Sunday, July 08, 2007

word of the day

“The world is made of names; my son is learning to speak. He has faith. He believes in things. Rock, I tell him, leaf. No, this, he says, holding the rock. This, he says, holding up the leaf.”
--from “Days – poems by Gary Young”

Somehow, in Isaac’s language, the words diaper, table, garbage and strawberry all come out exactly the same: “DIE-boo.”

If you aren’t paying attention, things can start to get all tilt-a-whirl on you.

“You want Mama to draw a diaper truck?”
“You can’t eat garbage for a snack, Little Mister!”
“I see. So, what you’re telling me is the ball has rolled under the strawberry?”

Sometimes I get the exasperated look. You know the one. The one that erases almost four decades of life on the planet and lets you know you know nothing. Zero. Sometimes, I get the sly, slow smile. “Yeah!” he agrees to the diaper truck or the ball vanishing under berries. “Why not,” he implies, handing me the blue crayon.

I’m not always prepared. It’s been years since I’ve lived abroad spending day after day in conversations in which neither party knew the other’s language. I was younger then, quicker on my feet. One more reason that come nightfall parents should be hermetically sealed into sleeping bags while carefully trained elves commute to our houses from their nests in the forest ready to battle any waking children by dancing them back to sleep, bringing them water and warm milk, or gently tying them to the bed. The sooner we organize the elves, the smoother this will all work out.

“DIE-boo!” my son tells me, tapping his fingers on each of his hip bones.
“DIE-boo!” he insists, pointing at the coffee table.
“DIE-boo!” he says, stomping and lifting his arms like a mechanical claw.
“DIE-boo!” he sighs, signing the word for the fruit with his twisting pinky finger.

Dictionaries and vocabularies are for those with less imagination living in the showy world of verbal subtlety. With his whole being, no matter the sounds from his mouth, he is teaching me the same things. The tilt-a-whirl is three tickets to ride. The elves are busy filling dandelion wishes. And, please, pay attention.

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