The Evolution of Literacy in Raccoons

February 16th, 2023

My daughter, who is on a major reading trajectory and suddenly interested in what everything says and means, spies the gearshift in my Subaru and asks me, “What do those letters stand for?”


I use my pointer finger to explain: “Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, and…”


“Menopause? Haha just kidding. I can’t remember what the M stands for at the moment.”

Earnestly, she offers, “I think it stands for Maybe not drive.

Yes, dear Eliza, that’s one of my car’s options. In all other ways, it’s decisive, but for people like me, there is also the option of “maybe not drive” in case I just haven’t made my mind up yet. Entirely plausible from a personality perspective, if not mechanical.

Although… she may have a point, since I did pay off my car yesterday, which means it’s about to break.

I love this learning-to-read-by-trial-and-error phase. At dinner they were quizzing me on what certain swear words really mean. They don’t actually know the words, but Eliza did blurt out the F word mid-convo, which unfortunately made me laugh. Then she said “But it’s not as bad as the D-word.” 

I asked, “What’s the D word?” assuming, of course, that she meant dammit. She leaned over and dramatically spat into my ear:


At bedtime, to quell the rambunctious behavior, I attempt to split them up. I lock myself in the bathroom with one while she takes a bath, instructing the other to please pick out her clothes for the next day. 

Moments later, a piece of orange construction paper slides under the door with a sharp knock.


The pen soon follows. I stifle a laugh and promptly write back:

“You can use the bathroom downstairs.”

A few minutes later I am cordially invited to join her in the bathroom downstairs.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Separating them at bedtime is usually a battle against reality. If the door gets breached at all, whoever is locked on the other side immediately flings into the room, drawn to her sister’s energy by nuclear fusion. If you haven’t spent a bedtime with high-spirited identical twins, try to imagine two raccoons on meth trapped inside a house. Imagine their lack of inhibitions when  it comes to things like rifling through trash, eating unsanctioned snacks messily on the rug, climbing the walls, and scratching their foes (each other) with their talons. 

Are you holding this in your mind’s eye?

This is how every bedtime eventually evolves, but sometimes, on a very good day, it is followed by this:


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