P is for Protester (And Prada.)


“What did you do on your first day back?” we ask LittleMan over dinner.
“Mostly we learned about ducks,” he replies between bites of salmon.
“Ducks?  What about them?”
“Ducks starts with D.”

Suddenly I remember.  The Letter Project.  Dammit.  (Dammit starts with D!)

The Letter Envelope is due every Wednesday morning, every week for about 20 weeks.  Each week, the Letter Envelope must contain 4-5 images culled from magazines, newspapers, etc. which represent words that start with a letter of the alphabet.

(Why only 20 weeks? you alphabet aficionados might be asking.  Are there not 26 letters in the alphabet?  Why yes!  Yes, there are.  But you try finding 4-5 images of “Q” words after 18-odd weeks of the Letter Project, and you will understand that some letters must share weeks with other, easier letters, or the parents will revolt.)

This is our second year of Pre-K and I have been to the Letter Project Rodeo before.  In fact, the Letter Project has utterly transformed the way I consume media.  (“Oh, Jennifer Lawrence is on the cover of People.  Wait!  Jennifer!  Jennifer starts with J!  I wonder if LittleMan knows who Jennifer Lawrence is.  Hmmm.”)

The letter introducing the Letter Project is very explicit: “This is a project to be done WITH your child, not FOR your child.”  In other words, woe to the parent whose child cannot identify the images in the Letter Envelope.  You can spend months cutting up every Vogue and Vanity Fair to the moon and back, but if your child shows up at school with pictures that are over his/her head or comprehension level (Dior?  Dior starts with D…), your cover is blown.  This is why I quiz LittleMan about his Letter Envelope every Monday night.

“How ’bout this one, LittleMan?” I say, pulling out a picture I cut from Cooking Light back in November.
“Um…pots and pans!” he says.
“Oooooh, so close,” I say.  “But what else do you see?”
“Ah….kitchen!” he says.
“I can see where you got that,” I say.  “It is a picture of a kitchen.  But this is D week.  What do you see that starts with D?” I am determined that the picture in my hand will go in the Letter Envelope.  We only have two so far.  It’s going to be a long evening.

LittleMan stares at the picture, then his eyes light up and he bounces off the couch.  “DRAWER!” he shouts.  “Yeah!” I say.  “Into the envelope!”  Two more to go.

At bath time we brainstorm.  “Dolphin!  Dinosaur!  Dog!  Door!”

“We should check out that Time: Year in Pictures issue,” suggests my husband.
“I did,” I reply.  (In fact, the very first thing I thought when I saw the cover of the Time: Year in Pictures issue in the mailbox was Shark!  Shark starts with S!)
“And there was nothing about dinosaurs or dogs in there?” presses my husband.
“No,” I say.  “Sadly, it’s mostly pictures of war and destruction.”  (Destruction!  Destruction is a D word!)  “And science,” I add after a minute.  “Good shark picture on the cover, for S Week.”
“A shark chasing a seal,” comments my husband, nodding his head.  “Twofer.”
“Score,” I reply.

Quietly splashing in the bath, LittleMan interjects.  “What about ‘death’?”
DEATH?” I say, my brain gruesomely flitting to an image in Time: Year in Pictures.  “No.  You cannot put ‘death’ in the Letter Envelope.”
“Death…Star?” LittleMan asks hopefully.
“Death Star!  Good one.”
“You’ll need to get a picture off the internet.  You’ll need to print it at work.”  LittleMan is all business.  (He knows about GoogleImages from last year and Qui-Gon Jinn — remember, Q Week is a bitch.)
“I know, I’ll do it tomorrow.”
“Don’t forget.”

But of course I do, and as I’m driving home scanning signs for D-word inspiration I have to call my husband on speaker phone and leave him a message to print a picture of the Death Star in color from GoogleImages before he leaves the office.

My husband comes through big-time, bringing home not one but FOUR possible images for Death Star.  Because the other problem with the Letter Project is that LittleMan has standards.  Not just any old picture will do.  (Consider the excellent photograph of bones I cut out for B Week — miraculously found in a Vogue feature about cooking bouillon with Alain Ducasse — which LittleMan deemed not “bone-y” enough, prompting a frantic search for skeleton images.)   Fortunately, two of my husband’s four Death Star pix make the cut, rounding out D Week in the nick of time.

It occurs to me at some point that this is just the beginning, that Kindergarten will bring proper homework and the Letter Project will feel like some distant dream, before LittleMan learned to read and we couldn’t hide things from him by spelling instead of speaking them.  It also occurs to me as LittleMan rides in the car shouting out fairly sophisticated E-words (Me: Egg! Him: Elevator, Eye, and Eye-Pad!…the English language is deeply confusing…), that I am literally watching him learn, that his brain is filling up more and more every day, and there is something thrilling in that.

“You know, Mommy,” he says knowingly as he climbs out of the car, “if you want to use egg for E Week you should look in your cooking magazine for an egg recipe.”
“Thank you, LittleMan.  We’ll do that tonight.”

Another week begins.

E is for excellent.

Leave a Comment