The Stove Pipe / by Susie Lubell

One of my son's favorite books is a story, based on the three little pigs, called The Three Little Javelinas. It's a terrific book. I would know since I've read it about 900 times. My husband's brother and his family live on a Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona and bought this for my son since it kind of has a southwestern/multicultural twist. Plus the illustrations are awesome. Anyway he loves this book.

Toward the end, the coyote (not the big bad wolf in this telling) can't blow down the adobe house that the sister javelina built (as a third child and only girl I closely identify with her ingenuity and forward thinking) so he climbs up on the roof, makes himself really skinny and tries to slide down the stove pipe. And so beings my cognitive journey into the mind of a three year old...

On this particular page of the book, the coyote is standing on one foot in a prowl posture with a big sinister and toothy grin. I noticed that every time we would read this book my son would roll onto his stomach and look away. Then one day my son ask to wear his "skinny" red shirt.

Me: What?
Him: With the skinny!
Me: With the what?
Him (pulling down the shirt): With the skinny alligator.

He shows me his red shirt with an alligator on it and the alligator is showing all of his teeth so my son says Mommy, he's doing the skinny! with kind of a nervous, yet enthusiastic giggle. And now I get it. Sort of.

For weeks he continued to ask for this book but then roll away when the skinny coyote page appeared. Then he started asking me to turn the page back so he didn't have to see the "skinny". Okay. Then we went on a hike near our house and he saw a water drainage pipe and he pointed and shouted It's the stove pipe! And then he showed all his teeth and said he was the skinny which sent him into hysterics.

And since then every time we pass by something that's tall and cylindrical or even just cylindrical, he points out the stove pipe. In the airport on the way to Israel we saw about 57 stove pipes - lots of exposed architecture in airports. Yes, sweety, there's another stove pipe. Imagine that.

Then it gets even more interesting. We get to my in laws and there's a picture of his aunt Jenny (my mother-in-law's sister) in the office and she's got this big toothy grin and my son asked if we could turn the picture around because aunt Jenny was acting like a skinny coyote. What I wouldn't give to spend some time in his little brain...

But our journey came to a climax later that week when something blew up at the potash factory where my father-in-law used to be a project manager. They asked him to come down and figure out what to do so he went with my husband and my son for some generational male bonding time. This place is literally a gazillion stove pipes all welded together. I only heard the story second hand but apparently my son was in total shock when he went in there and saw these giant furnaces and pipes and lord knows what else is in that factory.

Me: Where did you go?
Him: To Saba's work.
Me: Where does Saba work?
Him: In a stove pipe!
Me: You went to Saba's factory?
Him: No, his stove pipe where he burns the skinny coyote.

So I give a big smile and he says, you're being skinny mommy. And I say, thank you. Who doesn't like to be called skinny? Even if, in his world, it means sly and toothy.