On a recent family visit, my niece helped me make dinner. I was pleased to have time away from the maddening crowd to make pizza together. I set my niece to chopping pepperoni. We were cooking for 11, so it was a bit of a task for eight year old hands. Meanwhile, I made the dough, grated the cheese, and got together the other toppings.
“Ok,” I said. “Time to put everything together.”
“I think I better go wash my hands before I help again,” she said. “The dog got very excited and licked all my fingers after I finished cutting the pepperoni.”
“Good idea,” I said.
She left to wash her hands.
“Unless,” I tossed over my shoulder, “we want to make it our secret ingredient. What if everyone thought this was the best pizza ever and then it turns out that our secret ingredient was dog slobber?”
My niece laughed because she knew I was joking. She disappeared to wash her hands for a few minutes, also because she knew I was joking.
Fifteen minutes later, pizzas in the oven, table set, and doing up the dishes, my niece had a question.
“When can we tell them?” she wanted to know.
“Tell them what?” I said.
“About the secret ingredient,” she said.
“There is no secret ingredient. You washed your hands, remember?” I said.
“No, I didn’t,” she said.
“You didn’t?” I said.
“No,” she said happy and oblivious to my horror. “So when do I get to tell them?”
I quizzed her carefully but she wasn’t joking. I made her swear a vow of eternal silence on the matter of dog slobber (mostly, but I didn’t say so, on account of Boy one’s fragile emotional capacities in matters surrounding his food). Niece was profoundly disappointed but complied. Nothing else profound in the tale here today except the lesson that you make your own bed before you lie in it, and sometimes innocent looking little blond eight year old’s find mild wickedness compelling and delightful.