I’m not so smart without you. That’s wierd because you are only three. But you are the kind of guy who repeats so precisely what I say, that we thought, “Oh, isn’t he a clever boy.” But then I remembered that I said it first. Yes, it was my idea that related to something concrete and relevant to both of us. When we shopped at New Leaf, at check-out, Id’ give you the bring-your-own-bag tokens (maybe 3 or four of them; one for each bag) and perched in the cart, you’d push them into the slots of your choice. We’d glide along in front of the donation boxes and you’d recite each in order: “Hungry people, bicycle riders, flowers, animals, oceans, students learning to grow food, houses for people, growing organic vegetables.” You’d “vote” for who would get the store’s donation at the end of the month right along with the other shopper’s. You picked up the words, the predictable sequence of them and recited them dutifully.
You often surprised me with your ability to talk about things using the words you’d gathered and concepts, too. Once we stopped to give a guy on the street a rain poncho after picking up a few of them at the hardware store to distribute in front of the Safeway store. You said out the open window, “I gave you a ticket for a new house. “ Though the initial idea, the ritual of putting tokens in boxes and the thought and words were mine, they were about our shared, special daily activities. And you made them yours. They were smart and you; a clever two-year old. I let it make me feel smart, too. I hear your words everywhere I go. The very words and ideas I offered you, and the ones you chose to make your own; at the barn, in the car, on the trail, at the mailbox, in the kitchen, the bathtub and at tea time. Daily rituals, repetition and language for it all that knit our memories together into something that we understood and used to build more. “I hear the coyotes. They want to share their food with their friends.” “Grandpa is at his office spinning around in his chair.” “I see grandpa’s antennas all over the mountains.”
You crafted rich and interesting conversations with all of us to answer your questions and fill you with more. You and Grandpa talked while you worked. I used to listen while you guys were using the Ohm Meter in the library, practicing morse code and discussing soldering and electrical circuitry. All at a three-year old level. Grandpa found ways to translate complex thinking into simple language for you. You and he had very special ways that you talked about your shared work.
I hope your mom and dad and other adults in your Montana trailer keep working to connect your experience with words, build memories and relationships with others and your interests. You flourish when listened to, your questions respected, answered and are thoughtfully guided through misunderstandings. You curiously explore, try to make things occur, again and again and look to adults for words to describe it and practice saying them. “Talk to me, please,” you once said to your daddy. Keep asking.
Meanwhile, I’ll talk to the dogs, to grandpa and to myself; seeking the smartest me that I have ever known. The one when I was with you, little buddy.