M is for Mr Men

Returning from a very happy playdate this afternoon, I come in and remove my shoes. There is something extra on the bottom of my sock – I can feel it as I move through the house.

On closer inspection, it’s a Mr Men sticker. And I smile, because being a parent is often about the tiny found items that accumulate around children.

It wouldn’t have to be Mr Men – or even a sticker. It could be a stone – to accompany a stone – to accompany another stone. The daughter of one of our friends specialised in pebbles, at a certain age. She was clearly delighted on coming across a gravelled drive.

There is a whole plethora of Useful Sticks out there in the world, just waiting to be discovered. (And a whole series of discussions about Why You Can’t Bring Your Stick Home This Time.)

At one stage, Junior Reader and I could not come to meet a friend without giving them a leaf. Or several. Perhaps a twig. I liked the fact that it was something natural, while trying to avoid the ‘taking handfuls of hedges’ scenarios that can ensue with this approach.

As adults, we see rubbish in the gutter – or, more likely, we don’t even see it. But children feel the need to stoop, and grub around, and pick up whatever objects catch their eye.

If you were going to be an artist specialising in works made from found items, you would really want to employ a child as your assistant (barring the underage work implications), because they have a very keen eye for things that others pass by.

Digging in the garden a year or so back, Junior Reader unearthed a glass bottle top – the kind of stopper that would go in medicine bottles. That was a good find, and worthy of going in the box specially reserved for treasures.

We, as the curators of the many tiny things, can sometimes find it hard to keep up. Is the item of real importance, emotional significance…or is it really just a bit of fluff?

Not always easy to tell. But children also leave a trail of found items for us – perhaps we are the ones who need them more.

We need to see the world afresh; to consider everything important and worthy of inspection. And if we are truly lucky, after visiting this museum of the everyday with them, we may be allowed to take some artefacts home. To remind us of them, and their unswerving interest in the world.

Even if some of the artefacts are stored on the bottom of your sock.