Originally posted in April, 2005, when Jane was nine, Rose was six, and Beanie was four.
I was cleaning the bathroom this morning when Jane came in to ask me how to pronounce the word “usurp.” She had seen it in print a number of times but wasn’t sure how to say it. I told her, and then Rose wanted to know what it meant. So I gave some examples, including: “Or let’s say you’re sitting on my lap and I send you to get a tissue, and while you’re up, one of your sisters climbs in your place.”
Rose started to giggle. “A usurper!”
Jane wandered back out with her book. Then Beanie came in and perched beside Rose on the edge of the tub while I wiped down the sink. Bean’s hair was wild; it hadn’t been brushed yet. I sent her to get her hairbrush and when she returned, I sat down on the tub’s rim to tackle her curls.
“Hey!” Bean cried indignantly. “You took my spot!”
Rose cackled. “You usurped, Mommy! You’re a usurper!”
“What’s that?” asked Beanie. Rose explained.
Bean pondered. “I think,” she said, “that when a mommy surps, it’s okay.”
“U-surp,” Rose corrected.
Beanie was puzzled. “No I didn’t. Mommy surped.”
“No, U-surp!” Rose insisted.
“I surp? But I didn’t! Mommy did!”
By this point I was choking with laughter. Beanie took my paroxysms for some kind of dismay.
“It’s okay, mommy, I don’t mind when you surp me.”
“U-surp!” proclaimed Rose.
Beanie stared at her in disgust. “That’s what I SAID.” She humphed out of the room before Rose could get in the last word. I sat there howling. Sorry, Abbott and Costello. Your place in my heart has been surped.