Charles Lee McCabe
Appleton the giraffe was a curious young giraffe. Even though he was less than a year old, he still stood quite a bit taller than most of the other animals that he was around. He was also able to see farther than any of the others because of this, and he tended to ask questions about what he could see. Since he was so much taller than his friends, and could see farther, many of his friends dismissed his questions with a huff and went about with their days. This made Appleton quite sad.
So Appleton chose to ask the one person that he knew could see all that he could see plus more: his mother! Still being quite young, Appleton spent much of his time with his mother anyway, but this would give him an excuse to ask her questions that seemed quite important to him. He approached his mother and asked her if he could ask her questions about the world, and what certain things meant.
"Of course you can, my dear," his mother responded. "I am so glad that you have decided to ask me these things, because learning is one of the best things you can do at your age." So, she led Appleton to one of the very tall trees where they could both get a little shade, because this was bound to be a long afternoon.
After his mother got them both settled in the shade, Appleton began asking his questions. "Mother, why is the Up Above blue?" His mother responded that the Up Above was actually the sky, and that it was blue because that was the way that it had always been. Appleton didn't think this was a great answer, but at least it was an answer instead of an impatient huff. He decided to go on asking his questions, and that's just what he did.
Over the course of the afternoon, Appleton asked about the place where the sky touched the ground (that's the horizon, his mother explained, and the world continues even past it) and he asked about the big white things in the sky (those are clouds, my son, and they bring rain with them). He asked about everything between the leaves in the trees to the ants in their hills. Most of the answers he received were quite informative, and more than one were entertaining as well!
Finally, as the afternoon was winding into the evening, Appleton began to ask the questions that had really been bothering him. Appleton's mother could see the way that he kept looking over at the other animals, then at himself, so she knew what was coming, even if she didn't know what form the questions would be in.
Appleton decided that he would start from the ground up, and see where the answers led him. "Mother, why do giraffe's have such long legs?"
"Appleton, giraffe's have long legs so we can travel quicker than many other animals in order to get to where we are needed quickly." His mother's response made Appleton feel better, because he had always been a little self-conscious about his own legs, but now he was proud to have them. He decided to ask his next question.
"Mother, why do giraffe's have such long necks?" This was a question that Appleton had asked himself because a few of the other animals had made fun of his long neck, and it had made him feel bad.
Appleton's mother had heard about this teasing and she had felt bad about it, but she had decided to wait for Appleton to bring the question to her. "Giraffe's have long necks so we can reach the tastier leaves in the trees and also so we can always be looking around watching for the dangers that other animals may not be able to see." This answer made Appleton quite happy, since he had done the very thing his mother had mentioned, when he saw one of his friends about to pounce and tickle one of his other friends.
Finally, Appleton asked his mother a question that was born out of pure curiosity rather than any type of teasing or discomfort. "Mother, why do giraffe's have spots?"
This question made Appleton's mother smile, because she knew that he would like the answer. However, first she asked him a question of her own. "Appleton, how many people do you care about?"
Appleton was surprised to be asked this, but he took a few moments to consider the question. He finally answered that he cared about 20 people. With this answer, his mother told him to count his own spots. Doing so, he found that he had exactly 20 spots. When he looked back at his mother, he had an amazed look on his face, and found his mother smiling and nodding her head.
"Yes, Appleton, giraffe's have a spot reserved for each of the people that we care about, and as you get older and meet new people to care about, you will develop more spots so that no one is ever left out. Also, remember that this is the spot that is reserved just for you." As she said this, she pointed to the spot that was directly over her heart. Seeing this, Appleton leapt to his mother and gave her a mighty hug, noticing that his long legs were good for this, as well.
Breaking the embrace, Appleton thought about what he had learned about giraffes, and said, "Giraffes have long legs in order to get where we are needed quicker; long necks in order to see what other animals cannot; and spots so that we can easily remember just who it is that we care about." Saying this, Appleton lay his head down, and fell asleep for the night, dreaming his giraffe dreams. His mother spent a few moments watching her son, pleased that she was able to answer his questions, and lay down beside him, wondering what new things he would learn tomorrow.