Daddy, why is the sky blue?
I know there's some answer to that - something about how molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light. That's a lot to say when you're peddling up hill with a forty pound passenger on your bike.
It's just that way, sweetie.
Well, why doesn't it rain more here?
Because most of Australia is desert and the air here is pretty dry...
I worked to suck more air in so that I could talk while I peddled.
Well then why doesn't it rain less?
I'm sure there had to be some good reason for that, too.
Does powdered milk come from powdered cows?
I was still working on "rain less" in my head.
Not quite, I said. We’d had a lot of powdered milk when we'd lived in the Pacific and the girls used to wrinkle their noses up and ask if it was "real" milk. I'd tell them it certainly wasn't imaginary...
Is all grass the same color green?
I knew the answer to this one and I liked "yes" or "no" questions when I was the one peddling.
No, I said. Grass comes in lots of different shades of green.
She was quiet for a moment, like she was considering the implications of that botanical fact. I waited for a follow up question. At the age of four Abbey was a pretty sharp child, probably because she was so inquisitive...
Why can't I go to school yet?
Hmmm. No follow up.
Hannah goes to school. Why can't I go to school?
Your sister is older than you, I said. You get to go to school with her next year.
We arrived at our destination. The Youth With A Mission facility in Canberra, where I worked, had a large courtyard; there were other kids Abbey's age whose parents were there for short term training of some kind or other. I unbuckled her from the bicycle seat and she ran off with one of them to play...
It seems like such a long time ago. Abbey's not a little girl anymore. She still asks simple-but-hard questions and often doesn't like the answers she gets.
On May 20th this week Abbey turns 20. If you read this, Abbey, happy birthday. Cheryl and I love you...