The other day, Janie was explaining her latest drawing in progress, an elaborate ‘scape with fighter jets and construction equipment and soldiers and, for some reason, a giant cupcake.
“It’s called Cupcake Wars,” she said. “Those are sprinkle cannons—see?—and the jets are dropping cherry bombs.”
“An icing weapon,” she said. “See, the cement mixer is making the stuff and the crane is holding it up. I’m not sure how to aim it yet, but firing it is going to be epic!” She smacked her hands together and made a PHLBBBBBTTTT sound that had us both laughing so hard we almost fell off the couch.
“Okay,” I said, when I could. “So, they’re fighting the cupcake? Or—”
“No, no, no. They’re fighting the pie people, but I haven’t started their side yet.”
I looked at her. “The pie people.”
“Yeah. They have filling guns,” she said. She glanced at me. “What?”
“I’ve known you for almost ten years,” I said. “And I still have no idea how your mind works.”
And it’s true. I keep falling behind.
Her first word was “Ball,” spoken while pointing imperiously to the display at the end of the toy aisle at Target. She said it again, a little louder, when my husband and I just stared at her in amazement. Hadn’t we heard her?
I remember how she hugged that enormous, bright blue ball while sitting in the cart—only her tiny hands and feet were visible. She cried when she had to let go for the three seconds it took to get her into her car seat and insisted that it stay with her in her crib. “BALL!!!” We weren’t sure she would ever bother with a second word.*
But just last weekend, I was complaining that the clay we were using was way too soft and she said, “That’s because of the viscoelasticity. Can I have another toothpick?”
I passed one over. “Visco . . . “
“Viscoelasticity. It’s stuff that acts like a liquid and a solid.”
“Where did you hear that ?”
She shrugged. “Can’t remember. Does this look like a Vegimal?”*
“Uh. Which one?”
It did, but my mind was already boggled.
Santa gave her a huge, bright red Angry Bird flash drive for Christmas in the hopes she wouldn’t lose this one.
An hour after she opened the package, she’d written and saved a play. An entire play. With decent stage directions.
An hour after that, she lost the drive and panicked. Loudly.***
This child . . . for ten years, she’s been a source of joy, fear, anger and amazement. And a lot of confusion.
She’s funny, exasperating, brilliant, thoughtless, devious, selfish, caring, somewhat spastic, dignified, and so beautiful it frightens me.
Sometimes, I want to borrow just a bit of that creative energy of hers so I can write a dozen novels in a month (spelling optional).
Sometimes, I want her to put her pencils down and get her clothes off the floor and into the hamper.
Sometimes, I never want to let her go.
Sometimes, I want to mail her to my parents in a box with a couple breathing holes punched in the lid.
Sometimes, I want all this at the same time.
My first baby, my prototype, my gift, my bragging right, my reason for knowing what the sky looks like at 3:30am and that the impossible is nothing of the sort until it involves setting the table.
Happy birthday, kid.
I love you.
*And then she discovered “No!” We didn’t know how good we had it.
*From Octonauts, a strange quasi-adventure cartoon show created to teach children facts about undersea life, which apparently includes creatures that are half seal, half root vegetable. Oddly enough, this seems to work.
***Don’t worry, we found it. In the bathroom. This is probably hereditary.