THE TURQUOISE CABOOSE
The Story of a New Person
“Three is good for me.”
The Story of Everything Press
Copyright © 2015 by Larry Good, All Rights Reserved.
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To My Daughter Sarah
Preface to a New Life
The Turquoise Caboose
About the Author
PREFACE TO A NEW LIFE
When I was 30 years old, I had a child. But I can’t take all of the credit. My wife carried some of the burden.
We named her Sarah.
I soon began to notice all of the magical little things that were happening—that ultimately my new little daughter Sarah would never know about. They were her actual life—but at an age that she could never possibly remember. So I decided to help her to do exactly that. I decided to remember for her.
I secretly began writing letters to her, to be received many years later—to give her back some of her forgotten life. Usually at the end of each day, I would sit on the sofa in the living room, which had a turquoise rug, and try to describe the unexpectedly touching and funny adventures the three of us seemed never to stop having. I wrote in composition books, and I entitled each one “Secret Letters from Dee” since the final syllable of “daddy” was all she could manage at that time.
We bought her an attractive little turquoise chair that matched the rug and which somehow, in the middle of our many lively antics, metamorphosed into “the turquoise caboose.”
Here are those days returning.
20 months, 19 days
What your life is like now, you’ll never remember, so I’m going to save a lot of it for you in these Letters.
Here’s something that happened today. As I was lying on the bed, and you were lying on your back on your bathinette, being changed by your mother, you did something you do fairly frequently. You started calling me in quite a loud voice. “Dee! Dee! Dee!”
Although relaxing from a day’s work, a summons like that from you simply cannot be ignored by me. So I jumped up and ran loudly the very short distance. I put my head affectionately down on yours and held your sides with my hands.
You grinned, quite pleased at your success. This whole process was repeated twice more, so that I was getting a bigger workout from you than at work! Then your mother finished changing you and I was saved.
But I’m still being changed—since the morning you first arrived at the hospital. In a different way, of course. (Ha!)
You and I have a good relationship. One of the reasons is that over time we accidentally invented a little game which I named the Calling Me Game. An example of it occurred in the last letter. Here’s how it began. Long ago you found out that if you called me out loud: “Dee! Dee! Dee!” and if I were able to hear you, I would come EVERY TIME—within reason—even in the middle of the night!
Today, there were not one but two new variations to this game.
I was by the oven fixing two grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. You were in your highchair. Although you’ve never called “Dee! Dee! Dee!” before except when I was in another room or even farther away, you called me today looking right at me from only a few feet away. I noticed the difference! Naturally I raced over and tagged your head with mine—all three times that you tried this new development.
The other variation occurred a few minutes later when you were being changed by your mother. Not unexpectedly, you called me from the bathinette—and from away in the kitchen, I came. But I tricked you. Still eating the last of one of the grilled cheese sandwiches (I choked when you first called), I stayed right around the corner, knowing what would happen. When you immediately called again, just a few seconds after I had left—as I had anticipated, suddenly—almost like magic—I instantly appeared again, and we both had just as much fun—without the game being so strenuous for one of the players—the one who runs when called.
I stuck around the corner, out of sight, for your next call, too, and also for the third one that I was expecting—but you had only gotten out the first “Dee!” when your mother finished changing you and whisked you away to your crib.
All of this happened very shortly ago, and I can hear you in there now, talking to yourself and playing—which is your version of taking a nap.
(“I’m on my way!”)
After we all got home from a restaurant this evening, I put some yogurt—one of your favorite foods—in the middle of the kitchen table for your mother to give to you when she was ready.
But the next thing we knew, you were standing up on a chair at the table eating it, having taken matters into your own hands—and feet. (I didn’t know you could climb up on a chair so fast!) Then you brought the yogurt into the living room, handed it to me, climbed up onto the sofa beside me, got it back, and continued eating it. When finished, you climbed down again, and although wearing your brand new “Strike Up the Band” pajamas, you inexplicably began trying to also put on your brand new “Cute As A Button” top, too, which you had been wearing all afternoon. You tried to put the colorful top on right on top of your pajamas! Yeah—that’s going to work!
This interfered with a project of mine. Your last one or two spoonsful of yogurt, which you have trouble getting yourself, I always deliver to you by airplane. I raise the spoon high in the air, and an amazingly authentic airplane descends, with the right sounds, often making one or two dives by your head first. You like this game very much. In fact you were playing it by yourself on the sofa as you were eating your yogurt. But getting that “Cute As A Button” top on over your “Strike Up the Band” pajamas took all of your attention away from The Yogurt Airplane seriously trying to deliver its important cargo.
You had two spoonsful of yogurt left in the container, and I started the first one high with a very insistent and realistic airplane noise. UhhhhUhhhhUhhhhh! But you just continued struggling to get that new top on over your pajamas. I couldn’t even see your face part of the time! And there I was, on the way down with that first spoonful of yogurt, making the airplane engine sound. UhhhhUhhhUhhhh! The situation was desperate! The yogurt was already on the way! Obviously I had to try some tactic, so I added some dramatic narration: “UhhhhhhhhhhhhhhuHHH! Sarah! Here it is! uhhhhUHHH!! Sarah! Here! UhhhhhhhuHHHH! Your yogurt!! UhhhUUhhhhUuuHHhh!
The airplane sputtered a little, danced around in space for a few moments—and FINALLY, your face suddenly came right into sight and The Yogurt Airplane instantly and successfully delivered its cargo. And then even succeeded a second time!
I’m the aviator—and as you can see, occasionally it may be difficult to navigate the challenging space above our kitchen table or the sofa. But the aviator is determined—and The Sparkling Spoonful with its remarkable engine never fails to REWARD with true aim the selected target!!
Your mother and I always greet you warmly in the mornings, and this sets the tone for the whole day, for we are always affectionate with you—often boisterously on my part. Your mother is a little calmer.
Some time ago I taught you to give me a pat with your hand when I said, “Give me a pat.” But something got muddled after you did it the first one or two times. Because since then you respond to this request by patting me or your mother with just your very small index finger. This always makes me laugh! And by the way, we always give you a big “Thank you!” or “Thank you for that pat!” when you do this, and you seem pleased at our response.
Unexpectedly, though, you do pat us with your whole hand at other times. Whenever I am holding you up and giving you a hug, I’m usually also patting you on the back, and it has gotten so now you are doing the same to my back—or actually my shoulder, that’s as far as you can reach. Your mother is similarly honored—and always with your whole hand at these times.
Sometimes you come up and put your arms around my legs if I’m standing, or my neck if I’m sitting, and you get a big response from me then too—or from your mother when I’ve seen you do the same to her.
So, as you can see, this is a good-natured house—a good home for the story of a new person. It’s a good story. And guess what else!? I’ve discovered that I’m kind of like a new person, too. And your mother, too, of course. Thanks to you. You transformed two people. And a house. You deserve a big hug. And four nice pats on the back—three for the three new people here. And one for the new house.
You’re doing something new now. Your mother bought you a very nice Hallmark book the other day. All of the pages are exceptionally thick and stiff. They don’t even bend. Besides reading it, she asks you, “Where’s the ____?____,” and you turn the pages and point, usually successfully, to whatever she says. This special challenge began yesterday.
Beforehand, you were always turning back and forth in any book, asking, “What’s that?” changing direction so frequently that even the book got dizzy. At only 21 months, you have a vivid curiosity.
There’s even another twist. This morning, for the first time, with newly developed confidence you began testing me by turning to a page of your own choice and pointing to something for ME to identify. I’m proud to say that so far I’ve been right every time.
You may have saved my life when you were born.
Beforehand, when it was time for me to go to bed at night, there would be a deep valley on the other side of the bed, at the bottom of which was your expecting mother.
Since I was camping on the slope, I had to fight gravity all night long to keep from rolling precariously down the hill and landing on top of your mother. Sometimes I did, and once I was rolling so fast I bit my tongue when my chin hit your mother’s kneecap. We had to have my tongue x-rayed, but, luckily, it wasn’t broken.
Eventually, to keep my balance, I began positioning myself on the farthest outer edge of the bed—and then slowly, as time went by, and the angle became more acute, I began edging myself farther and farther out over the cliff I was on—even partially into space on that side!—desperately seeking safety. It was precarious—I was in danger from gravity in both directions! Hanging dangerously like this on practically nothing but my desperation in the darkness, I fought to get what little sleep I could. (Yeah!)
Periodically, the headlights of a car going by on the street outside, filtering dimly through the window, gave proof through the night that I was still there. A taillight sailing by, like a rocket’s red glare, was also reassuring. I was so glad to see the dawn’s early light!
Sometimes when your mother suddenly got up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water or perhaps to use the bathroom, the mattress would spring back to normal, utterly destroying my elaborate balance, and I would whistle “The Star Spangled Banner” quietly on the way down to the floor.
You were doing an unusual amount of kicking near the end, and so if ever I tried to sleep down in the valley, where your mother was, either you would be crushed or I would get bruised. (It didn’t help at all when I hummed “Down in the Valley” to let you know I was nearby.)
I don’t think I could have lasted much longer like this, tenaciously clinging to life each night high up on a cliff on one side and a deep valley on the other. So you saved my life when you were born.
Yes, at the exact moment that you were born, you also gave me life. So doesn’t that almost make us twins! Get it? Born at the same time? So now we need a bigger crib!
The other night when I got back home from playing basketball, I first took off my tennis shoes. Since you were watching me closely, I moved my black socks down below my ankles and let you pull them the rest of the way off. Standing there with a black sock in each hand, you held them up happily saying “Look, Dee’s socks” in your language. It was the first time that my socks—especially those I had just worn—had ever been appreciated and honored appropriately. I wish now I had had them mounted for display in a glass case.
This afternoon when I got home from work at the local junior high school, the first thing I did was take off my shoes and socks. You were watching closely again. When I took my socks off too, without thinking, clearly you were disappointed. You were remembering the other night. So I put them back on to just below the ankles, and you finished the job with a sense of belonging and achievement again.
Much later, this evening, after I had returned from playing a little basketball for exercise, I was sitting on the floor by the kitchen door. Both sweaty and damp, I began untying my navy blue tennis shoes with striped blue and white laces. You were sitting in your mother’s lap in the big green chair, holding your cobbler’s bench in your own lap when you saw me begin. Immediately you pushed the cobbler’s bench over the edge of the chair to climb down. Your mother’s eyes became as wide as the room as gravity had the expected effect on the colorful little cobbler’s bench. It floated right down to her foot.
You were pleased as we praised your removal of each sock. You even generously offered one to your mother, pushing it up towards her, but she wasn’t at all what you would call receptive. I was disappointed at this lack of appreciation. But it was her loss. The thing is, I would even have let her sleep with it under her pillow—and for more than one night.
And from my socks.
Would you like to know even more about what it’s like to live with a woman in an advanced state of pregnancy? I just described a typical NIGHT.
Here’s a typical DAY.
The morning comes with Thanksgiving. I say Thanksgiving for two reasons. One, I’m grateful to have survived another challenging night. And two, your mother’s breakfast reminds me of that holiday.
I have my usual two eggs, two crisp pieces of bacon, a piece of toast and half a glass of milk. Finishing quickly, I stare with mingled disbelief and wonder as your mother continues to attack the meal she has prepared to satisfy her expectation appetite.
Leaving me behind with eggs, bacon, toast and milk, she moves on down the line with cereal, pancakes, more toast, grapefruit, orange juice, a grilled cheese sandwich, spaghetti, and an interesting variety of other carefully selected and beautifully organized foods which a pregnant woman casually consumes.
When I return home at the end of the work day, I’ve learned to be especially cautious in certain danger zones. I have to be sure that we’re not both standing near a door and start for it at exactly the same time. Once we did and we became so emphatically stuck that it took us about an hour to become unwedged. And during all that time a certain third party kept trying to solve the problem herself by relentlessly attempting to kick one of the distressed out of the doorway. “Thanks,” I muttered to you, as I staggered away, seriously bruised.
Also, when living with a woman in an advanced state of pregnancy, there’s always a certain radius that I cannot ever forget—or suffer the consequences. For if she should unexpectedly swing around, and I am there in her highway, I could be struck—no, I didn’t say by a baby truck. No, I didn’t say that! Not me. I didn’t say it!
I look both ways.
Here’s a description I wrote when you were 10 days old—essentially to everyone—about the difference a brand new baby person makes in a house!
Some of the unlikeliest things can happen when there’s a baby in the house.
Even the most unlikeliest of all.
After our baby was changed to a formula, we noticed—after a number of hours—that she wasn’t having bowel movements.
We raised our eyebrows at this.
Some more time passed, and our eyebrows were still raised.
Word spread among the family, and many people telephoned to inquire about our eyebr—I mean, our baby.
The source of our concern, our daughter, offered us no relief. We had to go to bed that night with our eyebrows raised. It wasn’t easy to get to sleep like that. It was hard to keep our eyes closed.
The next morning there was still no change. My wife and I looked like owls—actually, like sleepy owls.
However a little later—at ten o’clock—the blessed event occurred. You can’t imagine how relieved I was for my eyeb—I mean, for my daughter!
I had never had much use for used diapers before, but I can assure you—and you probably have to be in this situation to completely understand—I thought this one including its load was beautiful. However, I couldn’t go as far as my mother-in-law, who came over to get a picture. I also didn’t agree to having the entire diaper and contents bronzed, when she asked. But then I thought to myself, “Why not?” Some things should be immortal.
Even the most unlikeliest things can become appreciated—when there’s a brand new baby in the house!
There’s a new turquoise rug on the living room floor now. And there’s a new little turquoise chair sitting on that rug.
This chair, mostly light turquoise, has hand-painted blue and red flowers on the back crosspieces. The round uprights have attractive circles of gold trim—which match the new rug very well. Your chair can usually be found near the front window in the living room. You like to look out.
And all the time now, you are asking me to sit down on this little piece of furniture—sometimes beside you and sometimes so you can climb right up my back on the tiny ladder. You put your hands on my shoulders to do so.
For you, this is like climbing the turquoise ladder on the caboose hitched to your little engine. All you have now—so far—is an engine and a caboose. Following the great engine of my life is just a long line of dusty, empty coal cars, and one or two freight gondolas. I’ve lost a hundred or so of the parti-colored hand-painted cars of the charming little railway of my childhood. Most people do. They’re so hard to keep track of.
These letters are a coupling to make sure that you never lose the little turquoise caboose that keeps rolling around here behind a fascinating little engine.
Dee Railroad Co., Ink
Yesterday we went for a little drive in the country, mainly for you to see some cows, but we didn’t have any luck.
We didn’t see any cows.
We did see a black and white pony, though, near the edge of town, so I pulled over.
At first I called it a pony. “There’s a pony, Sarah!”
Thinking you might get confused, though, being so familiar already with “horsey,” and not with “pony,” I said, “No, I mean horsey!”
But then I unintentionally said the word “pony” again two more times, which I also changed to “horsey,” so that by that time I was beginning to feel a little like a “donkey.” (Or maybe “jackass” is the better word.)
You solved the problem, though, as we drove away.
“Bye cow,” you said.
(I mean Dee!)
Pregnant women often get hemorrhoids.
Your mother is expecting your little brother, and she’s afraid she’s getting them. This evening, as she and I were talking in the living room, she happened to say, “Maybe they’ll go away.”
I was sitting on the sofa. You were near my feet on the turquoise rug just then. Picking up what your mother had just said and with an accompanying gesture of your hand, you told me—of all people—Sarah, your own father!—to “Go way!”
I hope you never know what it’s like to be suddenly converted into a hemorrhoid by your child—and especially your only child!
P.S. Help! It’s dark up in here! Yuck!
This afternoon when I walked into the kitchen: Surprise! You were sitting right in the very center of the kitchen table! You were facing your mother. She was studying—or trying to—with your legs spread out on either side of her papers and books. She goes to college, and you were helping.
“This is the way she’s been supervising my homework today,” she explained good-naturedly.
I appreciate your interest in education, Sarah. And you certainly deserve credit for the originality of your approach to the supervision of your student.
Perhaps the college will let you come and sit on her desk the same way when she’s taking her tests. And perhaps you could even help her teachers sometimes during class like that. If you did, you could tell them and the class your favorite word (Aw shucks, I didn’t know it was Dee! Thanks! What? Yes, I’ll come too and speak to the class. About what it’s like to have a new child! And I’ll be glad to tell them my favorite word!)
For the last two nights you’ve had two bedtimes apiece. Each night your mother had put you to bed before I got home from playing basketball. Each night somehow you seemed to know exactly when I got home, because you started calling “Dee! Dee! Dee!” continuously—one “Dee!” right after another, very clearly—as soon as I arrived.
Naturally, I got you up out of bed and let you go around for a little while longer.
Actually, last night you had THREE bedtimes. Not long after I put you in bed the SECOND time, you began calling “Dee! Dee! Dee!” from your crib again. I gave in, lifted you out, and you were quite happy to join us again.
But when you called me the time, the FOURTH time, I could feel my heart alternating, struggling MIGHTILY between being made out of INDESTRUCTIBLE INVINCIBLE STEEL or SILLY PUTTY MOONBEAMS.
Superman won! (The MOONBEAMS had already won three times!)
You went to sleep, and I left for a little while to save the planet one more time. For a few moments there was a bright shining line across the sky! Some people insisted that it started exactly at our house. Was it a bird? Was it a plane? You could see it right between the moonbeams up there!
You slept right through it, safe and sound. I kept the planet safe for you.
Lest someone be mistaken about your perpetually angelic nature, here is a more accurate picture.
This morning you were standing beside our bed playing with a small clear plastic pill bottle containing some diminutive stones—perhaps to represent pills with an exotic potency. You had no way of knowing you had in your hands a less-than-appropriate toy for someone your age. Anyway, you couldn’t get the white lid back on correctly. That can sometimes be frustrating, even for an agile adult like myself.
Emitting an irreproducible sound of toddler frustration, you defiantly retaliated by throwing the unbreakable bottle on the floor, scattering the tiny stones—imaginary pills—in all directions.
When you sank down to join them, I thought you were admirably determined to try to put the lid back on one more time, because you picked it up again—but soon it too went flying, accompanied by another irreproducible expletive.
Then you tried to take off one of your white shoes. Wrong decision! White was getting a workout! I heard another colorful toddler interjection!
Finally getting the shoe off, you decided to take the shoestring out.
Life is hard sometimes.
This drama continued, and you finally got the shoestring completely out.
But then you unwisely decided to try to put it back in again. Want to know how that went?
Descending to the level of a brute at last, you ultimately lifted up the shoe and bit it.
Hope you have a better day tomorrow!
BITS & PIECES OF SHOES
This morning I had to put your shoes on you twice. You took them both off after I had put them on you. Then you took the strings completely out of both. That was fun! Ever heard of parents needing to be patient?!?
BITS & PIECES OF THE FLOOR
You just tried to lift a Penny’s catalog from the coffee table. Too heavy for you, it fell on the floor. So far you have cried, thrown yourself on the floor, and struck me punitively on the leg. Oh yeah—gravity is my fault! My leg deserves to suffer.
Now you can’t turn the combined pages of the catalog—they are too heavy—and you have hit the floor again.
I’m glad the floor doesn’t take all of this too personally.
BITS & PIECES OF SOCKS
Your mother said that today you pointed to a shoe in the Penney’s catalog and said, “Dee’s shoe.”
This evening you helped me off with my tennis shoes and socks. We were on the floor beside the bed. When you took off the first sock, you said, “Dee’s sock.”
Then you threw it up to your mother, who was sitting on the edge of the bed, just above us, looking down. I know she appreciated those aromatic threads.
I guess you donated it to her because you’ve noticed that she’s the one who does the laundry. Or perhaps it was simply a reward for the hard work she does. She does work hard: So I think she unquestionably deserved to be rewarded with BOTH of my used socks! It’s okay with me if she sleeps with both of them under her pillow at the same time. (But so far she hasn’t hinted that she’d like to, although I’m still waiting.)
BITS & PIECES OF YOUR REAL POP FIGURE
“Sarah, come here: Poppin Fresh is on. Sarah, come here: Poppin Fresh is on,” called your mother from the living room this afternoon, and you went in to see him briefly on television.
You have your own toy Pillsbury Dough Boy.
He’s your only pop figure so far. But NO, wait a minute!! Now that I think about it, don’t you actually have ANOTHER pop figure—a REAL Pop figure? One that appears in EVERY room of the house—and NOT just where the television is?
I’m the reeal Deeal!
And I’ve never seen Poppin Fresh ride a bike.
I love to ride one, and when I do, you can see me go by on a real Popsickle!
I may even plant some corn in the back yard. Would you like some Popcorn? I could Pop it for you. You’d like it Poppin Fresh. That would be Deelicious!!
Last night in the middle of the night when I went to cover you up, you surprised me by being awake. You wanted your pacifier. Somehow in the dark you had lost it. To locate it again, I had to go and get the flashlight. Your pacifier expectedly was right there under your crib—and it was all the way to the wall.
So under I crawled, in the dark with the flashlight, and returned it to you.
Crawling on the floor of the house in the middle of the night with my head and eyes only about six inches up is an interesting experience.
The most ordinary objects can look quite different then from that point of view, and if you’re philosophical about it, every now and then one of them can be quite pacifying.
The Night Crawler,
Your mother’s expecting your little brother, and because she’s been having trouble getting rest lately, I suggested this morning after breakfast that she lie down again.
She did—or she tried to get some rest. But you decided to join her. You also decided to hold onto the top of the headboard of the bed, standing right beside her head, and to jump up and down vigorously with all of your might. Her head was going up and down right beside your feet. With her head trampolining like that, I doubted that she was really getting that much rest.
And I couldn’t help but find it amusing when I walked in and saw you were doing your best to foil our excellent plans again!
Afterwards, in the living room, with A CLOSED DOOR SAFELY BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR MOTHER, you stood upright the three cushions of the sofa and enjoyed running back and forth—and more BOUNCING.
Come to think of it, since you’ve joined us here, I think the house has shifted slightly on its foundations from the many expressions of your energy.
There have even been reports in the local paper of possible minor earthquakes in our neighborhood that people were trying to explain. I haven’t said a word publicly about the real cause.
If there’s any protest because of these new geological disturbances, however, I intend to stand protectively between you and the rest of the state of Virginia.
I genuinely hope the Appalachians can hold everything together for just a little while longer.
Because hopefully things will get better when you’re two—if only that won’t be two late!
Disasters can sometimes build up out of nothing. Today at lunch our menu was red beans and rice and tossed salad.
For some reason you wanted to put a red bean on the table. But your highchair was too far away, so you threw it—and it landed on the floor!
This initiated a strange series of events. The ghost of this red bean, understandably offended, arose from the floor, borrowed my body momentarily and slapped you—not hard at all but pedagogically—on the hand. Quite firmly it also appropriately reminded you NOT to throw things on the floor!
It was fascinating, because I would have done the same thing—exactly what the ghost did—had I not been temporarily occupied. But it wasn’t necessary.
A few seconds later you were laughing about something—I don’t know what—so I, leaning over at that moment for some unknown reason, suddenly straightened up indignantly, pretending you were laughing at me. At the same time I looked directly at you, clownishly offended.
This brought another laugh from you, and since you had your Raggedy Ann glass in your hand, full of milk, and were starting to drink at the time, you thought this was what had precipitated my umbrageous straightening.
So, you raised your glass again, which was immediately followed by my sudden exaggerated whole-body jerkiness—and more of your infectious laughter.
Well, this series went on, gaining momentum (I couldn’t stop!—it must have been that bean again!), the glass finally found its way to your mouth, the milk conspired with laughter, spilling into sight, you were choking, and the front of your shirt, normally absorbent, became saturated.
My back stiffened imperceptibly as the full extent of the disaster dawned on me.
You were a mess. But don’t worry. I didn’t blame you. After all, one-year olds do spill their milk sometimes, don’t they?
Since before you were born, you’ve been listening to the English language. Now we’re hearing a variety of it from you.
Here is a little of what you say.
For a long time now, when you’ve asked for something without actually naming it, you’ve done so by saying “O wha, Dee”—usually more than once. I think you mean “I want” whatever it is.
You can ask for some things individually, with your own successfully communicating syllables, and you’re doing this more and more. When I lift you from your highchair after meals, you immediately start asking for your favorite concluding food by excitedly repeating the absolutely correct noun “Pea!” a number of times. (You want some frozen peas for dessert. Yeah—for dessert!!)
When you want ice in your glass, you stand at the refrigerator door, raising the glass in both hands and crying “I, I.” (You know, you could even use that word as a pronoun.)
You are least articulate when you want us to something, which you often indicate by holding an object up and simply intoning “Uhhh, uhhh”—till we get the idea.
The other morning, sitting on the couch, I called to your mother, “Where’s the guide?” I didn’t notice you come over to the coffee table till you said, “He E is,” pointing to last week’s TV Guide lying there readily available. I didn’t even know you knew what a television schedule is.
Then today your mother told me you were rummaging through the newspaper sections on the coffee table repeating to yourself, “Where’s the guide, where’s the guide?”
Wonder how you were going to read that?
But you definitely have the right
This afternoon, it was so beautiful that you and I were outside in front of the house. I was sitting on the sidewalk.
You were somewhat wild. You were trying to throw a walnut I had picked for you from a tree down the street the other day, when I had taken you for a walk.
What I mean by wild is that when you throw something, there’s no telling where it’s going. So I was quite alert, because a green walnut with its outer covering still on can be somewhat large and very hard. This one fell into that category.
I’m glad I was vigilant, because finally, instead of vividly throwing it across the air, you threw it directly up into the air, and when it descended, it bounced right off the top of your head and right into my alertly ready hands.
I was able to catch it! I hadn’t realized you were throwing it to me! That was quite a trick shot by you, Sarah, but it worked. It was wildly successful!
To be perfectly honest, however, that throw of yours may have had one slight imperfection.
How’s your head?
You can count now—almost! Two times recently, you have gotten me to lift you up to sit on my bureau so you can put my “pings”—pennies and other change collecting there—into my hand while I count them.
But partway through, you reverse the process, get the money back from my hand and securely into your own—an ominous sign!—and want down.
Then with your handful of change you climb up onto the bed from the foot—another new skill.
Situated neatly against the middle of the two pillows, with your legs outstretched and together, you start counting the change. Today, you impressed me by beginning, “One, two, three,” beautifully.
But then you got stuck on “three” and continued, “Three, three, three, three, three, three, nine, three,” followed by a series of additional uncountable “three’s.”
But actually that is just fine. Three is an important number in our house. At first there were two, and now there are three.
So you can count to three as much as you like.
I like to be reminded of the number after two. Yeah. Three is good for me. If you know what I mean. And if you ARE what I mean!
When you came into our bedroom this morning, you looked startlingly like a banana. You were wearing a pair of skintight pants my brother just brought you from Florida. They had belonged to his daughters.
Your mother said she didn’t know how you could walk dressed like that, and to tell you the truth, you did take baby (uh huh!) steps in them when your mother first put them on you, so she said.
A little later, detecting a special character of the air as I lifted you affectionately up onto the foot of the bed, I said, “I think she’s done something in there.”
Looking carefully, your mother replied, I don’t know how—they’re so tight.”
But then a moment later, with new evidence, she reversed her conclusion. “Yes,” she said, “I can see the contour.”
Right after that, before your mother had changed you, I was sitting on the green footstool beside the bed, which I use to put on my shoes, when you climbed up with me, standing so that your waist (really—this is not a pun! No way!) was not that far from my nose. You wanted the “pings” (pennies and other change) from my dresser again.
The air pollution was debilitating. So I decided to get the pennies for you, slyly slipping you back onto the floor as I got up for that purpose. (Good strategy!)
But I played a game with you. Instead of giving you the pennies, I at first jingled them in both of my hands and then, with both of them closed, extended you the one they weren’t in.
This happened five times with a little less grinning on your part each time. But on the sixth, you went straight for the hand I didn’t offer you, and got the coins.
Not long afterward, lying on your back on the bathinette as your mother was changing you, you said in your own special language, “Want to go potty?”
I thought about this for a moment. I had never had an invitation like that before.
But before I could politely decline your thoughtful suggestion, your mother replied, “Honey, you’ve already been.” (And I’m certain she meant my daughter Sarah!)
Your banana skin, because of all of this, had lost favor. So your mother put a pair of bright red pants on you—more like the color of an apple this time. Good change. (No, this is not a pun either! But the world did become a better place!)
BITS & PIECES OF ITEMS NOT TEMPORARILY LOST
This morning you temporarily forgot your pacifier was in your hand.
“Where d’ it go?” you were saying, looking around.
Then you saw it in your hand.
“E it is,” you said.
Your mother said that when she took you up to your grandparents’ this morning, as the car pulled away from here you said in that sweet soft little voice of yours,
“Bye bye house.”
After lunch I took you and your mother out to the local small airport—to be followed by a pleasant roll through the October countryside. A little turquoise and white plane was just coming in for a landing in front of us. After sitting for a while, watching it crawl back to the hanger, we left, and you said,
“Bye bye pane.”
There was one place where I was particularly interested in your seeing some rather big crows in a large almost leafless walnut tree near the road. They flew, of course, in all directions up into the air as we came by, but not until we were almost beside the last one, and you said,
Then, after your mother had directed us down a side street we seldom go on, where we were lucky enough to pass a lovely light-yellow and light-green maple tree on a lawn—one of the prettiest sights of autumn—we were then lucky enough to see a horse grazing nearby. I stopped, we looked, and you wanted to get out, but—too bad—a car came behind us and we had to leave, at which point you said,
“Bye bye horsey.”
We indulge in a lot of foolishness around here.
Sometimes, when you and your mother are coming into the house, I hide behind the door to surprise you. The other day I just stood there, and when you finally turned around and saw me, you caught your breath audibly and grinned.
You have staked a claim to a little of this checkered territory yourself. Just recently as I was coming in the front door, your mother, briefing you to be quiet, had hidden you behind it.
But when I pushed the door open three or four inches and was taking the key out, I heard your shrill excited laugh on the other side—and then your mother’s affectionate remonstrance, “Sarah, you were to keep quiet!”
You were still quivering behind the door, jellified with joy, when I entered.
One good thing about foolishness, Sarah, is that it’s especially hard to hide when it’s succeeding the most.
The people who go by on our street have no idea how much foolishness is behind our door!
Here we are!
Your mother did a superexcellent job of decorating your room before you were born. She wanted to shy away from the traditional colors for girls and boys.
Your room is red and white.
As you walk in through the corner door, the first thing you see, on the opposite wall, is your chest of drawers. Your mother bought it unfinished and painted it white with three of its five drawers red. The white drawers have red knobs and vice versa. It’s very attractive.
Across from this, but toward the other corner on this side of the room, is your bookcase which your mother also painted red. On this usually sit your books and some of your stuffed animals. Above the bookcase she erected two shelves from materials she bought from the hardware store. She bought the braces which were gold-colored, had them saw the wood, and painted it white. Here sit more of your stuffed animals, your jewelry box, bank, and one or two statuettes.
The white shelves over the red bookcase give a pleasing effect heightened by the colorful animals.
Your crib, ordered especially for you and a gift from my parents, stands against the far—though not very far away—wall. It has red bars with a red and white crossbar on top—white above. The inside ends of the bed are both white with red trim. The end showing on the outside is white with red vertical lines, except at the top where on a white background appear a drum majorette, carousel, and a drummer.
The walls are blue, the ceiling white, the floor wood.
Between your bookcase and the showing end of your crib is your toy box, white with pale unobtrusive red lines, somewhat soft to sit on when the top’s down, but it usually isn’t.
On your windows, directly across from the door, and above your toy box, your mother put curtains that are a delight to me whenever I see them. They do not merely blend with the room, they greatly enhance it.
Above are white cafe curtains with red holds adorned with alternating red and white attractive little balls. Just above the balls is a series of small almost inconspicuous Aladdin’s lamps in white between two parallel lines. About halfway down and contrasting partly with the white cafe curtains above, are red slide curtains to be parted from the middle by day.
These are the main features of your room, and, as you can see, they are mainly red and white, as I said. Some of its smaller features, however, also contribute to the overall effect.
A diaper stacker hangs wealthily on the doorknob of the closet opposite your chest of drawers. It’s almost all white. When your mother bought it, it had a small design in thread of colors foreign to her scheme. Taking out the foreign thread, she replaced it with an attractive joined-parentheses design in red thread going unostentatiously across, about six inches from the top. The center about three and one half inches farther down sports a small red bow. By these simple thrusts your mother made this diaper stacker elegant.
At a shower party before you were born, she received for you a giraffe with red spots instead of orange, and he stands just off this corner of your chest of drawers and just off the back corner of the bathinette. His job is to take any clothing there’s no handy place for at the moment.
Just several more items. On the wall above the bathinette, just inside the door, hangs a medium-sized clown. Divided vertically to his neck, he is red on the left and white with red polka dots on the right. His hat is the same, only horizontally halved with the dots above. I have never cared for the look of mass-produced cheer on his face. (So I make up for the difference.)
Your chest of drawers is lighted by a red and white jack-in-the-box lamp. He has a blue hat with a white bow, rising above blue and white flowers on his box.
The red roof above your light switch is a nice accent (a French circonflex), especially with the various colors intermixed below.
One final scrap: you have a Raggedy Ann wastebasket below the other end of your bathinette.
Your room is saturated to a tiny degree with the main colors, but definitely on purpose. As a perfect whole, it’s remarkable. Your mother produced a novelty of taste and fun—just right and just for you—a room to be yourself in and then to remember. She did a good job—and you do a good job of being in it.
BITS & PIECES OF TRAINING PANTS
You have understandably gotten training pants mixed up with trains that go. But there’s more to it.
Like many children, you call a train a choo choo. (Even earlier, in your case: a shoo shoo.)
Somehow the signals got crosssed, however, because now, when getting a clean pair of training pants, you have given them the new name of choo train.
Obviously, there’s a miniature turquoise caboose connected to that same train!
I know, because the little train station beside the tracks just happens to be our home.
So far you have never had any candy, never tasted a soft drink, never eaten any pie or had any cake. We believe that the longer we can keep you from these things, the healthier you will be.
You may have had some cookies, long long ago, before we became firm in this program, and the only ice cream you’ve had was two small spoonfuls once—with me dissenting. We have healthy graham crackers (Yummy!!) for you, and after meals you are just as happy with yogurt—usually asking for more.
However, today your mother made some oatmeal cookies—a big pile which she put on top of the floor cabinet in the kitchen against which the step stool sits. It so happens you can climb up this step stool. (Do you see where this drama is heading?)
Not that I blame you—it would have been better to store the cookies immediately in some out-of-the-way place for consumption only when you weren’t around. You’ve understandably been trying to get to these cookies all day, probably, because of their irresistible aroma. But you succeeded in getting only one bite from just one cookie. (Drats!!)
Then, unforgivably letting our defenses down, this evening your mother and I got to talking briefly in another room. When she walked back into the living room, there you were sitting on the sofa, contentedly munching an oatmeal cookie and watching television.
Because of our lamentable carelessness, we—your formerly responsible—but now incredibly negligent—parents allowed you to eat a prohibited substance. (I only hope nobody finds out!!)
Oh No!! The sky is falling—I can see beautiful light-blue cookies falling everywhere outside!! (I’ll bet they taste remarkably delicious!)
After a tense discussion, we decided not to take you to the hospital. And thankfully you recovered.
Oh No—A Cookie!!!
BITS & PIECES OF SITTING DOWN
Constantly now, you are asking me to sit down beside you on your little chair. I have to admit that the large round protruding corner knob is not really that comfortable. But I sit on it anyway.
Sometimes you ask me to sit down on your little chair so you can climb up my back—the ladder of The Turquoise Caboose.
Often, however, you are so involved that you ask me to sit down on this little turquoise and flowers chair—when I am already sitting down on it!!!
I will do this as soon as I learn how to stand up after I am already standing up!
Tonight, when I put you to bed, I think I am going to patiently insist that you lie down when—guess what!—when you are already lying down!
What are you going to do then? For just a few seconds, you might be me!
BITS & PIECES OF ONE PERFECT WORD
This morning you kept calling, “Dee! Dee!” but since I had been up till two the night before, your mother went instead.
She said that hearing noises of someone coming, you had a big smile on your face, but when you saw it wasn’t me, it disappeared and you said seriously, “Dee go cool.”
“No,” your mother answered, “Dee go night-night.”
“Quiet,” you whispered.
Hearing your mother tell you I was asleep, you thought of the one perfect word to reply. And you lowered your voice to unquestionable thoughtfulness.
Thanks. That sounds just like you.
The other day I noticed a bulge in your training pants. (No, it wasn’t that!) When I looked in, you had your pacifier in there.
Good idea! It was like you were using your training pants as a holster to carry your pacifier. Like Sarah the Kid.
I wish I could have seen you draw it with lightning speed—and set a record for pacifying (yourself)!
Speaking of training pants, unknowingly I walked into the school this morning with a pair of training pants in my hand. Your grandfather had been late to pick you up. He also gave me a ride to the school, and as I was concerned about my one or two minutes’ lateness, and was also talking, I didn’t think about the training pants I should have dropped into the laundry.
I walked across the schoolyard like that, into the school, and not until I was in the main hall, reaching for my keys, did I discover I had a pair of training pants in my hand.
You should have seen how fast I holstered them!
I pacified those training pants out of sight quick!
Then I had a bulge in my pants.
Like daughter, like father,
BITS & PIECES OF BEING LIKE YOU
Here’s an example of how far you have come.
This morning, to show me you wanted to sit in your highchair, you climbed up by yourself so that you had one foot all the way up on the highchair TRAY, the other foot on the highchair STEP, you had your BIB in ONE HAND and were holding on to the BACK OF THE HIGHCHAIR with THE OTHER.
“I get in chair,” (translated by me), you proudly said twice from that precarious position.
I wish I could have as much fun and adventure climbing up into my chair!
Afterwards I would look at you, smile, and say with obvious excitement in my voice, “I get in my chair.”
There was a lot of understandable interest in your bedroom before you finally arrived because of your mother’s creative success with her decisions. People actually came by to see it! Quickly recognizing an opportunity, I handprinted an attractive sign and posted it right at the entrance.
To See This Room.
(Children Under 5 Free)
By Order of Proprietor
Wasn’t this an enterprising idea? But do you know what? Not one visitor—out of so many!—surrendered the modest admission charge.
I would like to announce now to the Reading Public all over this great generous country: If you are unhappy with this result, if you would like to help correct this sad injustice, put a quarter in an envelope and send it to the Town Hall in Crewe, Virginia. That would be very appropriate. I’d like for them to benefit. Thank you.
The other towns in Nottoway CountDee are Blackstone and Burkeville. I’m sure they would appreciate a quarter too—or at least twenDee cents.
I’m glad to let them have this money. I like doing Good Dee(d)s.
You did see some cows this evening.
We went for a drive in the country for you to see some, if possible, and we were lucky right away.
They were Herefords, on a hillside about fifty yards from the road. I drove past, and then turned the car around. In the light sunset, a partially elongated spectacular pink cloud stood above the pasture. The woods and trees were beautifully etched in darkness, since we were facing west, but the pasture was still light.
Pulling over to the side, I rolled my window down for a better look. You quickly walked right across my lap for a better look too. (Ouch!)
Hopefully, to summon the cows from that distance, I began a series of impressive professional moos.
A few lifted their heads. But that’s all.
Unfortunately, they weren’t convinced!
Not one came over for a better look or to hear impressive cow sounds better.
Your mother, astutely, must have noticed my ability, however, because she suddenly encouraged you to follow my example:
“Sarah do it.”
You mooed commendably—twice. I’m proud of you, even though none of the pasture dwellers visited us this time either. What’s wrong with them?
But it doesn’t matter. Don’t worry about it.
What do they know about being cows, anyway?
This evening you said your best-pronounced sentence so far. I called your mother’s attention to it.
Sitting on the sofa, very distinctly and clearly you said, “Baby gonna cwy.”
You were talking about a new doll your grandmother bought for you today. It cwies.
It may be the reason that tonight was so pronouncedly different. You went to sleep without summoning me to return for a few encores—or playing your music (you have a yellow Winnie-the-Pooh ring-pull music house attached to the wall side of your crib)—or laughing!—or talking to yourself!—or hiccupping!—or banging with your feet against the ends of the crib!
All of these would have been very normal.
But tonight all I heard was your new doll cwying once.
I almost wish you could be in on some of the things that are going on now—in the way that your mother and I are. There is such a difference between the dazzling electricity of the present and these few sparks on paper.
This evening you and I were together on the floor. With a section of newspaper we played the Boo! game, which showed you to be in a soft genial mood.
Then I wore the newspaper as a silly paper roof, with my head in the attic. The cutest little head joined me briefly in these cramped quarters, so that our eyes were face to face.
I wish you could have seen, in the dimness, the expression of your bright eyes—and the rest of your face.
One of the best surprises about an attic is that someone else might come up too.
Crewe, Virginia, is the town you are beginning to grow up in, so I have sketched its history for you as far back as I can find accurate information.
The Origin of Crewe
Millions of years ago, when the crust of the earth was taking its final shape, a series of hills, many small and some sharp, were formed in Southside Virginia. Although these forms were pleasantly sculptural, at first they were stark and bare.
In time, however, the weather chiseled out a topsoil for them. And, in time again, the weather produced flower, grass and tree, so that the setting was lovely indeed. By this time, some of the millions of years had passed.
Other millions passed, and the hills grew even fairer. Bears roamed up and down them, birds flew over them, buffalo grazed them, the deer called them home. The seasons came and went: the fairy green of spring, the light-green summer, the colored leaves of autumn, the stark but beautiful white magic of winter, with tracks in the snow. This was to be the site of Crewe, but so far it was not known by anyone.
And then, it was.
For along came a discoverer by the name of Amerigo Vespucci. Not the one in the history books, but another one, who was fatter. To tell them apart, they called the first one, the famous one, simply Amerigo; but the second one, who was fatter, they called Amerigo Round. He discovered Crewe.
The Settling of Crewe
Amerigo sailed up the Nottoway River (which of course was not named then) searching for a way to China. Finding that the river was to the East, he named it Nottoway, in honor of that conclusion. And that’s how the county got its name!
Before turning around and sailing back, on an exploring party Amerigo discovered the site of what was to be Crewe, and he and his men fell in love with it at first site (I mean sight). Since it held the answer to all of their dreams and expectations, all thoughts of China and a sea route east quickly faded, and they abandoned these plans in favor of settling immediately and blissfully here.
Seeking a name for this pleasant green wilderness, they named it in honor of themselves, the crew—and that is how Crewe got its name.
They sent the ship back with one man for their wives, who, when they arrived, agreed with them wholeheartedly on their choice of a spot, and so they all spent the remainder of their days peacefully and contentedly as the foundation of the modern community of Crewe—which eventually discovered you.
You may not believe what I’m going to tell you now. It all came about because you were to be the first grandchild. You were two days late, and your grandmother was expecting you any minute.
I saw the pup tent out the window one afternoon—and your grandmother digging a trench around it. “What’s that?” I wondered at first, at the strange sight.
The pup tent she got—god knows where—was in the shape of a silvery mint-green piece of cake with alternating plum and pumpkin icings. Moneyed over near the top with a beautiful starry night, it continued to light up our lawn like a gypsy’s vision.
We tried to reason with her, but she was determined. She had you on her mind.
Naturally the tent attracted a lot of attention. We were embarrassed because of the neighbors, but they were delighted. They came not only with their cameras but with their children to line our yard and look. Their spirits weren’t even dampened when your grandmother’s campfire spread one night and burned up their lawns.
Then we decided to live with the situation. We had to admire the creative, though stubborn, aspect of what she was doing, and it did show a lot of attachment to you. Besides, happily it would be over at any moment—whenever you decided.
By this time we were becoming the subject of merriment in ever expanding circles. Out-of-state cars began passing by, with people pointing and taking pictures.
Your grandmother had an unfortunate strategy, unknown to us, of tying a rope around her leg and around the axle of my car each night to make sure that we didn’t forget her when the moment came. In the excitement of going to the hospital for a first child, with so much already on our minds, we might overlook her—she thought.
We found this out one night in the middle of night when I got a call from my mother saying my father was ill. I left in quite a hurry! Hearing colorful adjectives suddenly being born out of the air, I stopped the car right away.
That one night she slept at her own home, as the tent had been completely ripped up, pulled through a bush, and dragged bumpingly down the street. Its heavy canvas had saved her from harm. (My father was not seriously ill.)
The rope wasn’t used after this, she assured us. But I didn’t know what to expect. Soon, though, I identified her new strategy, and relaxed somewhat because it was relatively mild. The pup tent was replaced in our yard, and now a pair of binoculars was constantly trained on our front door. Through the long hours of the day, we could see the glints at the ends of both barrels, and at night, if I got up at 3:30 or so for some reason, out the window I could see the two pale gleams above the orange thermometer of her cigarette. I had never seen anyone eat with binoculars at their eyes before—until I saw her.
Time was on our side, however. You were three weeks overdue, and as she had long ago run out of clean fatigues and was getting tired of spit-shining her boots—with field glasses at her eyes—finally she gave up and went home.
You were born the following morning.
And she was there.
Speaking of being born, would you like to know more about what happened that morning—starting in the middle of the night?! You were there. Your mother was there. I was there. And here is what actually happened.
FROM THE SEASON YOU WERE BORN
Is like trees
That have been thinking—
And slowly burst into RADIANCE
With a creative idea!
A new child
Is like the universe
Has been thinking—
And makes a REALITY
Of the BEST IDEA imaginable!
FROM THE NIGHT YOU WERE BORN
It was November 26.
I woke up slowly.
At first I thought it was the middle of the night.
But it was only 1:30.
I woke up because the bed was shaking.
The bed woke me up.
I looked over at your mother.
She was shaking the whole bed.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She answered nervously:
“I don’t know.”
But she added that she was feeling pains
About ten minutes apart.
You were already overdue
By eighteen days.
We discussed whether to start for the hospital
Or to wait.
Those pains were YOU speaking:
You were announcing your arrival.
We decided to go.
FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Even that late
Our neighbor right across the street,
Had stepped out onto her porch
At just that very special time.
Unseen by us,
She knew exactly why we were leaving.
She unexpectedly called out across the darkness.
Just two supportive words
Can mean a whole lot—
When life is taking you somewhere totally new.
FROM THE NIGHT YOU WERE BORN
You were to be the first grandchild.
Your grandparents had asked to be told
When we were leaving for the hospital—
At ANY time of the day or night!
Your mother made the call.
Your grandmother answered sleepily.
“We’re leaving for the hospital,”
Your mother said.
“What for?” your grandmother asked—
Not quite awake yet
In the middle of the night
To comprehend the exact message
She had been excitedly waiting to hear
From a telephone
For over two weeks.
We rode by their house.
The lights were on.
FROM THE WAY TO THE HOSPITAL
The highway was very dark and lonely
At that hour of the night.
When we were about halfway there
A white car passed us.
Your grandfather owned a white Oldsmobile
And for a few moments
You know what I thought.
I fully expected
To see your grandmother
Lift herself halfway out of the window—
No, MORE than halfway out!—
To urge us forward more quickly!
AND MORE QUICKLY!!
To the hospital
With enthusiastic, inspirational arm movements.
But it wasn’t them.
It was only a passing fancy!
FROM THE WAY TO THE HOSPITAL
Our headlights led the way.
Your mother and I
Traveled behind them
On our journey through an unseen world
To meet you.
You were on your way
Through an unlighted world
To meet us.
We were almost together—
But still apart!
But that wasn’t going to last.
We were almost there!
FROM THE WAY TO THE HOSPITAL
Would you like to know what we,
Your two parents,
During those last few minutes—
The OFFICIAL BEGINNING?
We talked about the sensation
That dominates everyone’s actual birth—
Before everyone’s birth, that is.
Pain is a communicator
And the mechanics of birth
Communicate almost completely
In this necessary way.
I should know.
The car was nearing the hospital.
Humanity was approaching.
“How far apart are they now?”
FROM THE HOSPITAL
The hospital was disappointingly dim as we arrived. It actually seemed empty. Was it open? Almost nothing seemed to be happening!—when for us EVERYTHING was happening! I parked the car in front—instead of in the parking lot—thinking that privilege was justified by the importance of YOU.
Inside, the hospital seemed deserted. But a very friendly nurse thankfully soon appeared and asked a few critical questions. A call then went out to the doctor—giving your mother and me some freedom for a few moments.
Surprisingly—to me at least—your mother suddenly began walking around rather quickly—to no place in particular—while holding her back abnormally straight and even awkwardly straight. She didn’t say why. At that time she wasn’t talking much about anything. Without a specific destination, and not knowing any, we ended up in the Waiting Room, where the same friendly nurse soon found us again.
This time she brought a wheelchair.
They disappeared, and I was left isolated with the next idea, which had been emphasized repetitively by your inexperienced mother just before she left with the nurse, that I was to join her in the Labor Room right away—in only several minutes!
I was expecting something more grandiose, but the Labor Room seemed to be just an ordinary hospital room with the usual furnishings. It was on the second floor.
Lying on the bed, now in a special gown, your mother was considerably more relaxed than when I had last seen her. She was acting even light and pleasant, surprising me under the circumstances. Accepting the inevitable, she was glad to be there, I believe, and to have gotten started at last, after waiting for you and thinking about you and your arrival for so long. I responded to the way she smiled when I entered. She was communicative, and, in contrast to all of the night beforehand, we talked freely.
However, the pains were coming significantly closer together and at the same time were becoming ever more intense. We didn’t know a lot about what we were in the middle of, but we were beginning to realize that your birth was going to be a lot sooner than anyone had expected!
FROM THE HOSPITAL
A nurse kept coming in and asking me to wait outside the door for two minutes.
Your mother’s and my conversation then became everyday—and special—at exactly the same time. But then, slowly, it began to suffer from the continuing regionalization of your mother’s attention. However we were still communicating at a high level unique to that occasion, I now think. I didn’t have to be told why when she closed her eyes and stopped talking altogether.
My geography was that I was sitting on the edge of the bed sometimes and sometimes in a chair pulled up close to the bed.
Your grandparents arrived at the hospital and surprised us with a reassuring visit to their daughter. They were there when—that quickly—white came in and your mother was taken straight to the Delivery Room. I watched every inch of her disappear out the door.
The three of us left for the Father’s Waiting Room. I felt a little pride that it was named for me.
But we had the easy part.
Because, regrettably, in the Delivery Room the anesthesiologist was late. The epidural was delayed too long to be possible at all.
Luckily for us, we didn’t hear her screams.
FROM THE FATHER’S WAITING ROOM
You came quickly
Although at the time
I didn’t think so
You arrived at 4:58 in the morning.
A nurse stopped at the door
Of the Father’s Waiting Room
In a matter-of-fact voice
“Oh, by the way,
Did they tell you?
You have a little girl.”
FROM THE NURSERY
A little while later,
When the time finally came,
I walked down the hall
To look through the glass
Into the nursery.
Some babies were lying there
Side by side
In plastic cradles.
On each cradle
Was taped a card
With the child’s last name and sex
Without capital letters.
In your case
This translated into
Looking at you lying there,
I read those two perfect little words.
FROM THE WAY HOME
I drove home by myself later,
Looking around at the changed Earth
Through the especially enchanting colors
Of first daylight.
And after I had been up all night,
The strangest thing happened.
It hadn’t snowed,
But I gave a ride to three Snowmen
Who asked me for one.
Each Snowman was a different
And unforgettable color.
One was ROSE,
The second was GOLD,
The third LIGHT TURQUOISE.
I enjoyed talking to them
As the car magically
Seemed to weave its own way
Down the highway.
They finally told me
They were the Thanksgiving Snowmen.
And then I remembered:
It was Thanksgiving!
A totally new person was on the Earth.
She had never ever been here before.
We were seeing her for the first time.
We were knowing her for the first time.
So how can we give enough thanks?
But I don’t think there’s a problem.
We have every day of the future—
So we can try every day!
And we have a really good reminder.
Here she is!
And that, Sarah, is exactly what happened on the night you were born.
Your mother says that the drive to her college classes in Farmville these days is pretty. Plenty of color.
Yesterday she bought you your first crayons and coloring book. There are now some red marks on our bedspread.
Yesterday evening, sitting on the bed, you got mad because you couldn’t put the crayons back in the box as you wished. So you threw the box. And then you threw a crayon. It just happened to hit me on the head. (Let’s try some less colorful behavior!)
For the last three mornings, when I have gotten you up, you have wanted to take your red and white cat and white bear with you out of your room.
You have trouble now with the second consonants of consonant blends. Green is “gween” and blue is “bwue.” You also make a mess of mispronouncing “red.”
If you want to know how you say “spoon,” put your white teeth on your lower lip and say “foon.”
Your chronic chronicler,
Do you know what parents are for sometimes?
They are anger sponges.
This morning I gave you some frozen peas which you put into a small plastic container you found in the floor cabinet.
Afterwards we were sitting on the sofa together when you became rather frustrated because, after eating the frozen peas, you couldn’t fit the lid successfully back onto the container.
As usual, I tried to help. I reached, but you immediately bit me on the hand that I extended. I recognized your teeth from the marks on my hand.
How did it feel to bite a sponge that looked so much like your father no one would have been able to tell the difference?
Good thing that anger sponge was handy so that you didn’t have to bite a human being—especially your father! The anger sponge didn’t feel a thing. And that good-natured look just stayed right on this face!
BITS AND PIECES OF SITTING ON A TACK
You have a cobbler’s bench with eight colored pegs or “tacks” to be pounded down with a small wooden mallet. This morning you carefully inserted the bench between the coffee table and sofa and then lowered yourself gingerly to sit down upon the upstanding tacks, all the while looking at us for appreciation of this novel venture.
In this house no one is ever told to sit on a tack. But we might want to do so voluntarily.
“Move over, Sarah!”
This morning I took you over to a neighbor’s to stay while your mother was in class and I was at work.
This was to be the first time you had ever stayed somewhere else with someone other than your grandmother. When you saw me leaving, how would you act? was what I was wondering.
Would you begin screaming, throwing yourself on the floor and bumping your head, as I have seen others do, pleading for me to return with a high-pitched wail at the screen door?
When I left, you watched me out the window. Our neighbor reported later that your only words were, “Where Dee go?”
When your mother came by for you later, you actually wanted to stay and play longer!
Where did we go wrong?
Tonight we were visiting in Victoria at the home of my uncle and aunt.
When it was near your bedtime, your mother brought you back to Crewe by herself. I was to come later.
Your mother said you were really sleepy on the way. You kept drooping your head.
Here, she got you ready, and, putting you into bed, began saying things like, “You had a nice day today. I love you. You had a nice time visiting in Victoria tonight.” And so on.
Apparently, as tired as you were, you desired a more rapid transition to sleep, for finally, to put an end to her monologue, you raised your head from the pillow, put your finger to your lips, and said, “Shhhh.”
Feeling foolish, but entertained as usual, your mother withdrew, and you collided with peace.
I just put you to bed.
To keep you company during the night, you selected:
your baby doll ;
your Raggedy Ann Daffy Taffy Pop-Up Book;
your Raggedy Ann purse (containing four pennies and a small beige rubber band);
and, for some reason,
the mallet from your cobbler’s bench.
Good choices. You chose a friend, a book, cash, and a weapon. I think you’re completely prepared to make it through the night. See you safe in the morning!
You’ve reached one of the most important turning points in your life. You began wearing training pants today and will be wearing them all the time now, except at night, until the adjustment is made.
In the meantime, on another subject, you used to say
only when repeating it after us—or when you yourself knew something was forbidden.
But this regrettably has changed.
Now without hesitation you say “No!” to us exactly when you mean it. For example, this morning after breakfast you had some milk left in your Raggedy Ann white plastic glass—not your big red Scooby Doo one. So I sang you a little one-line song three times: “Finish your milk.”
You sang back to me, “No no no no no no no no!”
Now you know I never ever said “No!” to my parents when I was your age.
So I made up another little song just for you: “Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!”
P.S. You eat with a little fork that belonged to me, and that I used, when I was just about your age.
A little sweaty from playing basketball this evening, to protect the furniture I had lowered myself to the new rug in front of the big green chair. You were sitting right beside me on a copy of . And you were attired for the future! I mean you were wearing simply a diaper—with no rubber pants, which was the equivalent of training pants.
A NEW ERA had begun! But you didn’t know it.
Suddenly we heard troubled sounds from you, and then a loud distressful “Oooohh!”
I looked down, and there was a pool of wet right on the rug beneath your diaper. You had even gotten some on —though you had thoughtfully moved a little away to protect it.
You were very unhappy.
Then your mother and I started the training.
me: “Sarah, say ‘potty.’ Say ‘potty.’
you (softly): “potty.”
us: “Good.” “Right.”
Your mother, escorting you to the potty: “Oh, my rug!
Sarah, say ‘potty.’ This is where you go potty.
That’s where you go potty—right there.”
Sarah, the bathroom is actually your new Wonderland.
And your Adventures there—are just beginning!
You’ll see what I mean!
I don’t know how many times I put you on the potty this afternoon when you asked me to. I enjoyed watching the football game—from the bathroom! But thanks for asking, even though nothing happened there!
At 4:00 o’clock we went out into the back yard. The weather was soft, and sometimes sunny, but totally enjoyable. Your mother and I have been admiring the sweetgum near the end of the yard. A deep plum at first and only mutely attractive, it has brightened into a winey light red.
There’s a very large rock protruding just below it, which you invited me to sit down on. Strangely, it has the shape of a large fish.
And then, after all those trips to the bathroom this afternoon, suddenly a troubled look came on your face, you said, “Ah potty,” grabbed your training pants, and pottied right there—right on the large rock beneath the sweetgum. There was more falling there than just leaves!
Your mother just happened to walk up right then. “Whose little girl is this who wandered onto our lawn?” she asked humorously to the neighborhood, in a slightly louder voice than usual, looking around for potential parents.
Equally curious, I looked around too. But no one else was in sight.
Right! Because there is no question, really, about whose completely special little girl you are! So the three of us enjoyed our thoughts there for a little while longer of that wonderful afternoon between the soft blue sky above, the attractive colorful leaves, and the large silent fish below that never moved or went potty even once—that we knew of.
Lightning struck our bed today—you pottied on it!
You had already pottied on the kitchen floor earlier.
One of the curious sidelights of history is that the same book, , was again lying luminously nearby. This is similar to the fact that the Civil War visited the site of Bull Run twice; and that a man named Wilmer Maclean moved away from the site in Virginia of an earlier battle of the Civil War only to have the surrender eventually take place in the house in Virginia that he moved to.
This morning you were outdoors with your mother as she was hanging up clothes. I stepped up to the door just as you were running across the lawn exclaiming, “I’ve got a flow’r! I’ve got a flower!” You had a dandelion in your hand.
One of the prettiest sights I know of is autumn leaves with the sun shining through them.
Earlier when I was taking a shower you were banging on the door, and I thought you simply wanted to come in because I was in there. But your mother opened the door, bringing you in and saying you had just potted outside the door on the floor. Isn’t that something? We strive as hard as we can to get you to potty on the potty chair, and then you potty in your pants banging on the door responsibly trying to get in to it!
You can’t really blame us, however. You are crying “potty” about every five minutes now (calm down!) and one gets numbed after so many false alarms with no money.
We struck pay dirt temporarily this morning.
You potted! (Notice how excited I am.)
I was brushing my teeth after breakfast when you said “potty” so I put you on it.
Then I heard it tinkling down. I was ecstatic. Your first time!!
“That’s wonderful, Sweetheart!” I cried. “She’s a good girl. She shore is!” (Great adverb.)
And I gave you a big hug, and another one when you got down, which you wanted to do immediately.
Since then, however, you have regressed and have not repeated the performance.
But you will.
Yesterday afternoon you potted again for your mother, and also this morning, so you are coming along.
You still have a long way to go, however. For example, this evening you got into a classic position and drilled a hole in the rug (our new rug!).
In all honestness, though, we may have confused you, because, traceable to your mother’s taking college classes, we have sometimes had to put diapers back on you during the day, disturbing the continuum of training pants. If so, you have still done exceptionally well in this short time.
Last night you wore new pajamas decked with ornaments of the solar system, they orange and yellow on a white background. My favorite is the half-moon wearing a long sleeping cap. These make an interesting symbol. You are always clothed with the universe.
When I got home from playing basketball late this afternoon, there on the porch, prominently leaning against the wall of the house, was a cushion from the sofa, mutely announcing before my entrance another chapter in your potty fortunes and misfortunes.
You did potty correctly once again this morning, though. I’m sorry if I can’t hail this achievement too briskly, however. You see, my side of the bed is still damp from the attention it ingloriously received earlier this evening. I may have to sleep on the sofa. (Let’s see, which cushion was that on the porch this afternoon?)
It’s uplifting to walk where sweetgum leaves have fallen. It’s like walking on stars.
This afternoon, as we were on the bed, after asking about my belt and zipper, you harmlessly (I thought) raised both hands over your head and then suddenly slammed them down on the future brothers and sisters of this family—or what would have been the future brothers and sisters of this family. That’s finished now. (Bye yall! Bye Adam, Jason, and Meri. Now you’re just wishful thinking. I’m going to miss you more than you know!) “Ow!” I sincerely told you.
Don’t do that again.
After going with your mother to get groceries, you pottied successfully, having held it for a long time.
I was in the kitchen when I heard “Good girl. Good girl,” praisingly coming from the bathroom.
“What’d she do?” I asked, coming in. Your mother gave out the news, with more words of praise, we all clapped, (including yourself at your own performance). Then you descended from the stage.
You pottied again successfully at four, but in your pants at 6:06 p.m., and in between those times another sofa cushion exited out to the porch to dry.
Autumn is like leaves that have been thinking, and burst into radiance with a creative idea.
We had spaghetti this evening, which you couldn’t handle too well by yourself. Your mother had given you a to eat it with! (Ha! Good thinking!) But when offered a forkful, you sucked it in so hard your head shook.
It has now become standard practice for you to have two bedtimes—when your mother puts you to bed, and almost exactly ten minutes later when you start calling Dee! Dee!
This is your potty history for today.
(about) . You pottied successfully. This was before I was up, having gone to bed rather late last night.
10:25 A.M. You pottied successfully, and I was there. This time there was no delicate tinkle, for your mother heard it (and me praising you afterwards) from the living room. Besides the usual praise (Good girl, good girl etc.”) and clapping, you received a couple of kisses from your mother.
11:13 A.M. You pottied successfully again, followed by more like the above. Afterwards you leaned over the commode, saying “See, see.”
11:29 A.M. You spread a large pool over the step-stool seat in the kitchen, wetting the first step too. (Where’s all this water coming from?) This produced “No, no! Sarah tell us ‘potty.’ Not in the kitchen, no.” And the like.
11:55 A.M. You pottied again successfully. There was clapping, praise (“Good girl. I’m proud of you. You told Mama, didn’t you?”) And some kisses. By the way, sometimes after using the potty you say “more,” but you never do more, though you try. Also after these times, you are permitted to flush. When all of the above was finished in the bathroom and you came victoriously into the living room, I appended another “good girl,” and you clapped.
(about) 4:30 P.M You pottied on the rug a little, but perhaps this was because your mother was bringing you home kicking and screaming from across the street (you had been there playing) when she knew you had to potty, and you lost control.
6:30 P.M. You pottied on the rug.
7:10 P.M. You told me in the living room that you had to potty, and you did, with the usual festival afterwards.
This completes your record for one day. Sometimes we’re lucky, Sarah, and sometimes we’re not. Today we were lucky. Today, for the first time in your life, you pottied correctly more times than you didn’t. If you hadn’t been playing across the street this afternoon, you might have succeeded 7 out of 8 times, but I won’t quibble about that.
That’s an example of luck going the other way. But who’s worried about that?! Let’s be happy about the good luck coming our way!
Your lucky father,
This morning after breakfast, I was busy with something to do when I met you in the hall, and you said, “Do you want to go outside (my translation)?” Then at the front door you looked at me so requestingly and held up your arms so imploringly, repeating your question, that the front door opened by itself, I believe (I don’t remember reaching for the knob) and I took you outside.
We stayed in the front yard for a little while, and then you walked around the right side of the house. By the time you reached the back, you were running, and, to my surprise, stopped and gave a great big “Boo!” to the back yard and to the rest of the world.
Walking aimlessly, we ambled to the sweetgum tree at the far end of the yard and stopped on the large inset stone beneath it.
Although it is only August, a yellow star-shaped leaf had fallen from the tree onto this boulder, which has the appearance of a fish. You picked up the leaf, and there, in the morning light between the fish and the stars, we had a little talk.
Before sunset, for a few minutes this evening the light turned lemon-silver behind the trees, etching them in a bewildering artistry, as cheerful in their graphic complexity and purity as sunshine blossoming the interiors of sweetgum leaves.
At your grandmother’s today, you pottied to the cheering of four persons. These were adults. Humans are endearing, aren’t they?
Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.
I have seen you out of control, falling through the air from the sofa—and even falling from our bed to the unyielding floor below. I have had to listen as your body poetically described a hard geometry of points and lines on the floor where you landed. These graphs imaginarily lie at strategic places around the house.
Once you tried rocking while standing up backwards on your rocking chair. Soon, with enough momentum, you kept going backward and it tipped over in the forward direction. The top of it landed right on your head, leaving a violet goose-egg on your forehead and a big putty nose in the middle of your face. This was the worst accident you ever had. (You’re now normal again, and I’m still recovering!)
But sometimes you are lucky enough to learn through the agency of a whimsical justice—and these are the best times. This afternoon, when your mother’s back was turned, you climbed up on the step-stool at the end of the kitchen counter and put a whole handful of raw hamburger into your mouth. Needless to say, it came right back out! That’s about the fastest you ever moved!
The rapidity of its exit definitely implied a happier kind of learning. That was a much better motion than your whole body heading toward the floor!
A movie of all the episodes of your education would be fascinating. It would be instructive, funny, and, at times—definitely not that easy watch. I wish we did have it, though. We could call it “The Girl with the Rocking Chair Face,” or “The Hamburger Cannon!”
Keep learning (and surviving!),
Practicing golf in the yard, I have hit over a dozen lightweight plastic golf balls up into the eaves on the front of the house. And there they remain.
I could climb up and get them, but if I did, I might fall, and I don’t believe in eavesdropping.
Today we learned that your little brother is on the way.
Lately, thinking that this might be true, I have been unsuccessfully peddling two propitious names for him: Leif and Canute.
Each one is so spectacular, I’m sure you can understand why I myself haven’t been able to decide between them.
I genuinely canute make up my mind. So far I would as lief have one as the other.
P.S. We eventually named him Adam—as you well know by now! Hi Adam! You were in the middle of all these adventures without even knowing it!
Sometimes you have the oddest notion about my departures.
This morning I was leaning over the kitchen sink, washing my hair, and you were on the floor only a few feet away playing with your tennis shoes.
Because you couldn’t see my head and face, I suppose, although the rest of me was towering conspicuously above you, you were mumbling, “Where Dee go? Where Dee go?”
The other day you and I had been sitting in a lawn chair for some time when your mother returned from the grocery store. It was late in the afternoon.
You quickly ran all the way across the lawn to where she was getting out of the car. When you got there, the first thing you said to her, in your clear but soft little girl voice, was, “Where Dee go? Where Dee go?”
I had to laugh. Because you spend most of your time with your mother, you’re used to me being the one gone, and me being the one arriving. These youthful concepts suddenly let you down.
I don’t mind, though. I like the new power you’ve given me of travel—without actually going anywhere! I like going nowhere at a blinding speed!
Goodbye and hello!
P.S. Notice that the last three letters of “speed” are my name spelled backwards! Perhaps that’s part of my new ability!
Never underestimate the power of example, especially the example set by a parent.
As I’ve said, one of your favorite foods these days is frozen peas. Today, while you were waiting for your regular lunch to cool off a little, I sprinkled a few frozen peas onto your highchair tray.
Before long one fell on the floor. I happened to be barefooted, and with admirable dexterity—I thought—I managed to pick it up between two of my toes. I raised my whole leg and foot up for you to see.
A moment or two later, after throwing that derelict pea away (with my agile foot, of course) and sitting down to my own lunch again, I looked in your direction. I’ll be darned if you hadn’t raised both of your feet to the far side of your highchair tray, where, learning over as best you could, you were struggling to put a green pea between two of your toes.
Parents, watch out!
Your potty success is continuing. Only once in the last two days have you stepped out of bounds.
What happened at your grandmother’s store this morning is noteworthy, I think. Like a good girl, you told your grandmother “potty,” but since you were at the store, she didn’t know what to do.
First she tried putting you on the big potty, but that didn’t work. You were scared. Then she walked all the way upstairs (and down again) to get a brand new potty seat out of stock, and you used this. You held it all that time!
There are three potty seats now available for your use: one here, one at your grandmother’s, and now one at the store. A new triangle has now appeared on the map of Crewe.
Guess where the points are? And I guess everyone else is wondering what they mean, too.
Your potty fortunes for the day had a distinguished beginning: you had a bowel movement in your potty chair for the first time!
It happened in an unusual way. You told me “potty” and I put you on the chair, but you didn’t do anything, which is not unusual.
But as soon as I helped you to the floor, immediately you cried “potty” again in a frantic way, and I put you back up again. The same thing happened three or four times.
It occurred to me that you might be having difficulty with a bowel movement and that we might be in the middle of the sunset of messy diapers.
Very shortly afterwards your mother went through this same process with you, and then once, when she and I were both there, we heard that famous sound. (I wish we had a recording!) Then the ballyhoo began.
I think this concludes the major events of one of the classical periods of your life, Sarah: potty training.
I’ll wait till later to think about classical eras and their significance. Right now I just want to celebrate “The Sunset of Messy Diaper Changes.”
Yes, it’s going down! (You know what I mean!)
Since your ‘ve had your new crayons, you’ve been getting your mother and me to “draw” your hand by tracing it on a page. Your new coloring book has been handy for this.
Here is your hand, as we do it.
(Done with a purple crayon.)
Thought I might as well draw my hand too. (Done with a black ball-point pen. It was handee for this.)
Your mother said that you were terrible today.
She said that at the grocery store you threw her selections out of the cart onto the floor. You even tore the covers—as best you could—off of some of the packages you didn’t discard. And others—that she wasn’t even buying—you pulled off of the shelves to let fall to the floor.
You stood up in the cart, demanding to “get down.” For variety, when you weren’t doing any of the above, and probably because you weren’t getting your way, you yelled.
Hearing this report when I got home, I was understandably concerned. These descriptions didn’t sound like you at all. You may even have continued this behavior here at the house, because your mother—now a little pregnant—looked noticeably worn.
I was still concerned when your mother happened to mention that in addition to your other activities at the grocery store, at times you also called out that magic syllable: “Dee! Dee! Dee!” So far away, but not in spirit, you called out across the distance to me.
Before long, I realized that you certainly hadn’t done anything so alarming there. After all, you’re still very young. And your mother probably exaggerated. After all, she is pregnant. She may even have made the whole thing up. I think she did. Let’s forget about it.
(I hear you—across the distance!)
Sometimes, mostly on the bed, as we are playing, you stand up on my chest or stomach, I wobble a bit, and you fall down, laughing as I catch you. This afternoon we were doing this on the sofa as well.
Then you got down, went over to your mother in the green chair, and climbed all the way up to stand right on her chest and shoulder. Then suddenly—unexpectedly—you sat down right on top of her head!
Quizzically pleased at our reaction to the spontaneous comedy of this, for a few minutes you just sat there, looking around the room before half climbing, falling and struggling back to your mother’s lap.
But one of your main characteristics these days is that you repeat things. Your lucky mother got to go through the whole sequence all over again!
Unlucky me just got to watch. (Ha!)
It’s important to choose a good place to sit.
I like your new chair!
Sometime during your odyssey yesterday you initiated quite a moment for me last night.
It was so nice of you to turn the blender ON without my knowing it. Inconspicuous in the middle of the row, the button that you had fatefully pressed in—and left that way—was unnoticed by me. The blender was safely unplugged at the time.
When I make yogurt at night, I usually plug the blender in at the beginning—first thing. But, last night—I don’t know what happened—I must have been distracted. For whatever reason, I just didn’t plug it in at first. If I had, I would have discovered, harmlessly, that a setting had already been selected.
I made my preparations, and the blender finally was full of everything it takes to make yogurt. It was ready to go—except that I hadn’t put the top on yet. That was next, when suddenly I just happened to notice that the blender was still unplugged.
So I plugged it in.
One second was all it took.
I just stared in disbelief: my bermudas, my shoes, my leg, the wall, the counter, the floor, the waste basket, the floor cabinet, the solar system WERE ALL COVERED by what had just been in the blender!
Then I began cleaning the solar system with everything it takes to clean up a mess that widespread—everything except happiness, that is.
Just past Neptune,
P.S. A couple of days later I actually saw you pressing the buttons. Looking more closely at the options, I read “Chop, Grate, Puree, Liquify” and so on. I hadn’t even noticed before that one of the choices was: Solar System.
Your mother did something humorous last night.
I went to play basketball early in the evening, and coming back, put my basketball shoes under the bed. They were navy blue.
Much later I noticed my pair of white tennis shoes out in the hall. This morning your mother informed me that last evening, since my basketball shoes were broadcasting so effectively, she had been obliged to put them out in the hall.
But she had put out the wrong ones!
I have been chuckling about this all day.
But then it occurred to me that since my feet obviously have the ability to travel great distances here—I can use that ability to fly up into the air above the basketball court too!! I might even stop using my car to go places. Is that a bird? Is it a plane? Is it my feet—with me attached?
Hey, down there!
Yes, It’s Dee!
You were playing on the rug this afternoon, and I was watching a football game on television.
I was lying with my head on the upright end of the sofa, which was getting decidedly uncomfortable. What I needed was a pillow.
I didn’t know if you knew what a pillow is. You don’t use one on your bed.
But anyway, just for the heck of it, I said, “Sarah, go get me a pillow. A pillow. I need a pillow. Get me a pillow. Good girl! A pillow, sweetheart. Go get me one.”
You stood there uncertainly.
Then, to tell you the truth, I forgot all about it, for just then the western sun was getting into my eyes, and I got up to adjust the curtain.
But a moment or two later I saw you come hauling around the corner with a pillow bigger than you are!
Yes, on your birthday the little sign on your plastic cradle at the hospital did say, “good girl.” It couldn’t have been more right!
Here you are!
What should be your attitude toward knowledge?
I’m not referring to the paste-on learning of schools.
I mean knowledge of such things as the infrastructure of snow, harness maps, aquamarine oranges, eatation, black sunpieces of gold, and buffalo unicorns.
The stork is constantly bringing new knowledge, and you should forever be expecting him. There is a wonder, a fantasy, of knowledge in the air.
Never let it die.
Something new is happening. Up to now, we’ve only looked at the pictures in books and magazines.
Yesterday and today, however, you’ve been coming to me with the book, , to read aloud.
“Ree! Ree!” you direct, so very often that I can hardly bear any longer the line on practically every page of the book: “But where is Farmer Jones?”
This morning, perhaps because you also got tired of Farmer Jones never feeding his animals, you ran and brought back Volume One of . “Ree!” you directed, holding it up. But then you kept turning chunks of pages while I did my best to try to read a fraction of a line on each page. Imagine the turmoil in my mind! This quickly became almost as frustrating as Farmer Jones.
Later, I even ended up having to read to you once again, when I had intended to read the literary section of the Sunday paper. That man is swiftly coalescing as my worst enemy! Why doesn’t he take care of his animals like he’s supposed to?!
So this time I read the first page of the book like this: “It’s supper time on the farm. The animals are very hungry. But where is that *&~^#@! Farmer Jones?”
I similarly changed the other pages, too. Suffice it to say that Farmer Jones is not inconsistent with other adjectives occurring to me that were strangely satisfying.
Once, when you were gone, I secretly slipped under one of the cushions of the sofa. But as soon as you returned, you began upending the cushions to bounce across the sofa, found the book, and my punishment for hiding it from you was that I had to read it out loud again.
If this happens much oftener, the line heard around this house is going to be: “But where is that *&~^#@! Farmer Dee?”
This morning when I was doing my situps still in bed, you walked up with your ceramic angel music box in your hands. Although I knew what you were going to do, my back came down on that sharp angel’s wing sooner than I had expected. If I had been less vigilant, you might have made an angel out of me.
You broke one of your mother’s lipsticks tonight. You like sitting up on the edge of her dresser (using me as an elevator), taking her lipstick tubes one by one out of her jewelry holder, uncapping them, and screwing the colors to the surface.
But tonight’s unfortunate fracture will curtail these activities. Afterwards your mother was mumbling inaudibly about the injury to her melon opal tint. From now on, you’ll have t leaves them in their rinds, at least.
Your mother has a new, long, melon opal and white dress for a dance. It’s very pretty. When you first saw it you let out a long impressed “Ooooooooo!” You also do this when you see rows of dolls downtown. (It follows that your mother is a doll, doesn’t it?)
Last night and today you had your second and third bowel movements on the potty chair. Your mother and I think you are now trained, so henceforth the potty will be excluded from these letters. We now officially put it behind us.
Behind both of us at the same time!
You cry both locally and long distance, but even when it’s the second kind, the reason may not be momentous.
This morning when I was in the kitchen, I heard you crying in the bedroom, and when I got there your face was red, blotched, still wet, and dissatisfied with the world we had brought you into—although you had stopped crying. You were sitting up on the bed beside your mother, and she explained that you had snapped your thumb with a rubber band.
I quickly realized that the world we brought you into had suddenly been acutely and unexpectedly painful, since it was one of your tiny ponytail rubber bands, which sting so badly, and your mother said you had stretched it out ridiculously wide.
“Ooooohhhhh,” I said sympathizing, putting my arm around you and my head against yours, “Did it hurt? Awhhhhhhh,” and you immediately burst out into tears again, and cried for two more minutes.
Then I let you push me back on the bed two times, and the bed a number of times, so that long distance falling on my part turned into local laughing on yours—even that hard infectious laughter which reached out and touched me too.
You climbed down from the bed, put your arms around my neck and gave me a big hug, which I returned. Then, completely forgiving the world we had brought you into, you gave me a second one.
Not everything goes well around here.
This morning during breakfast you were eating your scrambled eggs slowly, so I decided to speed things up by feeding them to you. It still went rather slowly, however. [_ Y_]ou wanted to eat without any help. My evidence for this opinion is that every time I put a forkful of scrambled eggs in your mouth, you bit down on the fork and held onto it. The only person you let take the fork out of your mouth was you. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really speed breakfast up this morning at all!
For the first time in many months, last night we had to get up for you many times. You had a cough and kept coughing your pacifier out of your mouth. The cough also kept waking you up, and then you couldn’t find your pacifier to get back to sleep. We had to find it for you.
This morning I had to put your shoes on twice. Not only did you take them off after I put them on you the first time, you took the laces out of both.
We are in the living room now, and you just tried to lift the Penney’s catalog off of the coffee table. Too heavy, it uncooperatively fell to the floor. The same result might have happened for an adult. So why are you being so unreasonable? So far, you have cried, hit the floor with yourself and even slapped me on the leg. When, after calming down, you also had trouble turning the pages—because bunches of them are so heavy at one time—you hit the floor with yourself again.
The turquoise rug saved you—and the floor. Not everything goes well around here. Maybe when everything was going wrong, you could have tried putting the laces back in your shoes. Do you think that might have helped?
Thanks, rug! Thanks for being there at the right time! You saved my daughter—and the floor!
When I was a very little boy, my father wrote me a letter, just like I’m writing these letters to you. But he was very far away at the time, in a place called World War II. For my birthday he sent me a patch which said “Guadalcanal.” Here’s the letter:
Hd. Co., 1st Serv. Bn.
1st Mar. Div., FMF
c/o FPO, San. Fran.
Calif. 6 Jan. 44.
Here is a letter for you, for your birthday, from your daddy. I am sending you a dollar so you can buy yourself a present. Mama will help you. I am sending you a shoulder patch. If Mama gave you hers you can give this one to her. I hope you have a very happy birthday and that Mama has a party for you. Your daddy would like very much to be with you on your birthday so he could help to make it a big day for you, but he cannot because he has to help make it possible for all little boys to have happy birthdays. But your daddy will be thinking of you even though he can’t be with you.
Mama wrote that you were being a good boy by helping her and by playing nicely with Jerry, Carolyn, and Dwight. That makes me very happy because I like for my little boy to be a good boy, so he will grow up to be a strong, fine man.
Now I want you to give Mama, Jerry, Carolyn, and Dwight a big kiss for me, and tell them I wish I could be with all of you and that just as soon as I possibly can I will hurry home.
I believe I tested our relationship tonight without really meaning to.
You were playing on the rug with a toy white dog and cardboard box when I called to you from the sofa, “Let’s shake hands.” I didn’t expect you to come, but you came over immediately, shook hands, and went back.
Soon afterwards, your mother called you to go to bed. When you were most of the way across the room, I didn’t know what else I was going to say when I suddenly said, “Sarah,” stopping you. Then remembering my success with the handshake, I added, “Give me a hug.” Once again you came without delay, and gave me one. You even rested your head on my shoulder for a moment.
The third time—it was turning into a game—you were willing to come back to give me a pat.
Finally, when you were almost gone again, I really pushed my luck and tested our relationship by asking you to come back to give me a kiss. I seriously thought that you would simply go on, your cooperation already having been extended beyond expectation, but you turned around again, walked all the way back, and drove your face into my cheek. I didn’t think the game could have had a better ending than this, so I didn’t make any more requests.
But I think it went on for a while longer anyway, on its own, when later you called “Dee! Dee! Dee!” from your crib. I responded right away. I was doubly glad, because I discovered that you were already wet, and it was still evening. So I replaced the two diapers you always wear at night.
When I laid you down again, you laughed when I stationed Poppin Fresh between the top of the side of the crib and the wall—where he could watch over you.
Then you went to sleep, and the game really did end. It had had five official rounds: Handshake, Hug, Pat, Kiss, and Diaper Change. It didn’t even have a name, no rules, it started and stopped by itself, but you know what? It’s my favorite game.
Yesterday evening you and I were sitting side by side on the front steps after I had returned from playing basketball on the nearby courts for exercise. Wearing a sweatshirt saturated with perspiration and minimally damp everywhere else, I was attracting numerous mosquitoes from the neighborhood and busily slapping them as they landed on my bare legs.
At your age you don’t even know what mosquitoes are, but soon I felt you slapping me too.
We both slapped me for a while, and then we went in. This morning I used a wheelbarrow to remove the mosquitoes around where we had been sitting. I don’t think any of these insects are left in the neighborhood. They should have known better than to bother me when you were around! No, not daughter! And I don’t mind at all having purple and blue legs today.
This evening after basketball and before supper, when I was lying down on the bed in the dark for a few minutes, you climbed up at the foot and characteristically maneuvered to join me.
For a few minutes you laid outstretched unmoving with the side of your face on the bedspread.
Then you got up, and, without being asked, gave me a kiss on the mouth, and then on the eye.
Your kiss at this time is a push. But I don’t mind being pushed.
This afternoon we were lying side by side on the bed looking at a magazine. Apparently you detected a flaw in the arrangement and thought of an improvement, because you began to struggle to get up.
I assumed you were looking for a more effective way to see, so I was surprised when you stood up on the bed momentarily—against the rules.
Then I understood why. Abruptly you sat right down on my chest, with a foot on either side, and resumed looking at the magazine, but solo.
I continued to lie there quietly, like a good cushion. I had an excellent view—of the middle of your back.
Clearly you were assuming I could still read the magazine. And you were right!
The Father with X-Ray Eyes,
I suffered a mortal blow today. When I couldn’t get you to come inside the house verbally, I reached to lift you up as you were sitting in the turquoise lawn chair on the back patio.
Crying “Nooo, no,” and batting and whisking my hands away, suddenly you told me to “Go way!”
Your mother was similarly afflicted the other day. You were having fun at your grandmother’s when she was ready to leave. When she tried to get you, you told her to “Go home!”
Numbered among your toys now is a cardboard box. Sometimes you like to just sit on it.
If that’s the way you feel, go sit on your cardboard box.
This morning, standing by her dresser with you below on the floor, your mother unbuttoned the front of her shirt, exposing her breasts.
Her chest was completely bare.
I don’t know what happened to me. When I was back in control of myself, I found I had thrown her down on the bed, was sitting on top of her and appreciating the strategic elevations of her chest.
That’s when your head popped up above the footboard.
Slinging my arm over the strategic elevations of her chest, I looked back at you and said innocently and forthrightly, “Your mother and I have been talking, Sarah. Actually we’ve been having a very pleasant conversation.”
Looking back at us, you answered confidently, “Yes, I know. I’ve been playing here on the floor, but I could still hear you talking—although just barely. I was definitely aware of the two up on the bed. After all, you are the two most important people in the world—to me. So if I can, I like to know where both of you are. And if you’re happy, I know I’m going to be.”
This was extraordinary wisdom from a child. Almost unbelievable!
Why, I don’t know, but once this morning during breakfast you were eating with your head leaning against your hand. Very casual.
You were feeling mischievous tonight. You had your little chair, the turquoise caboose, out in front of the sofa, and standing beside it, you kept ordering me to sit down. But when I would get up from the sofa, you’d laugh and sit down yourself.
Now that you can climb up by yourself, you spend a lot of time these days bouncing on our bed. With your knees bent, you bounce all around on your shins (making me worried about the distance to the floor).
You know it’s strictly forbidden for you to stand up on the bed, but every now and then I catch you. You quickly drop to your knees and bounce to your behind, where the paddling that I insist you get is administered by the stern vibrations of a friendly mattress. I wouldn’t be that ungentle myself.
This waywardness has got to stop! (Ha!)
You have become obsessed with your sitdown game on the turquoise caboose, and it’s wearing me out. However, there is this change: Several times lately when inviting me to sit down on your turquoise chair—but then mischievously sitting down first before I could—you have unexpectedly slipped over for me to join you there.
Thanks for inviting me aboard The Turquoise Caboose. It’s definitely an interesting vehicle. You’re going forward in time—and I’m going backward.
It’s our own time machine!
Every morning, before getting up, I do twenty-one situps.
You like to put things underneath my back to enjoy the crushing , such as your arm, books, or a doll (never realizing how much it takes out of a situp to come down with a hard doll in the middle of your back).
This morning, however, you went a little farther. Having climbed up on the bed, you moved under my back yourself and inched over farther each time my back raised, till you were completely crosswise.
You can’t imagine the extra strength it took for me to come down on you softly, cushioning instead of flattening you.
Then, before I was finished, you disengaged yourself and went speedily on your way.
So everywhere I go, it seems I’m just a little bit stronger because of you. No one would ever guess how! Thanks for the modifications. Looks like I’m going to need them. (Perhaps related to the fact that the last three letters of “need” are my name spelled backwards!)
You did something which I think was clever as well as meaningful during breakfast this morning.
You were spilling your yogurt all over yourself, so I took your spoon, scraped some yogurt from your bib, and fed it to you.
By the second spoonful, though, you were making all kinds of signals to get your spoon back, and when I continued, matching my will against yours, you used your wits to get your way.
When the next spoonful came, with epic finality you clamped your teeth down on it, and the only hand you let take it out of your mouth was yours. You were deetermined!! You are successfully deeclaring your in-dee-pendence!
Foiled again! But what was I thinking? You were absolutely right to want to be self-sufficient! That’s the way I want you to be! I’m glad you showed that spirit! You were right, and I was not thinking enough like a one year old. But give me a little more time!
P.S. I’m getting younger!
Yesterday afternoon a friend of your mother came, bringing a magazine, to stay with you for a while. Your mother said that when she left, you were looking at the , and her friend was reading one of your books.
Somehow, lately you found an almost brand new record of classical music I had borrowed from one of my friends, a fellow teacher, and marred it badly with numerous scratches. I discovered the debacle last night and woke your mother to ask her about it.
Today, she wanted to know if I thought that was worth waking her from a sound sleep? I felt so bad about this damage to my friend’s record that I told her I would have awakened her from the dead.
A new bag of stars, “Let’s see, let’s see, let’s see, let’s see,” et cee, ad finitum, has burst open in this house. This pilot light of the earth’s curiosity sheds a lovely—although, at your age, often distracting—illumination. I wouldn’t discourage it for anything, though.
This afternoon, at your suggestion, we were looking at a large book of art. Pointing to a paleolithic fertility goddess, “Venus of Willendorf,” with huge pendulous breasts and migratory gut, you said, “Cow.”
“Uh————————————————yeah,” I answered.
I have to mention pottying again after all. Starting Monday, you reverted back to your pre-potty days. You went through twelve training pants Monday, seven Tuesday, slightly less on Wednesday, and about three today. At 4:00 P.M. today you still had on the same training pants as this morning, so you are leaving behind this unexpected visit to the past.
I think first you learned the potty as a novelty. Now at last I think you are beginning to accept it as a necessity. I think a transition has just occurred. And it occurs to me that the future may hold similar transitions as you learn and grow. So this visit to the past may have actually been a glimpse of the future.
On days when your mother’s not going to college class—Tuesdays and Thursdays—you join us in bed for a little while before we all get up. On Saturdays and Sundays, longer. Sometimes you climb up with just me, when your mother’s already in the kitchen.
I am amazed at your verbal development. Your first twenty-one months were like a Roman candle rising relatively quietly, jetting lovely sparks. These last three months have been the explosion. You have some version of almost everything we say, and usually it’s pretty close.
Besides telling you when putting you to bed, your mother tells you that she loves you at other times quite frequently. Yesterday I heard her say to you twice, “Your mother loves you,” and again today. Gently, patiently and lovingly, she got you ready for bed tonight.
You really looked cute walking around in your new bathrobe tonight. It’s just a little bit too big, and that makes it cuter.
I love the graphic arts of trees, especially when winter sunsets deck them with crimson Elizabethan collars before they go out.
And speaking of words, I want to make sure you always know how to spell your last name. The proper spelling is G o o dee. That look right? Looks right to me.
You are now two years old.
As we want to give you at least one book every birthday, this year we gave you (a misnomer), and , each costing 39 cents. Your mother got the first one, which is a little simple for you, because of its pictures, but already you have asked me to read it a number of times. (I welcome anything after .)
Unfortunately, though, the last three pages read
I am hungry.
I eat some fruit.
But most of all, I like my cake.
I say unfortunately, because, without meaning to be stuffy, your mother and I are concerned about the megatonnage of sweets bombarding children these days.
We shouldn’t have to be worried about your children’s book teaching you to like cake better than fruit, so I read the lines a little differently. I say
I am hungry.
I eat some fruit.
But most of all, I like my yogurt.
You opened these two books, wrapped together, when we were on the bed the first thing this morning, and we also sang “Happy Birthday” to you.
After breakfast, you noticed two gaily wrapped presents on the sideboard in the utility room. With only a little help, you opened them by yourself and found the new pink raincoat and pink rainhat we got for you, and an attractive new outfit.
Other presents you received, opened mostly on Thursday when everyone was gathered at your grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving, were: two more attractive outfits, a large completely handmade doll, a bear rider, a piece of child’s luggage in fabric, a very cute housecoat with blond Raggedy Anns and Andys and multi-colored rosettes whirling around on a white background, a comb and brush set, a drawing pen and a round smile writing table, another baby doll in a cradle, and a Linus candle-holder with a white candle. (You like to blow out candles.)
Your grandparents gave you the last two presents this evening, after having already given you the bear rider, luggage, comb, brush, pen and paper above. We sang the now wearing thin “Happy Birthday” song to you again—Thanksgiving, this morning, and now this evening—you blew out your two candles one by one, and were pleased at your success and our clapter.
Happy MANY DAYS, Sarah! Your birthday was not really that distinguishable from other days in the important ways, I’m happy to report. There’s only one adjustment I would have made.
In the book we gave you, , each letter stands for something. For the letter that comes after “C,” they show a picture of a drum.
I think that you and I both have a different idea about the letter that comes after “C.”
Sometimes, when we’re brushing out teeth, I squat down to be right on your level. But what do you do? You squat too, and so there we are, both of us squatting and brushing out teeth. (Does this zany family belong on television?!)
One of your birthday books has been in the bathroom for a couple of days. What do you say about an adult who, in the locked privacy of a bathroom, sits on the commode and reads ?
We went to get groceries tonight after supper. It was raining, and besides looking very cute, you looked exactly like a miniature detective in your pink raincoat. In fact, when we passed by a school for youngsters, you said, “Elementary, my dear Dee.”
2 years, 18 days
This afternoon I was lying on my left side on the sofa. You climbed up and unhesitatingly sat down on me, at about my waistline, as if I were no different from the furniture. Immediately then, forgetting that I’ve always been only one person, you pointed to a spot right beside yourself and asked me to have a seat there. “Dee, sit down,” you said twice.
I admit that I do have superhuman abilities, but I’ve never really sat down on the middle of myself before. And if I did, suppose someone heard about it and one day told me to “Go sit on yourself!” So I had to reluctantly decline. But thank you for your very friendly invitation and for your continuing vision of me as Plastic Man. Actually, we already have a very nice arrangement, because, being made of plastic, I don’t mind blending into the furniture at all. (Often, I’m there and no one knows it!) And it’s relaxing sometimes to be an extra cushion on the sofa. (Remember that voice from nowhere saying, “It’s me!”?)
After every meal, you still continue to navigate, like a submarine, under the table and up into my lap. Your target seems to be whatever’s left in my juice glass. I’m good as something to sit on, aren’t I?
I discovered that every time I ask you whose girl you are, you say, “Gamma’s girl,” meaning of course, “Grandma’s girl.” So I set out to appropriately magnify your answer. But you exceeded my coaching. This morning you not only replied, “Dee girl” and “Mama’s girl,” twice you also said, unexpectedly, “Sarah’s girl.”
Mayflowers bloomed in the air at these words. I’ll always be proud of you for being “Sarah’s girl.” That’s the best who you are.
P.S. You are also Grandma’s girl. (And Mama’s girl.)
It’s now past your second birthday, and almost time to end these letters—after only two or three more.
I’ll never forget these past two years. They’ve been fascinating, and more. (The “more” compresses all the humor, my feelings about your successes, and the fact that you are my daughter.)
I’m probably just as glad as you will be in the future that these few silvery words have been set up on paper to do their weak best to reflect back to us the vividness of these early days of your life.
Till THEN—when you read these Letters,
A LightHearted Return to the Night You Were Born
Hospital Corridor, Floor
When we arrived, I see a chair with wheels coming down the hall. They put my wife in it and roll her away. Right away I see that this is fun, so the next nurse that comes along, I ask if she will wheel me up and down the hall a few times. She looks at me coldly and goes on, and I still don’t see the problem. I would gladly have rolled her up and down the hall too.
Hospital Corridor, Floor
Upstairs, I notice a door which says, “Suspect Nursery.” At first I can’t figure out what this means, but then it comes to me. This room evidently is for the children of ladies suspected of crimes or a parking violation.
On the same door, I notice a “No Smoking” sign, and I wonder about this too. But then I realize that the children of suspects might be expected to begin smoking at an early age, and they understandably need to be discouraged.*
*A “Suspect Nursery” in reality is for babies born away from the hospital.
This morning you walked into our bedroom holding your little off-white bear and pocketbook in your arms. Your mother, jovial, said, “Hello, bear!”
And you, equal to the occasion, said, “Hello, pocketbook!”
A little later you and your mother were ready to go. It was raining softly outside. From the bedroom, I heard your mother call, “Come on, Sarah, time to go bye-bye in the car.”
Looking very cute in your new new pink raincoat pink rainhat , you stepped around the corner and said, “Comin, Dee?”
I wrote the previous letters to let you know a little of what you were like during the first year of your life, and when you were one.
But before I end them, would you like one final look into your life now as a two year old? We just returned from a brief trip to Florida, and to help you remember it, I wrote the following.
2 years, 27 days
Two days ago we started for Winter Haven, where we are now. Actually we started twice. After three blocks we had to turn back because I had forgotten the directions.
The car was happily greased and away we went. The bad luck that we had driving down was phenomenal. We had an hour of fog to start us off, followed by rain ALL that day and half of the next. The traffic was so heavy, with cars always nearby around us in the obscuring rain, that the conditions were a little surreal.
A lovely event did happen, though, after the first night. We paid for a night’s sleep at the Ramada Inn only to discover 50 miles later that the clerk had taken only one of the two traveler’s checks we had tried to use. Instead of paying the full price for the room, we paid only about a third. However, since we are scrupulously honest, these words right here are an official notice to Ramada that if contacted, we will be glad to replace the missing dollars. (Unlike Abe, we decided to post this notice here instead of driving 50 miles back. Hope you’ll understand.)
You acted beautifully the whole trip. Cramped into a back seat half full of travel items, sometimes you were sleeping with your knees bent and your head tilted at an angle. But you didn’t seem to mind. You pottied well, with only one or two accidents while you were asleep.
Your mother gets a lot of the credit for this, patiently taking you in and out of rest rooms and sometimes coaxing you to potty in the car. Probably very few of the people in the cars around us were pottying at 60 miles an hour.
Taking you on this trip was like navigating the happy mine field of a watermelon patch—being unexpectedly surprised, and so being good-natured about the extra care necessary.
There came a time when after dark we began passing thousands of orange trees. I said to your mother, “I wish I knew exactly which of these trees I have drunk orange juice from,” for I knew I bore this relationship to some of them. Fancifully, I said, “I wish that, briefly, the tops of those trees could be illuminated by geysers of silvery sparklers, permitting me to identify them.” This would also have illuminated the orange circles below. As visitors to Florida, we were definitely interested in seeing oranges. At this point I had never seen an orange growing on a tree, although at the moment we were passing thousands of them.
Besides the orange trees, we unexpectedly began passing a frustrating abundance of road signs. (We passed about as many signs in Florida as oranges.) I thought, “These are the new Sherman’s Army in the South, marching across Florida, destroying the scenery.” In some places, the air was paved almost word for word with these landlord’s deputies.
I now remember a little more about the morning we left. Unwisely, as we were getting ready, I let you sit on your mother’s dresses spread out on the bed, which, for some reason, you love to do when she puts them there. Unfortunately, though, I didn’t notice the availability of the overnight case sitting nearby packed and ready.
You opened it, got out the mascara, and were busy skillfully applying it before I caught you.
A couple of hours later, you were asleep in the back seat of the car with a victorious badge of mascara across one eye.
In the heavy traffic on the way down, I got to thinking about all the cars ahead and behind—and even on other highways. Since it was December 21, it occurred to me that they were like strings of Christmas tree lights across the country. And at night, like necklaces of Christmas tree lights.
We would get in with a herd of cars, travel with them a while, leave for a rest area, restaurant, or for gas, and then join a new herd.
I salvaged what was left of the little bars of soap from the three motels we stayed in, for future use at home. I planned to set them piggy back like young squires aboard the commercial cakes we regularly buy, for charge after charge against the Black Knight, who seems to gain renewed strength from the earth. (This may actually be too fancy a name for Dirt. Ha!)
(Actually I’m i-dee-alistic too.)
When we were almost to Winter Haven, and seeing almost nothing beside the highway because it was night—although we were passing so many invisible oranges—suddenly your mother said excitedly, “There’s a fruit stand!”
“Yes, and there’s a fruit sitting, too,” I spontaneously answered—meaning her, of course. But it turned out she didn’t get the joke. (Yeah!)
“Did the sign really say that?” she sincerely asked. And so the joke, weak already, and unable to bear that additional burden, collapsed. She couldn’t have deflated my joke at her expense more effectively.
Your mother did say something clever at about the same time, though. I apologize, on her behalf in advance, for the indelicate nature of the following, but I want to include it to rescue your mother from my aforegoing description of her as a fruit.
She suddenly started laughing to herself and then set herself up like a knightess on a white horse by relating how, one night, she had smelled something as we were driving back from Richmond and had said nothing in order to spare my feelings.
The implication of course was that I was responsible. To defend myself I weakly submitted that cars often pass factories, which we all know manufacture a large assortment of odors of every description. (I’m innocent!)
But she replied, too emphatically and far too realistically for my comfort, “Larry, I pass factories. You pass gas!”
With these words still ringing in my ears, we arrived in Winter Haven.
I drove to the apartment of my brother Jerry without difficulty—driving, that is. We didn’t pass any factories.
Your (innocent!) father
At Cypress Gardens, apparently you were bitten by an insect, for your left eye became alarmingly splotchy and puffy, turning a light tropical violet below. For a moment I felt like a dinner bell standing in a cemetery. No one’s coming. Luckily you recovered nicely. (They used the ambulance for me.)
I think you enjoyed most the boats in the water show and the mythical figures scattered throughout the garden for photographic purposes. There was a pleasant little Seven Dwarf Walk. We have some pictures of you on elephants, horses, and other florally relevant creatures.
Another picture I’m especially looking forward to seeing is the one your mother took of the inside of her purse as we were leaving. I’m thinking of putting it in a frame for the living room wall.
There are some things you just don’t want to forget!
Disney World unfortunately was incredibly crowded—like a huge sophisticated—and somewhat crazy—blender with people inside being mixed. In your stroller, you kept pulling the hood of your yellow parka down over your ears to protect you from a seasonal splash of cold that crossed the state of Florida the day we were there.
Your mother and I were wondering about your impressions. We were definitely in the midst of a swirling weathercane of novelty stimuli surrounding the eyes of a two year old with unique thoughts. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that you enjoyed “It’s A Small World,” which I also enjoyed the most.
The attractive girl at the gate, when she noticed you, kindly held us back for the next boat, so that you would be in a front seat. Tears momentarily (I brushed them away quickly!) came into my eyes, for your sake, when I first caught sight of the enchanting little dolls twirling and dancing to the music and words for your world. It was a happy joyous moving ride.
It’s a Small World after all.
At my brother’s apartment, you slept on a twin bed mattress on the floor beside our bed. Used only to a crib, this gave you some new experiences. Once you were sleeping with your head and chest on the mattress and the rest of you down on the floor. One morning, you were simply asleep on the carpet, far from the mattress.
One evening when your mother and I thought you had long been asleep, we looked in and found you sitting on the edge of the mattress, holding the drapes open to view the Christmas lights of Winter Haven and especially a water tower shimmering beautifully against the skyline.
There was only one nightmarish capsule. The first night, we innocently tried leaving your mattress on the floor between the twin beds in the other room. You went to sleep just fine—but eventually you woke up in the blackness under a twin bed in a strange bedroom in a strange state in the middle of the night. You let us know you were more than unhappy about that. Your rescuers came quickly. And you didn’t sleep in another room away from us anymore!
Your curiosity has continued to develop. During one of those days, coloring on the sofa, you asked me if the white crayon was “bro-ken”—because it wouldn’t write a color! (Never thought of it that way before!)
A humorous element occurred one afternoon in Winter Haven as we were driving around. You were storming and swinging because I had taken something from you, but in the middle of your crimes you suddenly became mixed up and incongruously blurted out, “Good morning, Dee! Good morning, Dee!” As I said, it was clearly afternoon. But you can tell me “Good morning” any time you want to—for the rest of your life. That makes it a good morning.
Good morning to you!
Then we started back for Crewe, the star at the top of the Christmas tree of our vacation. We had changed our plans to include Silver Springs.
Somewhere on the way up, a light green crayon ferris-wheeled lyrically across my vision as I drove. Something wasn’t going your way again. (I like to see a green circle traveling through the air every now and then, though. And circles of other colors would be nice sometimes too.)
At Silver Springs you enjoyed seeing the fish below the glass-bottomed boat. When the bread was passed around, however, before we could stop you, or help you to understand, you threw yours down on the glass bottom in your understandable innocent eagerness to feed them. The fish may have been a little frustrated too—they couldn’t quite reach it through the glass!
Even before the boat started—as soon as the unique circle of passengers had first seated themselves—you noticed a little girl with black hair sitting beside her mother, about three people down, who leaned forward to scan the harbor area exposed by the glass bottom. “Don’t fall! Don’t fall!” you suddenly out of nowhere lifesavingly reminded her. This was nice, but apparently still not completely understanding about the glass bottom, you kept warning her, so that her mother kindly told you twice, “I won’t let her fall, honey.” The girl was about eight years old, four times your age. Your laudable concern, combined with your lack of experience regarding the glass, said something positive about you.
Once in Georgia, you put your hand on the roller for the window and asked your mother if you could flush. That was permitted. (Hope the cars behind us weren’t too bothered by the unusual new weather!)
The last motel we stayed at, in North Carolina, was like another little flower bed of surprises.
Opening her melon opal train case, your mother discovered my shaving kit had uncorked its foamy contents entirely inside. So we removed all the well-stocked interior and shaved the inside of the case.
Later that evening, wandering around the room, you stopped at the door and uncorked another type of contents yourself, in surprising quantity, on the rug.
In the bathroom, the sink was built into a spacious formica-topped platform which also extended down about six inches around the edges. A trash can was well under this recess, so far that when you bent to put something into it, you banged your head on the side of the sink. You simply are not used to a trash can situated like that, and your height was working against you too. Twice more your head crashed against that arrangement which simply didn’t work for a child your size—with your mother ignominiously laughing and me chiding her. The last time, you came crying to where we were relaxing parallel on the bed. You cried the right amount, and then walked straight back to the sink and appropriately slapped it into a better understanding of children.
The next morning I walked into the motel restaurant with my toothbrush in a shoulder holster. It accidentally became exposed, and a lawman, who was there, asked to see my permit. Luckily I had it.
We came home again to the sea energies, daisy forests, the incomparable elemental loveliness and loneliness of the state of Virginia—and also to the domestic fireworks when both you and your little brother will be here. You and he will have a lot to talk about.
Thank you, Sarah, for your incomparable self. The day you were born, for me, was definitely Dee day.
When you wake up in the morning, with soft sunshine coloring your window glass, or winter cold inching in, rain mapping, wind circling, or snow composing itself and falling down beautifully outside, it is unutterably and fantastically worthwhile, because you are alive.
There are some people who will tell you there is more pain than pleasure on the Earth. But this is not true. There are many pains, problems and difficulties. But you must keep a perspective on them, because hundreds of tiny joys are also always happening, and when you consider the magnitude of their sum total in comparison with the opposite, you get the drift of the overall happiness of life.
Some of these tiny stars are the symmetry of individual trees, snowmen, mockingbirds’ wings, every time you laugh or smile, passing by fields of winter wheat, other people, children’s toys, the hilarity and junky goodness of there being such a thing as a cow, light violet snow, black sunpieces of coal, all the tastes, fun, everyday family dots, etcly—these events never stop. They are the happy avalanche down each person’s life, overwhelming by sheer magnitude small setbacks along the way, and eventually simply leaving behind the hurricanes of disappointments.
No matter what larger happinesses life has in store for you, Sarah, never forget these smaller joys—an anchor against sorrows, a toboggan for the meaning of life. They are easy to forget. But they never stop.
The greatest thing that ever happened was human life. The greatest for you is that you participate in it. The earth is a beautiful domain. Days are beautiful. In reality, there’s too much to appreciate. You need forever for that. But let’s see how far we can get.
Sarah and Dee sitting on her toy box
About the Author
Larry Good is the author of a six-book Middle Grade Fantasy Series called “Across The Mistercald.” The first book in that Series is “The Tree of Ticket Leaves.” Be careful which leaf you select! And be triple careful if you decide to enter The Land of Firecracker Hail! Science is one of his main interests, and he is also the author of “Letters to a Human Being,” which is the only correct theory of everything ever. He is a resident of Virginia, where he graduated from Blackstone High School, the University of Virginia, and the College of William and Mary.
This is a one of a kind book. A father writes Letters to his one-year-old daughter so she will remember her life at this age. Here are the Letters! The most basic events become adventures: going to the hospital to be born, finding a pacifier under a crib in the middle of the night, learning how to go to the bathroom, discovering a house, and discovering life. If you are expecting, or if you are engaged, or if you ever were one year old, this life-changing book will be meaningful to you as well as entertaining. A basic book about humanity. It will remind you of you.