Play-Doh

By Nancy Scott

“Smell;” Mina held the Play-Doh to my nose.

“Yes,” I agreed. “It smells wonderful but you can’t eat it. It will make you sick.”

That seemed like the best threat for a three-year-old whose brain was elastic but whose English was still limited.

“Not taste nothing,” Mina said. I smiled, remembering that she was right and I knew that because I had tasted Play-Doh when I was a kid. It would still be that way, because the smell was exactly the same.

We were sitting outside on the three-person-bench one spring night. Mina’s mother was a resident physician at the hospital. She had to run over and do something. So, my neighbor, Marie, and I were watching Mina for a few minutes.

Mina and her mother had lived in our building for almost a year and I saw Mina frequently at Marie’s. We had all explained to Mina about my being blind. She was never afraid just curious.

Mina, who was often wiggly, quietly got up next to me and opened the Play-Doh can. It was a smaller can than in my youth.

Mina calmly flattened the clay into the lid. “Pancake,” she explained. I held out my hand for the creation.

“Good,” I said. “Can you make anything else?”

“Pancake,” she tried again.

I reclaimed the flat circle. I began rolling the pancake into a ball. “Ball,” I defined.

“No, raindrops.”

“Oh, well, okay. We’ll make raindrops.” And we did for a few minutes, each of us with some of the Play-Doh that we traded back and forth. Then I showed her rolling it long and thin.

“Hot dog,” I decided, that would be better than snake. Mina laughed and rolled long and thin.

She hadn’t moved off the bench for 15 minutes. She watched everything I did and she let me feel all her results.

I could have sat there inhaling and manipulating for a long time, but it was getting darker and Marie was not as spellbound as we were. So the clay went back in the can with the lid tightly closed to keep something in and something out.

I promised Mina another Play-Doh session soon. I told her that I’d make rings for our fingers and perhaps a little bowl. Luckily, she didn’t ask for sculptures of people or animals. I wasn’t good at that. I always made Martians because no one could tell me what Martians looked like.

Once, long ago, I spent a fun afternoon with a friend’s children who informed their father later that, “Nan makes really weird Martians, but they are cool.” I wonder if Mina would understand Martians.

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