Monday, June 17, 2013


“Mom, I want a banana!” he called from the living room.

“Go get one,” I said. “You know where they are.”

“I can’t,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’m doing my yoga poses.” I peeked into the room, and there he was, in perfect downward dog.

This was Six.

I often recounted these quirky, amusing exchanges I had with Six to anyone who would listen. And I still get a melancholy pang when I reminisce about the verbal gems that Five gave me, and the way I’d dash to the phone to call my mother afterwards, when we’d both laugh so hard our sides would hurt.

“Mommy, my favorite thing at camp is art crap!” announced Five.

I hesitated. “What’s…that?”

“It’s when you use glue and paper and sparkly things and fedders and beads and you stick ‘em all together!” he said. “We all do art crap! We love it!”

After leaving the room to laugh behind my hand, the sensible mom in me thought that I should probably correct this particular grammatical faux pas. But the emotional mom couldn’t bear to do it. I was completely enamored with the crap and didn’t want to be responsible for its demise. I decided to wait and see if the camp counselors would take care of the situation.

Sure enough, by the end of that week, Five was talking about his love for, this time, “arts and crap.” It was progress, I suppose, but the conversation was still full of crap, so I was still secretly happy.

By the following week, however, the counselors had ruined everything. Five got in the car and told me all about the fun he had that day in “arts and crafffffs,” with much saliva projection on the “fffffs.” I never thought I would be so sad to see crap wiped away completely.

Even cuter, linguistically speaking, was Four. Although Sesame Street and The Backyardigans still appeared to rule, Four’s newly acquired interest in cartoons became apparent to me, oddly, the day after Ronald Reagan passed away. We were driving his older brother, Drew, to school and passed an American flag at half-mast in front of a local car dealership. He asked me why the flag wasn’t all the way up. I explained that it was because a man who had been President of the United States many years ago had been very old and very sick, and he had died. I told him that when the flag is halfway down the flagpole, it is called “half-mast” — in an effort to teach the sort of factoid that Four seemed to be developing an affinity for, but mostly to steer the conversation away from death, which we’d never really talked about before. “Half-mass?” he asked. “Yes,” I said somberly, as I smiled to myself, thankful that he hadn’t said “half-ass,” a term I’m sure he hears me grumble on occasion in reference to lazy people.

When we approached Drew’s school, Four plaintively exclaimed, “Oh, no, Mommy! Look!” He pointed to the flag at the front entrance, also at half-mast. “Drew’s president died, too,” he said, sadly. I tried not to laugh, and attempted to explain that all of the American flags everywhere in our country were at half-mast that day — all because of the same President. I knew it was a hard concept for him to understand. He became quiet and pensive.

As we were driving away, Four announced, “Mommy, I think I know why that man died.”

“Why?” I said.

“I think a coconut fell on his head.”

Tom & Jerry? Nah. Probably Bugs Bunny.

My fondest memories of cute-isms, however, were from Three. Just emerging from toddlerhood, still with a smidgen of baby mixed in, he often came out with a random made-up or sounds-like word and expertly used it to get his point across quite clearly.

“Mama, I’m a little drinky.”

And I would hand Three a cup of juice, but not before I dashed to the phone to call my mother or first-available mom friend to entertain them with what he had said.

“Can I eat in the diamond room?”

And I would set up Three’s lunch on the dining room table…right after I called someone and we chuckled together for a few minutes.

I would never, ever correct him. I just couldn't bring myself to ruin the sweetness, the innocence, to eradicate every last bit of Three, Four, or Five in him. Yet despite my determination to keep a rein on this particular developmental process over the next couple of years, I noticed with an increasing mix of wonder and dismay that I was beginning to be asked more and more questions about what this or that word meant. With every passing day, my little boy seemed to be learning to pronounce things more precisely and was becoming much more grammatically correct, to the point where I was sometimes startled by the maturity of his words.

“Oh, by the way, the school store is open tomorrow,” Seven told me casually one day. “I have money in my wallet.”

“No, no,” I protested, waving my hand dismissively. “I’ll give you money for the school store.”

“No, really! I’ll use my own money,” he said emphatically, eyes wide and arms outstretched to emphasize his willingness and sincerity. “I insist!”

I burst out laughing as I was once again struck with the hilarity of how the boy I just gave birth to three weeks ago could have such an adult conversation with me. For a few moments, I couldn’t shake the vivid memory of bringing him home from the hospital in his fuzzy little one-piece outfit with the bunny on the pocket, swaddled in a soft, blue blanket that Two would soon name Boo Bankie. The familiar melancholy pang cut my laughter short. This time, I was the one who was quiet and pensive.

One day, Seven asked me, “Mom, do you know what a party pooper is?”

“Time,” I thought to myself. And I pulled him close and hugged him tightly, wishing that my embrace could stop Seven in his tracks, even if only for a minute.

Last week, as I watched my 11-year-old boy grab his bat and helmet and pack up his baseball bag in the dugout, he looked over at me, smiled, and winked. I was struck by how grown-up he appeared at that moment, and I got that confusing feeling of both longing and pride that only parents can understand.

As we walked to the car, he chattered happily about how he’d walked, stolen two bases, and then scored a run (a specialty for his tiny 62-pound frame and lighting-fast legs). And then he said, “You know what, Mom? I think when I grow up, I want to be an empire.” I giggled softly, and he asked with a smile, “Why are you laughing?” I said, “I think you mean ‘umpire.’ I don’t think you want to become a very large area that’s run by one leader.” He laughed good-naturedly, smacked himself lightly on the forehead with his fingers, and said, “Oh, boy! No, that’s not what I meant!”

Thank you for that rare moment, Eleven. And please stick around for a while, okay?