s been playing it with only breaks for meal-times since I downloaded it.


I overheard Berry and him talking about game and mathematical problem-solving strategies.

“Tia Berry,” he said, “how can I get quicker? By the time I figure it out, the bar has dropped and the red lights eat the numbers.”

“Feel the numbers,” Berry said. “Close your eyes, and feel them. Is it plus? Then feel it more. Is it minus? Feel it less.”


“Help! It doesn’t make any sense!” he said. “How’m I supposed to know what five times seven feels like?”


I had to laugh.

“You’ll find your own way of solving problems,” I told him when I kissed him good night before heading to bed. I could hear him talking to the computer screen while I fell asleep.

“Seven fives! Seven fives! That’s thirty-five! That’s the same as five sevens, you dunder-nose Freezer Bunny red-flashy light! Take that!”

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