“Why is there a dried-out pork rib bone in her backpack?”

My husband is surveying the rubble of our preschool day:  two children, a lunchbag, a backpack, three paper plate crafts, an empty milk carton, an empty Starbucks cup, a snack bag, the baby’s bottle, my purse, a couple sweaters, the spare shoes  . . .

. . . wait, we had carrion in the backpack? I hadn’t noticed.

No, really. I hadn’t.

“Uh . . . well . . . I don’t know, honey, but we’d better leave it there. I am sure there is a good reason, and I am certainly not going to be the one to — ”

At this juncture, He’en bursts in from the car, utterly aglow and caroling:

“MOM! I found a DINAH-soah bone! Inna SAN-box!”

Aha. Told you so.

We lovingly installed her archeological triumph on the porch. It sits on top of the giant petrified tree trunk that my husband bought several months ago from Craig’s List.

That, also, lives on the porch.

With the recent addition of a Magical Bubble Making Machine, the porch is getting very exciting indeed.

Nothing prepared me for — and nobody warned me about — this culture of children.

By “culture,” I do not mean (only) the runny noses, grubby hands, and general petri-dish-ification of your entire living space.

I mean the separate universe inhabited by we who undertake to breed.

Travel is not the only way to broaden the mind:  you can stay right here and embark on a 20-year cultural journey with new language, new foods, different clothing, and an entirely separate gestalt from the cheerfully child-free family living right next door to you.

I recently read an Architectural Digest profile of a childless couple’s weekend home. They flee the maddening rush of the Big City to spend time together, they say, listening to classical music, shopping at the farmer’s market, and cooking Moroccan food.

Yeah. I remember those days. I can even say that I miss those days.

I’ll bet their porch is really pretty.

But I’ll bet it’s also achingly devoid of magical bubbles, fossilized flora, and real live genuine DINAH-soah bones.