First, an announcement. I’m going to be doing a little reading/signing in Waupaca tomorrow. Friday the 6th.
Second, a story.
It’s a story about stories, actually. That hopefully shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone here….
These days, little Oot has all sorts of words. The days of his vocabulary being a handful of words, most of which sound like “duck,” are long past.
What amazes me is how quickly some things are developing.
Today he wanted to make a pillow fort. So we made a pillow fort. Because pillow forts are awesome.
After the fort was done, he walked across the bed, picked up a book, and brought it back to me.
Oot loves books. Sarah reads to him all the time. I read to him a lot, too, but Sarah beats me out in sheer hours, as she spends all day with him, while on a good day, I’ll only have three or four.
So he brings me a book, but it wasn’t a picture book. It’s the book that Sarah’s currently reading, my copy of Brandon Sanderson’s The Hero of Ages.
He holds the book out to me and says, “Daddie.”
This means many things. His inflection tells me that he knows its my book. But it also means he wants me to read it to him as well. He can say a lot with just one word, and I’ve become very good at interpreting in this last year.
He sits in my lap, and we put the book in front of us. (We only had three pillows, you see, so I was the back wall of the fort.)
I open the book up to the middle and point at the text. “Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Oot,” I say. “He was very nice. One day, he wanted to go for a walk. So he went outside with his momma, and he got in the wagon.”
I know he doesn’t understand all of it. But he can catch the gist. He can use a lot of these words himself. I think it sounds kinda like this to him:
“Xxxx xxxx x xxxx, xxxxx xxx x little xxx named Oot. He xxx xxxx nice. One xxx, he wanted xx go xxx x walk. Xx he xxxx outside xxxx his momma, xxx xxxx xxx in the wagon.”
I would bet serious money this is what it sounds like to him. Because these last couple of weeks, this is exactly what he talks like.
He says: “Ya ya ya ya ya ya ya daddie,” and points at a picture of me on the fridge. He’s obviously saying something about the picture of me, but he doesn’t know that the rest of the words should be. “Ya ya ya ya ya book. Ya ya ya ya ya eyaphant. (elephant)”
Anyway, I’m making up a little story for Oot. After every couple sentences I turn a page, because that’s what happens when you read a book. I know the game. We’ve done this before.
But this time things are different.
“…and he got in the wagon,” I say.
“Dog!” Oot interjects. “Bark.”
It takes me a second to figure out what he’s talking about. We keep his wagon in the garage, and sometimes the next door neighbor’s dog is out there.
“And Oot saw a dog,” I say. “And the dog barked and barked. Then momma put Oot in the wagon and pulled it.”
“Stand!” Everything he says has an exclamation point at the end of it. It’s said with such certainty. These words aren’t exclamations as much as they’re declamations. Assume that what I’m using is a declamation point at the end of his sentences.
I continue: “Then Oot tried to stand up in the wagon, but his momma said, ‘Oh no. Be careful.’ So Oot sat down in the wagon again and his momma pulled it.”
He seems satisfied with this. I turn a page.
“On their walk, they saw a tree, and a rock…”
“Geddit!” he says. “Trowit!” he moves his arm excitedly, like he’s throwing. “Air!”
“And Oot took the rock and threw it through the air.”
“Bird! Fly! Up!”
“And they saw a bird flying high up in the sky.” I pause. “Is a bird big or little?”
“Eeedie beetie,” he says in a high voice, holding out two fingers pinched close together. (itty-bitty)
“What does the bird say?”
“Does a bird say, ‘Toot?’”
He shakes his head. “No.”
This makes me sad. Birds used to say, “toot.” I really liked that. It was cute as hell…
I turn the page. “Oot and momma go and have some dinner. They have soup and carrots….”
“Candy!” he says. This word is perfectly enunciated, though a little long on the “a” sound. “Caaandy.”
“First they eat soup,” I say. Doing my best to maintain rule of law, even in the story. “First chicken and pickle. Then candy.”
I didn’t know he knew that word. He must have learned it over Easter.
“Yes,” I concede, “then they had chocolate. Then they came home.” I close the book. “The end.”
This is how deeply rooted stories are, folks. We crave them before we can walk, and we start telling them before we can talk.
That’s all for now, be good to each other.