December 2nd, 2011 by Kat Nagel

I don’t think I was ever disappointed by a gift I received as a child. No, I didn’t always get exactly what I thought I wanted, but I always enjoyed the gifts I got: toys, clothes, books. Always books. Lots of books. Wonderful books!

I do, however, remember being often disappointed in the reactions to gifts I gave. I was always picking up stuff—shiny things, pretty things, interesting things—and giving them to family and friends. Small things, at first: shiny stones, dried leaves, a crow feather, a wheel from a toy truck, a piece of broken glass. My mother OOOHed and AHed, and thanked me before she threw them out, but they always wound up in the trash. My other relatives, and the parents of my friends, weren’t so polite. My treasures still got tossed in the trash, but the action was accompanied by loud words like “dirty” and “ugly” and “smelly,” and louder admonitions to NEVER do anything like that again.


My friends weren’t much more receptive. I’d hand a worm to Karen, and she’d squeal and run to her grandma. I’d give Phyllis a grasshopper, and she’d put her hands behind her back and cry.

Very disappointing.

When I was older, and we moved to New York State, my gifts got bigger. At first, we lived in an apartment complex on the edge of a large, undeveloped field. My friends and I would wander around there after school, playing Cowboys or Cops’n’robbers or Store or School or—my favorite—Jungle Explorer.

field mouse

Field mouse

It was larger neighborhood, and I found friends who were more my style. We ALL brought home stuff like this: cute furry field mice, lively little chipmunks, and the occasional squirrel tail or dead bird.

None of the parents appreciated our gifts.


We couldn’t understand that at all.


After all, how could anyone resist a face like THIS?

Eastern garter snake

Eastern garter snake

Eventually, I gave up.

From the time I was nine, I decided to keep my treasures to myself and give people boring gifts: pictures I drew, crocheted pot holders, or small store-bought gifts.

Boring stuff.

VERY disappointing!


Photo credits:
Snake: Jennifer Schlick, program director, Jamestown Audubon Society, Inc. (permission requested)

Field mouse: Photographer unknown. Found it on a site of supposedly copyright-free images, and have requested information from the site owner. If anyone knows the original source, please let me know.

Posted in Nature Tagged with: , , , ,

side view of The Chair
December 1st, 2011 by Kat Nagel

There are a few memories rattling around in my head from the time before I could talk: the sound of my mother’s voice reading to me, the smile on my grandmother’s face, the smell of my grandfather’s pipe, my panda. And, of course, The Chair.

side view of The Chair

The Chair

It wasn’t the only chair in the house, not even the only chair that ever was mine, but it was my first chair—the first one that belonged to me, and not to my family.

I remember the day I got it. Someone set this thing down on the floor, and there it was: a ME-sized chair! I must have been barely walking, because I remember falling at least once on my way across the room to investigate this. When I got there, the seat was at exactly the right height. I could get into it myself, without someone lifting me. My feet touched the floor, and the back felt good just below my shoulders.

It lived in the kitchen, mostly. I sat in it every morning after breakfast, as soon as I was liberated from the hated high chair (so confining!). I sat in it again, later in the day, to ‘read’ (turn pages and recite memorized stories) while my mother was cooking dinner in the evening. It was my perch. My throne. I pushed it around the floor and nobody yelled at me for making a mess, or told me to put it back where I found it.

When I got a little older, I discovered a wonderful thing.

side view of the chair as a step stool

The Step Stool

The back of The Chair flipped forward, and became a step! Just four inches high, half the height of the chair seat, it was the perfect height for my first mountain-climbing expedition. I made it up to the couch cushion all by myself.

The Chair followed me everywhere. I’d grab it by the flip step, and drag it from room to room. When we went to visit relatives, I’d cry if The Chair wasn’t in the car. When I learned to brush my own teeth—I was about three—it was The Chair that made it possible to do it all by myself. (It was also the perfect height to get me to the toilet seat, although I wasn’t thrilled about that, at the time.) When I got my very own bookshelf in my bedroom, it was The Chair that let me put favorite read-to-me books like Pinocchio and The House at Pooh Corner and The Little Engine That Could on the top shelf where the adults could find them easily (ordinary books went on the lower shelves).

My mother and I moved from Illinois to New York when I was seven. The Chair and Skokie, my stuffed horse, consoled me. Both went to college with me. They followed me to my first apartment, and to every house my husband and I have lived in, since.

The Chair is a little battered, now. Many newer wood and plastic chairs and step stools have splintered and bent, but The Chair still toils on, doing what it was built to do.

front view of The Chair

I love The Chair!

Give up The Chair? Never!

Photos by Kat Nagel. Larger versions can be viewed at: 

Want a chair like this for your child? Here are a few sources:

Step Stools For Kids
My Unique Wooden Toys
Wood That’s Fun
My Bambino
Baby Select
Sherwood Creations

Posted in Life Tagged with: , , , , ,