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3V0001.01 Recollections of Peggy’s birth 1/23/78

After telling our landlord, as I returned from walking the dog Sunday night, that the baby was not expected for a week, I realized on coming inside that Gretchen was showing the classic signs of imminent labor. All day she suffered lower-back muscular pains, she frequently experienced shooting pains in her legs. Consequently, I was not too surprised when, upon waking at 4:30am, I found Gretchen already in labor. I was surprised she was so far along, with contractions every three to four minutes. Gretchen explained she had wakened at 2 with contractions at 15 minute intervals but felt I needed sleep and saw no reason to wake me.

The suitcase had long been packed. We dressed, readied the car, considered then skipped breakfast, and left for the hospital with deliberate haste. The roads were passable but still in bad condition (24″ of snow had fallen on the 20th and 21st). There was no traffic at the hour and we proceeded without difficulty to the hospital by 5:30am.

By 6am, Gretchen had been admitted and undergone the regimen of delivery preparation. The doctor arrived, checked the cervical dilation, broke the bag of waters, and said he anticipated delivery between 8 and 8:30. The pains were very bad. He ordered a shot and directed me to massage Gretchen’s lower back. By 6:30, it was clear the foetus would not wait. I called our landlord at 6:35 to wake the children and send them to school as he had agreed. During the call, Gretchen was removed from the labor room, I hurried after to the delivery room.

The doctor held the head as it emerged…. Holding her upside down, the doctor suction-cleared her mouth, checked her breathing, and laid Peggy on Gretchen’s stomach.

Peggy was pale blue at birth, as was Robby; I don’t recall Miriam’s color. Peggy’s color led me to ask her Apgar rating (it was 8 at both the first two judgments). Her weight at birth was 8 pounds 8 ounces (Robby had weighed in at 9,2 and Miriam at 8,10). She was delivered at 8:46. The labor was very short (compared to 14 hours for Robby and 10 for Miriam) and painful, since in effect Peggy was delivered without anesthesia. The umbilical cord was cut and Peggy was removed to a warming basket.

At 7:30, Gretchen and Peggy were back in the labor room, resting. I called home to find Robby and Miriam puzzling over whether they should go to school or whether it had been canceled. During a third call, at 8:15, I found school was canceled. The children had to stay at home alone, but had our landlord to call on should any need arise. None did. Robby was able to talk to Gretchen during this call, and he seemed very happy that things had gone so well and that Gretchen could assure him she was allright.

Around 8:30, Peggy was taken to the nursery where she spent most of the morning. Gretchen got cleaned up while I had breakfast, then we spent the morning together in her room in the maternity section of the hospital.

Gretchen added later in a marginal note, about suffering terribly at the delivery — ‘a relative statement – who knows how bad it would have been. Also there is the knowledge you are truly on the home stretch. The entire extent was “really bad” but it was less than half an hour.’


3V0015.1 Sheldon Wagner proposes Meltzoff Experiment 2/6/78

Sheldon Wagner called with congratulations on Peggy’s birth today. During a long conversation, he asked if we would be willing to informally try an experiment on infant imitation which seriously refutes Piagetian theory (I found the reference in a back issue of Science: imitation of Facial and Manual Gestures by Human Neonates, Andrew Meltzoff and Keith Moore, 7 Oct. 1977.) Gretchen and I agreed to go ahead and do it. (This means we will do it very soon, maybe hard to get the videotape equipment and a mirror — maybe we shouldn’t get that fancy.)


3V0484.01 Observation Hiatus while thesis completed. (5/21/79)

Completing my thesis on time for this semester’s graduation has been a
primary disaster for the natural observations of Peggy’s development.
I regret this lost material profoundly, and fear that it is from the period
of development which would have been most illuminating about
subsequent appearances of order in Peggy’s speech and more general
problem solving.

(later note: most of the observations from early April through this date
are reconstructions, based on a list of events jotted down on a
chalkboard in my study.)


3V0531.01 COUNTING: beginning of notes. Cookies, hands, and counting (7/7/79)

During interviews at IBM, Moshe Zloof raised the question of whether
or not, in effect, counting is innate. I told him the question was a big
one about which I felt no one could speak with authority but that I had
very strong prejudices. As an example of the kind of experience from
which I felt the knowledge of counting might develop, I cited Peggy’s
reception of cookies. After convincing us to get her a cookie, Peggy
would sometimes open her mouth to receive it directly. More
commonly, she would hold out her hand (usually the right), take the
cookie, and put it in her mouth. Some time ago (we neither can recall
just when), in a situation where a whole stack of cookies was available,
Peggy requested and received a cookie for each hand. In some
circumstances, Peggy ended up transferring two cookies to one hand
and eating a cookie sandwich. The final step, which I witnessed but
can’t date, was Peggy requesting a cookie for each hand, then
transferring the right cookie to the left hand and requesting another.
In this little series of incidents, we see one-to-one correspondence and
a procedure for “getting one more”. These two are enough to base a
counting system on.

Today, Peggy began picking up all the various things on my chair side
table. I gave her three small bean bags to play with. The game of
choice became putting them in my palm and removing them. The
material scraps from which the bean bags were made are all colorful
and quite different from one another. She removed them several ways:
by ones, two first, and two last. When my hand was empty, she twice
scratched my palm after removing the third bag.

Peggy was much engaged with this bean bag play, talking all the while
(the talk is recorded on audio tape #3). I intend to play with these
little bags during our next experiment on videotape. Let’s see if we can
catch the development of Peggy’s knowledge of counting.



The Lemon Twist


I had purchased the hula hoop in the morning and was setting up the music room for our later use when one of the boys in an on-going class from CAPS (the Cambridge Alternative School Program) asked if he could use the hula hoop. After doing a hula, he let the hoop fall to the floor, slipped a foot under the hoop, and rotated it about one leg, raising the other foot so that the rotating hoop would not strike him in the ankle. I was impressed; I had never seen anyone do that with a hula hoop. But I had seen Miriam do a similar thing with one of her toys, the Lemon Twist.

The Lemon Twist has been one of Miriam’s favorite active toys for some time. Having seen it advertised on a TV commercial, she bought one with her own money. (This was the first such purchase she ever made). The toy has a hard plastic lemon at one end, connected to a small loop at the other by a piece of tubing about 18″ long. A child slips one foot through the loop, then kicks in such a way as to cause the attached lemon to swing around that leg. I remember the day last spring when Miriam bought the toy, her first trials, her showing it to older friends, her watching them, and her slowly developing skill.

This afternoon Miriam was delighted to find her new hula hoop.
It was perfect, even having the marble inside as did Jenner’s. I mentioned to her the boy from CAPS, how he made it go around on his leg. Miriam put her foot under the hoop and kicked it a few times. “Like that?” Obviously not. “I don’t know how he did it, Miriam, but he made it work just like your lemon twist.” With two or three tries, Miriam was able to make the hoop circle her leg several times at each execution



In the Gymnasium (2)


This evening I asked Miriam whether she usually stood aside from the games in gym as she did yesterday (except for Animal Farm). She replied that she doesn’t like running around (her allergy to dust and its chronic incipient wheezing make her feelings quite understandable). But Miriam justified her alternative further: “I was on the balance beam.” She had been but I had not recognized it.

In the summer of 1975, Robby was enrolled in a gymnastics class. Miriam and I took him there and either waited inside, watching the older children exercise, or walked about outside. Miriam felt left out (she was too young for that class). When we arrived early one morning, I held her hand as she walked along the elevated balance beam. Back at our house she found a ‘balance beam’ (a 14′ 4×10 under the porch) and had me set up the timber so she could use it. The next summer brought the Olympics when those young girls from eastern Europe were so impressive in tumbling and on the balance beam. Miriam asked me to set up her balance beam again. Of the activities available in the after school program, Miriam chose gymnastics as the one she most wanted to pursue.


The observations focus an important part of the world of Miriam’s peers, and her standing apart from that. I infer that, because of her limitations and specific experiences, she has a different framework for thinking about gym activities from her peers.


Vn40.1 Logo After Hours 7/4/77

During the bicentennial year Miriam was too young to enjoy the
fireworks. She was frightened by the noise of amateurs’ exploding
firecrackers and so sleepy by 9 o’clock that we abandoned a half-
hearted attempt to watch the display from the vantage of Corey Hill
in Brookline. Radio forecasts promised this year a smaller crowd
and a more impressive exhibition than last year. Uncertain that we
would be near Boston in the future, I decided the children should
seize this opportunity to see the biggest fireworks display on the
east coast.

Having heard of how impossible is parking near the Charles, I
brought my family to Logo early in the evening. We all casually enter-
tained ourselves while waiting for nightfall. Gretchen and Robby occu-
pied themselves with reading, Miriam with drawing (Robby did that too)
and making letters. I reviewed material in various workspaces on the
Logo system, to refresh my memory with possibilities for future work
with the childlren. I showed Robby (but not Miriam) Danny Hillis’
“STRING” design procedure and an elaboration I had made thereon for
developing Lissajous figures. He was impressed, but drawn away by
witnessing the Cambridge police respond to an apparent mugging on the
corner of Main and Vassar. Miriam wanted to use the Slot Machine but
it did not work (as we had discovered earlier in the day: cf. Logo
Session 34A). We all watched the traffic build to an impenetrable
mass as dark approached.

We walked to Memorial Drive near the foot of Longfellow Bridge and
beheld that crowd of evening picnickers who had come prepared with
incredible paraphernalia and seized all the choice locations early on.
The air was acrid and pulsating from the frequent but irregular ex-
plosions by amateur incendiaries. The children’s chronic impatience
was only relieved by the distraction of fudge popsicles and the dis-
tressingly late beginning of the fireworks. Very few seemed to care
that hearing the 1812 Overture was impossible until the cannon fire
declared the beginning of the long-awaited fireworks. The display was
worth the waiting. Even though they were quite tired, both children
were excited and delighted.

At the end of the show, we repaired to Logo to await there the
subsidence of the traffic. We were all glad to find the lab occupied
by friends. Miriam perched herself on Margaret Minsky’s lap and
announced that we’re going to have a baby. Upon hearing that Danny
Hillis was back from Texas on a visit, we all trooped up to Marvin’s
office and interjected ourselves into their conversation. Miriam seized
Danny’s lap as her own property, and I shanghaied him to repair the
Slot Machine so that the two-terminal experiment could be executed the
next day (this was essential because of rearranging the lab for the
summer high school program). After Danny did a little magic to make
the Slot Machine work, we sat talking til midnight with Margaret, Bruce
Edwards, and Ellen Hildreth.

These notes record the casual use of Logo as a place to pass the
time and meet friends.


Vn46.1 Rotten Hints 7/19/77

Two years ago, Miriam took swimming lessons. She was in the class
of ‘Blueberries.’ Their course of instruction amounted to splashing at
the edge of the lake. Their most advanced achievement was to say their
names with faces held in the water. Last year, in our move from
Connecticut to Massachusetts, Miriam and Robby missed out on swimming
lessons. With both children wanting to learn to swim, it seemed good
fortune that the summer swimming lessons at our lake were offered
during our 2 week vacation.

Robby, declaring the swimming lessons would interfere with his
visiting Raymond, decided not to enroll. Even though I was not willing
to spend much time at it, he figured I could teach him to swim. Miriam
was anxious to take the lessons. At registration, she was judged by
the teacher to be ready for ‘Kiddy 2,’ the class preceding beginners.
She seemed pleased enough.

Tuesday morning her class began with ‘Ring around the rosy.’ The
group of 8 joined hands, bounced around in waist-deep water, and on the
chant’s conclusion ‘we all fall down’ the children were supposed to sit
in the water, getting their heads completely wet while holding hands.
The next element of the lesson was the ‘dead man’s float’: one takes a
deep breath and floats face down in the water. Miriam refused. At the
end of the session they had another round of ‘Ring around the rosy.’
Miriam did not sit down as expected of her. One of the instructor’s
assistants approached me after the class and suggested that “we” might
try getting “our” face wet in the wash basin between swimming classes.

Miriam doesn’t like getting her face wet. Neither do I. My
version of the crawl (which I rarely employ) keeps my face out of the
water, as do the other strokes I prefer. Despite the ultimate limit
this may place on my speed or furthest reach, as a youth I achieved
swimming and lifesaving merit badges in the Scouts. I see no reason
why ‘face wetting’ should dominate early swimming instruction. This
strikes as even more forcefully true for a child whose allergies render
breathing difficult.

As we left the beach, I asked Miriam how she enjoyed her swimming
lesson. Her response was very direct. “That was terrible. She wants
you to get your face wet all the time. I’ll never learn to swim from
her. She can’t give me any good hints. All she knows is get your face
wet. What rotten hints.” I agreed she should not continue instruction
unless she wanted to. Miriam asked to go to the beach on the third day,
but once there refused to join the swimming class.

This vignette describes an instruction situation which Miriam
judged to be especially bad. Her formulation of the badness was that
the teacher could only give ‘rotten hints’ for learning.


Vn59.1 Air Conditioning 8/6-11/77

8/6 Logo came into our conversations twice this day at lunch. When
asked if she knew what a palindrome was (cf. Logo Session 39, 7/15/77),
Miriam offered two examples: ‘mom’ and ‘I’ (I checked that she did not
mean the word ‘eye.’) Miriam later said she would like to sleep at
Logo. I recall having told her that I once slept at Logo (when last
winter the city suffered 22″ of snow and I lived atop Corey Hill).
Miriam’s request was justified by her hope to sleep better there than
at home. She explained that she had slept well in Connecticut and had
slept very ill since returning to Massachusetts. During the heat wave
of mid-July, we had run the air-conditioner regularly. Miriam believed
she would sleep better in the air-conditioned computer room.

8/7 Miriam woke me at 4 am (a fairly regular occurrence) with her
coughing. Despite having had her standard dosage of medicine she was
wheezing. Because I believe it is important she not conclude that her
malady is hopeless, beyond remedy, I asked if she would like to go to
Logo. We left home at 5 with her pillow and medicine, and tape recor-
dings from my transcription backlog. We drove through a deserted city
to sign in at 5:30. Both wide awake, we walked through the lab. Tom
Knight was using the terminal at the mainframe, so we assumed Logo was
unavailable and found other entertainment. Miriam first set up her
pillow in a chair (the king size pillow barely left room for her) and
showed me a peculiar book she had found in the Children’s Learning Lab
(Ça Ne Va Pas, Charlie Brown). Miriam asked me to read it. I read her
a few frames from the first cartoon. A better resting place was needed.
We brought a bean bag chair to my office (Miriam preferred that option
to sleeping on Seymour’s or Hal’s couch). She curled up with her pillow
and the cartoons in the corner. Her last words before dropping off to
sleep: “Daddy! I can read ‘The Doctor is in’.” Miriam slept from 6
until 11. Her nap of 5 hours was the longest uninterrupted sleep she
has had since our return to Boston.

8/9 Miriam told me this morning she had had a good night’s sleep, her
first in a week. When I mentioned this to Gretchen in her hearing,
Miriam qualified the statement by “besides sleep at Logo.”
After her bath this evening Miriam stood at the balcony over the
court yard and said, “Hey, I see the first star:

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight. . . .

I wish I had ten more wishes.” Thus well provided with wishes and still
talking to herself, she made her first real wish: “I wish I had no
allergies at all.” Then her friend Scurry should get a new collar and leash.
I told Miriam those 2 wishes could happen, but the first could not, that
she would continue to suffer from her allergies into her teens, at the
end of which they might become less severe.

8/10-11/77 After calling those who advertised air conditioners in Tech Talk
and waiting to find out none would fit in the windows of Miriam’s room,
we purchased and installed an air conditioner in Miriam’s room. It is
not at all clear that air conditioning Miriam’s room will help her in
any physical way. It is most important, however, that she not feel
alone in confronting her problems and that we will attempt whatever
reasonable means are available to ameliorate her discomfort.

These notes may indicate how profoundly burdensome to Miriam are
her allergies to dust, trees, and mold. August and early September are
the worst times.


Vn89.1 The Ten in Fourteen 9/7-10/77

9/7 After considerable confusion at the beginning of yesterday’s arith-
metic work (Home Session 18, 9/6/77), in a reprise after games of Tic
Tac Toe, I was able to explain ‘carrying’ to Miriam in a manner access-
ible to her. I cited a recent comment of hers while doing mental arith-
metic that “there’s a ten in the number 14.” This point of connection
permitted the only explication of carrying so far that has been able to
compete with Miriam’s “reduction-to-9’s” procedure.

Where did this reference “there’s a 10 in the 14” come from? I
examined recent vignettes and found no reference to it. Since I could
recall no more detail, this morning I put the question to Miriam. I
noted it might have come up the last time we rode to MIT in the Audi
(I vaguely remember a discussion in such a setting about the sum of
170 and 87). Miriam said, “I remember. It was at dinner a day or two
ago. Robby asked how much was 30 and 14, so I said it was 44, ’cause
there was a 10 in the 14; that made it 40, plus 4.”

9/8 Before Miriam went off to school this morning, I asked her if she
could still see the 10 in 14 and the 20 in 27. She apparently under-
stood and said yes. I reminded her that reducing to 9’s was a buggy
procedure for carrying.

9/10 While typing a fair copy of the work in Home Session 14 (July 31),
Gretchen found the reference I sought to Miriam’s explanation of there
being a 10 in 14: Episode I, page 2.

These notes mark the reappearance of the idea of being able to see
a 10 in 14. When I, attempting to find the specific reference of
Miriam’s first using the phrase, ask her about it, she reconstructs for
me an incident which seems plausible enough but is probably entirely
a fabrication.


Vn113.1 Steady State 12/8/77

A few nights ago, Miriam approached me: “Dad, why do we have to
spend 6 hours in school every day?” “Why do you ask?” I countered.
Miriam continued, “It sure is a long time.” When I first asked what
was the problem, the answer came back that the work was too hard, there
were so many math papers to do, and so forth (but note that Miriam’s
work of choice at school is doing math papers; Cf. Addenda 112 – 2, 3).
Finally Miriam said, “It’s just boring.” And then, “Do I have to go to

Two years back, I recall Robby asking if he could quit school at
the end of 3 months in the first grade. He argued that he knew how to
add and had learned how to read and that there was little more the schools
could teach him. Miriam’s position is the same. I told her she can stay
home from school any time she wants except on certain days when Gretchen
and I might both have to be out of the house — and that this would be
the case especially when the baby is due. Beyond giving that permission,
I offered a little advice of this sort. “School may be boring, but you
will have friends to play with there. It can be boring at home as well;
while I’m working I won’t be able to play with you as much as you might
like, nor will I be going over to Logo too frequently.” I offered to
take Miriam to Logo whenever I go there, either going over after school
or telling her in the morning of my plans.

Since that conversation, Miriam has several times declared she was
not going to school. She stayed in bed, and I didn’t argue or disapprove
at all. All those times she subsequently changed her mind, got dressed
in a rush, and hurried out to await the school bus.

Recently Miriam has learned two things at school she values. The
‘academic’ learning is that there are 2 sounds for the A vowel. She
knows one is long A and the other short A and that the first is
distinguished by its spelling with a terminal silent E. Her example of the
distinction was the couple HAT/HATE. She was not too interested when
I suggested we play with the voice box at the lab to make it talk with
long and short vowels. Miriam comments that she can’t remember learning
anything else besides the spelling of a few words — and one important

The student teacher of her class taught Miriam how to twirl a baton.
Baton twirling first engaged Miriam’s interest in kindergarten when her
friend Michelle brought hers to school. At Miriam’s request, I bought
her one which she has played with discontentedly since then. After her
one day’s instruction, Miriam has marched, posed, and practiced before
the glass doors of our china closet, declaring herself a “batonist” (a
word she is conscious of having made up.)

At Logo, too, Miriam’s current interests are primarily physical
skills. She plays with the computer (Wumpus, and lately some new facil-
ities I’ve shown her) but her first choices are the hula hoop or jump
rope. An incident occurring last night gives evidence of what may be
the outstanding consequence of her learning during The Intimate Study —
what I refer to is her sensitivity to instruction and advice couched in
procedure-oriented terms:

Miriam had convinced Margaret Minsky to turn a long rope for
Miriam’s jumping (the other end being tied to doorknob). Miriam tried
hard and long to jump into an already turning rope. She attended
carefully to the rope and at the right time moved toward the center —
but only a short distance in that direction. In consequence, she got
her head inside the space, but the turning rope regularly caught on her
arm. Miriam had no good answer when I asked if she could recognize the
specific problem. I asked if she could take some advice and said she
should jump onto a line between Margaret and the doorknob. Miriam could
not. I put a paper napkin on that line — but the turning rope picked
it up and away. José Valente drew a chalk line. Miriam took the chalk
and drew a box to jump into. Now she was ready.

Miriam’s first attempt failed because she jumped into her box with-
out attending to the rope. Then she regressed to watching the rope and
moving only a little. Finally, “Miriam,” I said, “you’ve got a bug in
your SETUP procedure. You’re doing only one thing at a time. You have
to do both things at once.” On her next try, Miriam jumped into the
turning rope successfully. I did not see her thereafter exhibit either
of her two earlier bugs (too little movement or not watching the rope).
This incident occupied about 3 minutes.

Miriam finds school boring, but not depressing. Though allowed to
stay home, she goes to play with her friends. Of most immediate and
spontaneous interest to her are physical skills. She shows herself
very capable of using advice formulated in concrete terms focused on
separate procedures.