We just tucked you in bed on this Sunday night, the same way we do every Sunday night, singing Jerusalem the Golden. You refer to that as the “Sunday” song by humming the first four notes and then saying “Unday” at various random moments during the week. The last few weeks you’ve been singing along with almost every word. It’s amazing to be hearing you come out with whole hymns memorized now that your vocabulary is getting rounded out. The cutest thing tonight was when we sang “forever and forever” and you sang “forevereverever.”
At the beginning of the month you started in with two very common phrases that have become synonymous with who you are in Daddy’s & my eyes. The first is “How ’bout…” You say it to suggest something you want or to answer a question. You say it constantly, and a few times recently I’ve noticed that I do, too, and when I say it, we sound exactly the same. Go figure. The second one is a solemn exclamation of wonder, spoken slowly in a deep, delighted voice, with your eyes – your whole face! – stretched big. “Oh whoa!” you say, when something impresses you, or when I ask you a question the answer to which you just love. Example: “Is that an awesome fire truck, Jacob?” “Oh whoa!”
But as this month has unfolded you just have a million, million, million things to say. You’ll try anything to see how it fits in your mouth, and if it suits your fancy you’ll say it a hundred times. This morning you asked “Where Mommy go?” and I answered from the bathroom that I was doing my make-up and then, obviously, you said “Make up” a few times. Another funny one happens almost daily, sometimes first thing after waking up. I’ll hear you downstairs singing a little chant over and over: “Dee-do Baby! Dee-do Baby!” The Dee is on one pitch and the rest is a minor third down from there, and the rhythm is equally precise. Meredith thinks this is hilarious, and if she doesn’t you keep doing it until she does.
You’re growing very aware of letters and when you see big print somewhere you’ll point it out. You love to sing the ABC song and are beginning to articulate each individual letter. There are so many things you are growing wise in like this. Like your truck book. You know the name and function of every single truck pictured in that book. The harvester, the hay baler, the airport fire truck, the excavator, the big rig. You are just an expert on trucks.
On the drive to church this morning I realized just how completely our baby Jacob had vanished. You’d already impressed me with your observation that it was “All done bein’ darker” when you woke up and noticed the day growing light. But then as we drove there was this steady commentary: “Yellow park has big basketball hoop.” “Buildin’ new bus station.” “Neen Go. Orange Stop. Red Stop.” “See school busses?” (We drive past a fleet of busses on our trip to church and you look forward to it all week.) “Balloon in sky? Everybody ridin’ in balloon in sky?” upon seeing the hot air balloon that has been a regular part of the Sunday morning landscape this fall. You just know things. A lot of things.
You entertained a few of our neighbors with more of your language abilities this week. We were playing outside one evening as the young couple who recently moved in were leaving to get their groceries. They hung out for awhile and pretty soon you had conscripted Andy into playing ball with you. At least fifty times you shouted your enthusiasm: “Big ‘Row ‘GAIN!!!” and I had to explain that you were requesting a “big throw, again.”
Then Karyn came over to borrow some milk and you regaled her with the story of your beloved invention, “Weeo-ball.” You explain this concept to everyone who will listen, and it is always the same. Your eyes get big and you say “Take ball, ROW!!!! it at mokde’ec’or!” and as you say “throw” you push your hand into the air to demonstrate. I have to translate and explain every time, but anyone who hears your story agrees that it is about the awesomest (translation: most hilarious and ridiculous) thing they have ever heard of. (In case you don’t remember, weeo ball is really very basic, as you yourself communicate in your own explanation of it: You take a ball, and you throw it at the smoke detector. Weeo-ball, obviously.)
This brings me to my next point: The Weeos. The weeos are, in your mind, the most prominent and prized feature of any home. When we Skyped with Gramma recently you were delighted to get a tour of her weeos, and when we go to someone else’s house you love to see theirs. When we drive home and we’re almost there and I say “We’re almost to our house!” You reply “See own weeos?” It doesn’t seem odd to you that this would be the top priority every time we get home. So yesterday we were digging in the garden together, planting tulips. You found a worm, something that still puts you on edge a bit ever since that traumatizing incident this summer when Meredith ate one. I reassured you that the dirt is the worm’s house. He’s just hangin’ out in his house, it’s OK. Your perceptive reply: “Hangin’ out with own weeos?” Yes, my child, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Speaking of tulips, you demonstrated your sense of humor and your earliest grasps of English grammar this weekend. Out in the garden you kept calling them “lips” and saying “one lip” as you would choose a bulb from the basket to place in the hole I dug. You had a hard time internalizing the information that the thing was called a “tulip,” not that there were two lips. It was so cute listening to you refer to each one as a “lip,” pronounced, “leep.” Then when you realized what was going on you turned it into a joke, and now sometimes you just announce “one lip,” trying to solicit a laugh and a response “tulip!” from me. You never tire of this joke, so we go back and forth and back and forth, arguing about the English language. Wonder which side of the family that came from…
Our biggest battles have been on Sundays, over church behavior. Last Sunday morning you were such a stinker that I took you out and put you in the nursery after you threw yourself on the floor on our way back to our seats from the children’s message. That night I must’ve taken you out of church 20 times. It wasn’t so much that you were being disruptive as that you were deliberately pushing my buttons, doing things I’d told you not to, like you were completely clueless about what I expected of you. So then this week there was a lot of discussion about Sunday protocol. The funny thing, is you love church abstractly. You talk about it, look forward to it, go through the list of all the parts of the liturgy that you remember. This week another list emerged, unsolicited, proving that you were not as clueless as you pretended. Very seriously, you cover all the bases: “No talking. No swishing papers. No going like this (you violently rock back and forth). No going like this (You bang your head against your chair). No getting down from seat.” The list grew quite long and elaborate yesterday as we sat waiting for evening church to begin and you were mentioning things like “No putting feet on the pew in front of you.” My point in writing all this is, well, now I have it in writing. I know you know.
You are a Jekkyl & Hyde when it comes to your behavior. Sometimes you are insanely sweet. When you ask for something you almost always do it in a pleasant mature voice and a full sentence and a smile. I am in awe of this, amazed that all the work we’ve done has been fully internalized. So you say “More milk please, Mommy?” When you do something to hurt or annoy your sister and I tell you to say sorry and give her a hug or give her comfort (which, in your mind, is a technical term meaning go and run a quick hand over her head) you almost always oblige sweetly. You love to hug and kiss your sister, and you guys giggle hysterically together over any little thing. But then sometimes you are a crazy angry person, full of “No!” And sometime in the last week or so you developed a new skill: whining. You modulate your voice to this high squeaky sing-song and say all kinds of negative things. It’s weird how suddenly this mode of communication kicked in, and I am working on shutting it down, my boy. Expressing emotion, fine. Complaining and whining, not fine. For further explanation, see the book of Numbers.
To this effect, I am trying to remind you to use a “big strong voice” and you are quite good at it when you want to comply. You bring the pitch back down out of the stratosphere and speak calmly. Sometimes I try to get you to imagine Daddy whining, and you find it hilarious to think of Daddy saying the kinds of things you say. That is usually pretty good incentive, since you are always interested in discussing your future of “growing big like Daddy.” There are some shirts you wear that make you feel like you look like Daddy–button-downs, mostly. I love seeing the random things that trigger you to make the “like Daddy” comment throughout the day. Seeing you begin to have a heart to imitate your father is such a delight to me.
This account wouldn’t be complete without mentioning your awesome Daddy’s gift to you this month. You refer to it as your “cool cool bike.” We had a hand-me-down radio flyer trike that was looking pretty shabby. You could say it was white, but really it was faded purple. Not manly, anyway. Daddy got it into his head that you needed a sweeter ride, and then there you two were, out my kitchen window on a tarp, spray painting all its disassembled pieces. You worked lovingly on that bike together, and he did more while you would sleep, and then soon the crowning piece arrived: a new bell. You are in love with this new bike, and I am in love with what your Daddy showed you. Part of living the good life is making beauty out of what you have to work with. Happiness isn’t necessarily found in going out to pick out a shiny new thing. Sometimes what you need is a piece of sand paper and a can of paint.
I love you.