Bella grew calm, fascinated with the water running over her toes, which she'd dangled over the sink as soon as the faucet was turned on. Jane may as well have pulled a kitten out of the dishwasher. From the couch where she sat feeding newborn Olivia, Sister Jane said, "Oh, now you've got her. She can spend hours washing her dolls or pouring water back and forth between two cups." The other Olivia stood next to me near the island, watching Bella as she grabbed David's basting brush and began painting her legs with water.
Ten minutes later, when Bella decided to expand her canvas to areas outside the sink, the flow of "paint" was shut off. My sister had finished nursing, and as she gathered her things, I glanced at the time on the microwave, shocked to see that over an hour had passed. I fished Bella from underneath a sculptural concrete-and-wood table and carried her toward the door, where the Janes and Olivias were waiting.
"What's this?" asked my cousin Jane, pointing to the elaborately framed photograph of an envelope that hangs by the door.
"We picked it up at a gallery in New York," I said. "The frame is so intricate and old looking; it made us wonder what's in that envelope that's so special to warrant all the pomp. But that's an envelope that can never be opened and will therefore remain a mystery. That's why we love it."
Bella was squirming in my arms. She pointed at the work of art and squealed, "Mama!" Then, with a hushed voice that was more stage whisper, she said, " This is a museum ."
"That's right, Bella," I said, handing her to her snickering mother. "And in a museum, we don't touch anything."