'Tad' makes a big splash

It turned out to be a three-puddle morning. The 2-year-old in my care must have foreseen the possibilities. He handed me his rubber boots instead of his new white shoes. After a block in the stroller he clambered out and helped push, pointing in the directions to be taken.

I was surprised when he marched past the first few bodies of water left by recent showers. This is the grandson I'll call Tad for "tadpole," because sometimes he doesn't seem to have completed the transition to land animal.

The first thing he does at our house is push a chair to the kitchen sink so he can run water over, under, and into spoons, pans, colanders, and anything else within reach.

I have a snapshot of Tad's uncle as a toddler holding a streaming garden hose. I myself may be antediluvian, but I can recall the boyhood fun of launching matchsticks to swirl along the street after rain. Bliss it was to drop a stone through the grate of the corner drain and hear the plonk! out of sight far below.

An E.E. Cummings poem of the 1920s had already described a springtime world as "mud-luscious" and "puddle-wonderful." But who knew there would be a pediatric genre called "water play"?

Which brings me back to Puddle 1 the other morning. Tad found it, shaped like Lake Huron, beside a parked car on what was to have been our way back home.

How many things can you do with a puddle? Watch Tad.

Jump in with both feet. Stomp with one foot. Stride from end to end. Limp with one foot in puddle and one on curb. Make ripples with hands. Hit puddle with stick. Throw in pebbles and watch them splash. Squat and peer in like Narcissus. Repeat the above.

A half block closer to home was Puddle 2, a triangle of brown, depth unknown, at the end of a grassy island. Must have been a pothole. Tad went in to the top of his boots. Even he seemed amazed. Sloppy. Muddy. Yeah!

Flashback of Charlie Chaplin doing a classic lingering fall. Would tottering Tad finally sit down in it? No, only on the edge, muddying the back of his jeans, which were now wet to the knees.

Puddle 3 was an anticlimax, but Tad found it usable, even though small and clean.

"You have an attractive puddle," I shouted to the neighbor in whose driveway it was. He warned he was about to drive through it.

We got home without major flooding. Tad helped me pull off his boots. As if we were in a cartoon, water poured out.

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