Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Last night, I went over to Vashon on the passenger ferry to babysit the little guy. (Or Bodge, as Andy and Dana now call him. Apparently, he made that noise for a few days, and now it’s his name.) In a rare occurrence, both parents needed to be elsewhere for the evening, and they had no one to watch Elliott while he watched Baby Einstein. And so, I volunteered.

It’s not like they had to twist my arm.

I love that little kid, more every time I see him. Frankly, sometimes when I’m with him, I feel his adorableness coming off him in waves, and I’m worried that my heart will burst. This kid is cool.

So here are his latest innovations:

* he has become relentlessly verbal. Of course, in this family, there wasn’t much choice. He has been saying words for months. But they were sporadic, precise. “DAT. DIGHT. GOG.” But now, they’re looser, and more frequent. DAT has become doff or deese or daaahv. He’s playing. If he says “dar” when I car go by, I’ll enunciate, “Car.” And for the next few moments, he’ll make the noise: “Kuh. Kuh. Kuh.” He also says flower, with a d at the beginning (writing this, I realize he has a d fixation), but with so much utter love and awe at the beauty of the little purple blossom in front of him that I want to cry and laugh at the same time. And mostly, he babbles, mimicking the rhythm of everything we’re saying with silly sounds. But he has certain words, exactly. No more guessing what he’s trying to say. He says kick and ball and bapple. (Okay, that’s not entirely precise. But it’s cute.) And what is his most precise word? “Book.” Ah, I’m in heaven.

But perhaps my favorite Elliott word is “Yummits.” That’s his word for food. When you show him a photo book of life objects (toothbrush, tractor, tarantula), he finds the inch of fruit inside the blender, and points to it, and says, “Yummits.” And he says it with a sweet adoration, because he really is just discovering all of this. This is also an innovation--he’s developing his own voice. Until about two weeks ago, he sounded like BABY. But now, he sounds like Elliott. He has a precise, giggly, gentle-tempered voice. And it’s lovely to the ears. So last night, I was showing him pictures, and he kept finding the food in the smallest photos. (What kind of eyes does this kid have? When you read him Goodnight Moon, he spies the tiny little clock on the mantlepiece on the back of the room, and he shouts, “Cock!” And yes, that makes me laugh.) He said Yummits each time.
Finally, he said it often enough that I said to him, “Are you hungry? Do you want some food?”
And he looked up at me, raised himself to his knees, and tugged on my sleeve. “Yummits,” he said, with real conviction, looking me in the eyes.
That’s the first time he’d ever used his words to ask me for something. Now of course, we’ve been having conversations since he was only a few weeks old. Elliott has taught me more than anyone about how much mre powerful a conversation without words is than talking. But I must admit that it’s a thrill to have him look at me and ask for something. And then I can give it to him.

And so I spponed him spooned him up some yogurt. And he ate a few bites, happily. And then he took his left finger and poked it in the yogurt. And then he took his entire left hand and splatted it in the yogurt. And then he smeared it all over my shirt, and his.

We switched to Os. And string cheese. And when he felt he was done, I pulled him out of the high chair and finished the calzone I had heated up for myself as I put in another Baby Einstein. I thought he was done eating, but he kept breaking his gaze on the bouncing balls to look at my calzone and say, “Yummits.” And I said yes, yummits. Finally, I offered him a little sprig of dough, but he kept giggling and turning away. As if he were saying, “Please, you think I want that?” But after ten or twelve times of me patiently holding out my hand, he said Yummits, then grabbed the little twist of dough. And then kept doing it again and again. No more Baby Einstein. Who cares about the cow puppet now? Soon, I had no calzone left. We switched to raisins. I grabbed a big handful, but hid them in my left fist. (He has a habit of grabbing all the food he can and stuffing it into his mouth.) So I’d grab one surreptitiously, as his eyes drifted back to the television, and then put it in my right hand. He’d look down, make eye contact, and grab the raisin. But after ten or twelve times, he looked at the raisin in my right hand, then stared at my closed left fist. And then he looked at me, full in the eyes, with a hint of sardonic gleam, as though he were saying to me, “Come on, you think I don’t know there are dozens of raisins in there?” And I could only laugh. Another conversation.

And later, we danced. He loves to dance. Andy holds Elliott in his arms, puts on a cd of bouncy tunes, and watches as Elliott starts to bounce up and down in his arms. We all laugh and love it. Andy found an old 1930s Latin American music, which has a mambo on it. The singers shout, Yo quiero Mambo! And when the chorus begins, Elliott starts chanting “Bombo. Bombo.” It’s about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Except when Andy found a tiny red maraca and put it in Elliott’s hand. Oh lord. So yesterday, I picked up Elliott and danced with him. And he started saying, “Dance. Dance.” (That’s another one of his precise words.) But after a few moments, he said “Down.” I thought he wasn’t enjoying himself, because I’m not Andy, until I saw what he was doing. He was sitting cross-legged on the floor, waving his arms in the air, fists raised high, like he was doing the frug. I burst out laughing.

And I’m realizing how much harder he has become for to write about coherently. Because it used to be that he would do four or five cute acts in a visit, four or five acts of consciousness. But now, he’s just a person in the room. And you know what? He’s such a great person. He’s unbelievably sweet. He’s filled with ridiculous humor. He’s attentive and loving. He may be only one year old, but he’s my absolute favorite person in the world.

You know, when I left school and boarded that ferry, I was in a sour mood. The day had been too long, the constant interactions had left me exhausted, and I just couldn't wait for summer to being. But by the end of the evening, I was beatifically happy. Just being. Thanks, little guy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

It rained pink petals this evening.

I left the Queen Anne community pool feeling buoyant and quiet. Another Hydro-fit class. I really have become quite addicted to them. Truly. My legs feel more powerful than they have since the car accident. And I can see the difference in my arms, which seem sculpted and lighter. All from simply playing, and jumping around like a frog in the forgiving water. Evaluations are due tomorrow, and you'd think I'd be jumping in a different way. But instead, I'm waiting for dinner to finish cooking, and I'm writing to you.

So when I emerged from an hour-long class, and another chat in the sauna with the denizens of Queen Anne, the sky had grown ominously dark. We've been blue-sky gifted these past few days in Seattle. Easter Sunday was azure blue and nearly 85 degrees. I just turned my face into the sun and smiled. Everything felt lighter. Itself. And in spite of cowering reports from weathermen the past few days, it hasn't started to rain yet. Except, when I walked into the growing darkness of this evening, I could feel the difference in the air. Rain coming. Wind brewing. Flat grey skies approaching.

The wind must have blown mightily while I was inside, because the entire sidewalk was covered in pink. Spindrift piles of pink cherry blossoms lay plump on the concrete. Across the windshields of cars. In clumps on the lawn of the middle school across the street. It looked like it had snowed. There was the same expectant hush as newly fallen snow. Something shifting. And everything pink. Above me, the sky was that rich dark blue--crepuscular blue; Gabriel blue; Sikta blue. And I smiled on my way to the car. Spring is here, and I'm feeling alive.

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