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Words

March 25, 2011

She wakes up in the morning and waves at me enthusiastically, then makes her baby bird noise of “ah, ah, ah” while pointing at things. “Light,” I say. “Window. Kitty.”

“Ki-eee!” she crows, and takes off after the cat, who pauses somewhere between bemused and horrified as this loud and busy little person clambers toward her.

I keep track of all her words.

  • Kitty
  • Mom
  • Daddy
  • Star
  • Duck
  • Roar
  • Moo
  • Quack
  • Arf
  • Moo
  • No, no
  • Peekaboo (Eeee-boo!)

It seems like there are so many now. She picks up new sounds and plays with them, mimicking us and watching our reactions, pointing at her picture books. She signs a little, too, for which I’m grateful. She is very good at signing “more,” and “milk,” which are very useful, and we’re working on “please,” which will be useful in a different way, someday.

Last night we had an uncharacteristic episode of screaming. No fever but clearly some pain. I cling to the hope that it’s not another ear infection since we’ve only recently recovered from the last which landed us in the emergency room with a fever that wouldn’t drop, and had me calling my doctor late at night, for which I always feel guilty even though I shouldn’t. I’m entitled to a little parental caution just by virtue of being a parent, and Teddy’s death somehow entitles me to an added dollop of parental paranoia, too, and my doctor is sympathetic, but I don’t like waking people up. Last night, as my daughter screamed and clung to me with both fists and I reassured myself that it was much more likely to be gas than meningitis, I found myself fervently wishing she could tell me what was wrong.

I never say “I can’t wait until she…” because I can wait. I like watching her as she is now, reveling in this time which will never come again. I can definitely wait.

At the same time, I also never say “I wish she could stay like this forever,” because she’s supposed to grow and learn, and I’d be devastated if she didn’t.

But I am looking forward to the day when she can tell me what hurts, what scares her, what she wants, what she did at school. I watch her discovering language, putting together the many different images of picture book cows and toy cows and realizing they are all, well, cows. I listen to her play with noises. She pretends to sneeze and I say, “bless you!” and she grins. She’s figuring out that these noises mean things; she’s playing with their patterns and watching everyone around her to see our responses.

It’s amazing.

But the day is approaching when she’ll learn, “Teddy” and “brother.” I want to make these words sweet to her, without hiding the sadness in them. I want to be both reassuring and honest, and I don’t know how to do that yet. I have time, but she’s a verbal little creature and some days it feels like my time is running out.

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4 comments

  1. I need to introduce the words “Hope” and “sister” to Angus, but every time I try, I freeze up. The grandparents do it, and I heard Simon point to her photo the other day and say “there’s Hope” but it just ruins me when I attempt it. I’m getting there though, it has just been a slower process than I thought it would be back when I was pregnant with him. I know he’s still very young and certainly wouldn’t understand yet, but like you with Dot, I’m also in awe of how much he does understand already. And while the concepts and themes around her brief life and death will be too huge for him now, I know the words and sounds will come quickly and easily, as do most new words now.
    Lovely post, Erica. We’ll muddle through this together.
    xo


  2. It is amazing to watch or hear the language develop. Even though Beatrice was alive when Lucy died, I still felt like I had to introduce her to Lucy in the same breath as introduce her death. But hearing her speak of Lucy brings such a profound sense of peace. It is like all my children are in the same room when she speaks of her. Anyway, sending much love. Love this post. xo


  3. I’ve never tried, but ore than a few times now I was sure I heard Lyra say, “Ferdinand” and my heart nearly stopped. The last paragraph took my breath away. love to you, amazing mama.


  4. “I never say “I can’t wait until she…” because I can wait. I like watching her as she is now, reveling in this time which will never come again. I can definitely wait.”

    Isn’t it wonderful watching it all unfold, seeing the changes, seeing them on the verge and suddenly over it and an you can hardly remember when they couldn’t do it (whatever it was)?

    “At the same time, I also never say “I wish she could stay like this forever,” because she’s supposed to grow and learn, and I’d be devastated if she didn’t.”

    I’ve had people say things like that “Don’t you wish they could stay little forever?” “Isn’t it a shame they have to get big?” Of course the real shame is when they don’t get a chance to be big.

    This post has been on my mind since I read it. I remember vividly talking about making Henry real to any brothers or sisters who came along, this just weeks after he died well before we were ready to even think about having another. It felt so important—and still does.

    Kathleen says Henry’s name often in her own little way, though I don’t think she really gets the concept of brother yet (not the same way she gets sister). I love that she knows him already though and will grow up saying his name. I just wish she would grow up with him.

    You will find your way Teddy and brother with Dot.



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