Clara has graduated to Chapter books. Somehow a copy of Judy Bloom’s ‘Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing’ founds its way onto the girl’s book shelf. She stumbled into it a few days ago and insisted on me reading it to her even though I showed her that there were no pictures. I gave in. It had to be better than the pile of outdated Goldenbooks we all have memorized. She took too the new format quickly, and now she happily lays in bed while I read her a chapter a night, and laughs and groans at the appropriate times when the character’s younger brother Fudge gets into trouble. She enjoys pointing out how Fudge reminds her of Lydia sometimes. I just smile to myself realizing that Clara is equally Fudgie.

I keep expecting her to lose interest, especially on chapters like the one this evening that dealt heavily with a class project that young boy was working on. My four year old has no concept for that sort of thing. So, I tend to stop frequently and quiz her on certain things. Just this evening I stopped and asked her which of the three children in the story probably had better hand writing, and she accurately guessed that it would be the bossy girl. I was impressed and told her I was proud of her for how grown up she was to listen to such a big girl story and understand what was going on. She smiled proudly.

But then, just a paragraph or so later, she interrupted me to ask a question.

“Excuse me.” she said, “What is bear?”

I blinked at both her phrasing, and the fact that there wasn’t a bear anywhere in the story. “What?” I said.

“What is bear?” she repeated sincerely.

“Wait. Are you saying bear, or bare?” I asked. She stared at me as if I were a complete weirdo talking nonsense to her and not the other way around.

“Okay.” I tried again. “Are you talking about something that is bare, like it doesn’t have anything on it. Or are you talking about like ‘Rawr! I’m a Grizzly Bear?'”

Her face lit up, “Yes! Rawr, I’m a Grizzly Bear! That’s the right answer.” She reached up over her head to pat me on the shoulder. “Good job, Daddy.”

She then looked back at the book in my had. “Can you read the rest of the book now, please?”

I wish I wore glasses, because it really felt like a time when I was supposed to take them off, fold them neatly in my pocket, and then pinch the bridge of my nose for a moment. I never understood why people do that. But I think I get it now. What I will probably never understand however is, “What is Bear?” Indeed. What is bear?