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This summer, in the midst of Simon’s existential angst over the time before his existence, he developed his own, quite elaborate, creation myth.

The subject first arose when Matt made a seemingly innocent reference to his time in San Francisco before I moved out to join him. (For just under three months, Matt began his job with what was then Pacific Bell while I stayed in Ann Arbor to teach summer courses at the University of Michigan.) Simon was unsettled to discover that his Mommy and Daddy once did things without him and found the entire concept of “the time before you were born” terrifying and incomprehensible.

Unable to imagine his own lack of existence, he persisted with a series of questions as to where he was before he was born.

Was he with Grandma?

With Bubbie?

On the sidewalk?

Where was he?!

One night, he added to the litany of possible locations:

“Was I in the sky?”

I decided to seize the opening (and stop the questions).

“In a way, honey, yes. You were.”

“What was I doing in the sky?”

“Well, you were waiting for your turn to be born.”

It was the (almost) end of the “where was I?” questions, and the beginning of an ever developing Simon-centric cosmology. Often, he tells us that when he was in the sky, he found a hat machine. And then he hopped in a hat and came down to earth. He has also come to earth via a pole, a parachute, a ladder, and, most perhaps most poetically, a rainbow. Regardless of the specific mode of transport, the hat machine remains a constant.

Sometimes Simon’s origin myth is a bit too complex even for him. When queried how he got down the parachute in his hat, Simon just repeats himself and forges ahead. A week or so ago, we heard a version that somehow incorporated cars with the hat machine.

It’s not exactly the Inuit Sedna, the Babylonian Marduk, or the Dinka Nhialic, but it is certainly indicative of the struggle to answer universal questions of origins. This is what you get when four-year-olds create origins myths. The great bonus for me is getting to play Joseph Campbell without having to leave the house.

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