At the ripe old age of nine, Karen Whignett was convinced she had adults all figured out.
Karen lived in an apartment in a high-rise building in New York City. Because of her lifestyle, and more the lifestyle of her parents, her access to other children was limited outside of school. She considered Paisley Barnes, a classmate who lived six floors below to be her best friend. It was mostly a ceremonial title for when Karen’s mom thought the girl needed someone to play with, she called Paisley’s mom. If Paisley was available, and she was always very busy herself, the girls sat around Karen’s room drawing or playing with dolls as Paisley talked about how she was going to be famous. Karen mostly listened.
Karen was a good listener. It was one of the reasons adults didn’t mind having her around. She never said much and because she was quiet, the adults normally forgot about her. They would talk, she would listen, she would learn.
Based on what she heard, three basic things drove all adult problems, money, time and whether or not anyone was “getting any.” The last of the three was the most confusing. Karen understood money and how there was no such thing as having enough. She understood time and how, like money, it was a valuable and rare commodity. But the concept of getting any was vague and seemed to be not only the source of consternation, but also an odd way to forget about problems for a while.
She recalled several conversations between her mom and Aunt Petrina where the vagueness of “getting any” came to light. At first she thought it as a redundant reference to the notions of time and money, but it quickly became clear that it was something more unto itself.
“Ugh,” Aunt Petrina would say, “On top of all that, I’m not even getting any.” To which Karen’s mom might nod or agree or say nothing.
On the other hand Petrina has also said, “Things are in the dumps as usual, but at least I’m getting some.”
Karen could only guess that in the pursuit of all things, the better answer to the problem of getting any was that it was to be getting some.
She pondered the question a good long time.
Karen spent the early evenings after school and school days off with her Grandma Bets, who lived two floors up. They talked and laughed and had snacks. Grandma Bets was an adult, but not as much like an adult as the others she had access to. When Karen finally decided to ask Bets about the concept of getting any, Bets didn’t bat an eye. She just kept on doing what she was doing, in this case crocheting, and explained it as only she could.
“Honey,” which is what Bets called her. “It’s a lot like cookies. If you have a bad day and things seem to go off base here and there, a simple thing like a cookie can make all that feel like a little less of a burden. Understand?”
“And if you have a bunch of bad days and you don’t have time for a cookie, or there aren’t any around, you don’t have anything to distract you from your troubles. So you just focus on them more and they just seem to get worse. Do you understand that?”
“Well there you go then. It’s better to have cookies when you need them than none.”
“Can you ever have too much?” which to Karen, seemed like the next best question.
“Well, can you recall a time when you ate too many cookies?”
“That’s right! I’ve heard people complain about not having any, and people are usually happy having some, but I have yet to hear too many people complain about having too much…of anything… but troubles.”