I am with our twin granddaughters, who recently turned three, and their one-year-old sister in the attic of the old house where they live. The attic has small windows with thick wavy glass on either side of where a chimney used to be. The gabled ceiling cocoons the wide open space, creating an idyllic place for play.
One of the twins announces she has to use the potty, which is down the stairs and at the end of the hall on the second floor.
She pauses at the top of the stairs, tosses back her head of curls, and sweetly says, “Don’t anybody touch my stuff.”
She could have said, “Be right back,” or “Will someone go with me?” but instead she fires a shot across the bow. Granted, it was a pink, fluffy shot covered in feathers, but it was a shot nonetheless.
She pauses halfway down the steps and sweetly calls out again, “Don’t anybody touch my stuff!”
We hear the creak of the door at the bottom of the stairs.
“Don’t anybody touch my stuff!” she sings.
“Nobody is touching your stuff!” her mother calls back. “We don’t even know what stuff is your stuff!”
Her stuff could be the small naked doll with the cloth body, the Elmo slippers or the purse in the shape of an alligator. It could be the plastic cozy coupe that has already been sideswiped twice this morning and rolled once. Whatever her stuff is, we know this much: We are not to touch it.
She leaves the door to the attic open. Footsteps pad down the hall. The toilet lid goes up. “Don’t anybody touch my stuff!” she shouts.
This is a child who usually insists on privacy, but today she is deeply concerned about her stuff.
The toilet flushes.
“Nobody touch my stuff!”
“Nobody is touching your stuff,” I yell back. “Your stuff is plastic and Grandma only likes plastic in the shape of small cards with magnetic stripes on the back.”
In the child’s defense, her younger sister is occasionally dubbed “Swiper” for grabbing whatever is of interest to the older girls. When you live with someone nicknamed Swiper, perhaps you are never truly at rest.
She clamors up the stairs still sing-songing, “Don’t anybody touch my stuff!”
It turns out, the stuff she is concerned about is a doll stroller and a pair of pink plastic high heels. This is the equivalent of a convertible to a man in midlife crisis and a pair of Jimmy Choo’s for a 20-something female.
We are all a touch possessive about our stuff. We can even be annoying about our stuff. But at least as adults, we’re too sophisticated to go around saying, “Don’t anybody touch my stuff!”
The one concerned about others touching her stuff seats herself at the little table and begins coloring with her twin, who has been quietly taking it all in. Swiper is in another corner of the attic, momentarily entertaining herself.
In a sweet voice barely above a whisper, the twin who has been at the table coloring all along looks at her sister and says, “The next time you leave, I’m gonna touch your stuff.”