Things to remember:
The way the baby sticks out her tongue in anticipation when you’re about to give her a bite of food, the little pink tip curling up over her top lip…
Wonderboy suddenly grasping abstract concepts, catapulting forward to more complex communication, and how funny it is that his first big light-bulb moment was straight out of The Miracle Worker. I was washing dishes, and he put his hand under the running water, and he was saying, "Water, water" like always, and then suddenly he looked up at me with a big smile and said, "Water WET!" Yes, water is wet. He gets "wet" now, and dry, and hot, cold, smooth, inside, outside, on, in, under, soon, "in a while." In developmentally typical kids, you take for granted their understanding of ideas like "soon." But with a kid who has a language delay, you realize what a huge deal it is to grasp a subtle and non-concrete concept like "not now, but later."
In this same burst of progress, he has also begun to pretend and imagine. I never noticed the awakening of the imagination before—if asked, I’d have said it didn’t have to awaken, it was always just there. But with this child, I think I witnessed the moment real imagination arrived. There’s a board book he wants me to read every day at naptime, the Byron Barton Trains book, and on one page there’s a picture of a train passing some houses, and one of the houses has a little black dog in front of it. For weeks Wonderboy would say, "Do-hee" (doggy) when I turned to that page, and then one day he said, "Doggy in house. Doggy go house," and he pointed to the house the dog (presumably) lives in. Then he pointed to another house on the page and said, "Cat house." Another house: "Mouse in house." He was imagining other animals into the picture, pretending them right into those other quiet houses.
Another thing I want to remember: how much he loves to be read The Very Busy Spider, mainly because of the pig. The ASL sign for pig is the same as the sign for dirty: you wiggle your fingers under your chin. When we say "oink oink," we make our pig-sign fingers wiggle over to tickle under the other person’s chin. He adores this, oink-oinking me, being tickled in return. He makes all the animal signs as I read that book, and just lately he began saying (verbally) the animal sounds, too: neigh, moo, baa, maa, woof, MEOW (his cat is always VERY LOUD, I don’t know why), wack-wack, cah-doohoo-doo (says the rooster), and oh that hoo-hooing owl with the boy’s small fists making O’s around his eyes, I could just die from the cuteness of it.
Driving home from VBS one day, the week before last, a strange thing happened. Everyone was tired and starving, and all of a sudden the emergency $20 I keep stashed in the car leapt out of its hiding place and began croaking out, "McDonalds! MAC-DON-ALDS!"
I was quite understandably rendered speechless by this bizarre event, but the girls shrieked in hearty and gleeful agreement with Emergency Twenty—E.T. for short. (And actually, he sounded quite a lot like the E.T. of my childhood, except he was clamoring for FREEENCH FRIES instead of Reese’s Pieces.) Then Wonderboy picked up the chant, using a funny low voice—and this made the girls howl even harder and rendered me more speechless still because he was making a joke based on sound, on tone of voice.
I finally summoned words enough to point out to Emergency Twenty that he was supposed to be for unexpected tolls or if we run out of gas and, um, there’s no place near that accepts credit cards…or debit cards…or whatever, E.T., it’s not like I KNOW what sudden cash emergency might arise…what if there’s a roadside sale on books and they have an original edition of Never Tease a Weasel or something? I mean, really. French fries? Hardly an emergency (says the mother sternly to her children, as she turns into the McDonald’s drive-thru lane).
French friiiiiies, croaked Emergency Twenty.
Hen hiiiies, croaked Wonderboy in the backseat.
What could I do? Emergency Twenty went off to seek adventure in the great wide world. First stop: a grimy fast-food cash register. Woohoo! E.T., you sure know how to party! What’s next, the inside of a deposit bag?
On the way home, Rose kept offering fries to her brother, who sits beside her, but he wouldn’t take any of hers—he only wanted mine, which had to be relayed through Jane in the middle row. This exasperated Rose somewhat.
"Oh, it’s okay, honey," I said. "He’s only three once." I thought about it for a minute, and amended: "Well actually, I suppose he’s only three 365 times."
Somehow, thinking about it like that, it seems even more fleeting than "only once." A child is only three years old 365 times. 365 days is nothing, really, a flash, a blink. 365 flower seeds isn’t even a handful. 365 jellybeans can vanish in the course of a single birthday party.
Jane leaned forward, chuckling. "The nice thing is, he’ll be four 366 times!"
Leap Year never struck me as such a gift before.
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