One of the most difficult things in retail is when customers want something that doesn’t exist. Yesterday, we had a gentleman who wanted decals of every state that he could put on his car as he visited all the states, eventually ending up with a complete map. He had been looking from Canada downwards without luck.

Now we can see plenty of reasons that such a thing would not exist, but we still sympathize with his desire for it.

His was an unusual request. There are some things that people ask for frequently. For example, many people want reproducibles for our state history. Many want test preparation materials for kindergartners, DVDs that will serve the same purpose as a governess, and on-grade-level science materials for special needs high school students.

There is one item that folks often request that stays in my mind. Teachers want pictures — photographs, preferably, of animals in nuclear family units.

The most natural response to this request is, “As you know, most animals don’t live in nuclear family units.” In fact, That Man and The Empress and I made an effort to find some that did. Many of our suppliers are glad to know what our customers want, and glad to supply it (except for those reproducibles for our state history, etc.) They did Western bulletin boards at our request, and all those jungle-themed things, and sets of photos for preschool. So we thought we might find them some nuclear families in the animal kingdom to work with.

Marmosets, crocodiles, gibbons, and certain birds. Oh, and humans, of course.

This will not satisfy those who want to show the children a Daddy tiger, a Mommy tiger, and a Baby tiger. I can tell you with complete assurance that those teachers do not want a Daddy, Mommy, and Baby marmoset.

Nor do they want the Three Bears (this is Jan Brett’s coloring page), which is where you can find a nuclear family of animals in its natural setting, a storybook. They dismiss this suggestion out of hand, muttering that they just want a Daddy, a Mommy, and a Baby elephant, fox, and pig. They want all the familiar animals that the children will recognize, but in family units. It could be a puzzle, they suggest hopefully, or matching cards, or posters.

Most of our human family materials now show a lot of different groupings, but we can give them flannel board sets with Daddy, Mommy, and Baby. This doesn’t satisfy them either.

The thing that keeps this on my mind is: why? Why would anyone seek to teach something completely false?

We see lots of teachers who teach false things about grammar, say, or gravity, because they don’t know any better. It is widely claimed in English classes that “Yesterday he played; now he plays” is a sensible sentence, by grown people who have never and would never utter that sentence in real life.

But the family structures of animals are not little-known arcane things. We live in a rural, agricultural area. Most of the people asking for these things have seen farm animals in their usual groupings, and forest animals in the wild. There is a sculpture in the poultry science building of our local university (and poultry science at our university is something folks come from around the world for) that shows a nuclear family of chickens. This is not because the people in the department believe that chickens live in nuclear families.

I’m mystified.

Well, while contemplating this deep and important question, I got to 13″ on the Jasmine sweater. I don’t expect to get much further today, because the Butterfly machine at the gym has these balls to grasp while you push, which have left my hands in a painful condition. I am probably doing it wrong.

Today I will be having lunch with Kali Mama and her kids (and perhaps her sister?), who find themselves in my town. This is the second time that I have had the opportunity to visit with a xangan. (Well, I mean besides those xangans whom I know in the physical world.) Exciting!