for anyone who as read “franny and zooey”, you get the reference. for everyone else, go read “franny and zooey”. ruth began signing words somewhere around 11 months. shortly thereafter, she began saying words, just the usual garble. mama, dadda, and what have you. a few months later, she put together her first two word sentence, but at around 21 months, things really took off and began accelerating at lightning speed from there. ruth’s big thing is communication. she was pretty much a paper weight until ten months, never liked puzzles or numbers or letters, but girlfriend could talk a blue streak. it has been great watching her language develop and i can only look forward with excitement to where we are headed next (i know. i’m lame).
ruth says a lot of shit. some of it senseless (“i love dad, but i don’t love dad. but i do.”). some of it confusing (“where are my going?”). some of it frustrating (“can i sit on the potty and then have five m&ms?”). a lot of it annoying (“mom! mom! mom? MOM! MOM! MOM! mom? MOM!”). but some of it very wise.
like the other day when we were eating one of our signature snacks: frozen peas, beans, and corn. i asked ruth, “what do you like better: corn, peas, or beans?” she answered back after a moment, “i like ’em all.” well, there you go. i was a bit impressed, simply because what took me years and years to overcome: the constant weighing in on your favorites of things that adults will often ask of you when you are a kid, simply because they can’t think of anything else to say to you, ruth seems to have gleaned the tools to circumnavigate at less than three. “that’s a good answer,” i said, “and perfectly logical.” like i said, i think it took me until high school until i had the upper level thinking not to see life in black and white terms, on a hierarchical scale, constantly comparing options in immature terms. brava, ruth.
another time, we were in the basement, her very cold playroom, when she looked up at a picture on our wall of greg and i. “there’s mom and dad,” she said. and i said, “yes, that was mom and dad in maine before we had you.” a couple second pause, “i was in your belly?” “no,” i said, “that was even before you were in my belly.” a longer pause, “but, where was i?” now it was my turn to pause. how to word this? “you were nowhere, ruth. you weren’t even conceived yet.” longest pause yet. “but, where was i?” indeed, that concept that life is not just created from you and that it will simply go on forever is a hard one to grasp. that life existed long before you were here, that you were born into it and that you’ll die and it will keep on going is a hard pill to swallow. it takes many years to understand it and many more to accept it. some people never do and fight death off with every ounce of their being. then, there is the ever-looming implication that the answer to ruth’s question about where she was before she was here is the same as where we all go after we leave. nowhere.
inasmuch as i am ruth’s teacher, she is mine. she teaches me how language progresses, and even more, how thinking progresses, how a person goes from a tiny baby with flailing limbs to a running toddler exploring her world and life, the people in it. how a person gradually comes to see themselves somewhat objectively, although we never really fully do, do we? there is always that soft spot we have in our hearts for ourselves above all others. and so it should be. i am her student. she takes my life and unrolls it like a roll of paper towels bounding down the stairs, then begins the process of re-rolling it from the cardboard tube, its core, allowing me to understand more clearly than ever who i am and how i came to be that way, and what makes people people in general. it is a trip, to be sure. that’s one thing that parenting is. that leap of a paper towel roll down a flight of stairs. are you ready?