“Mama, mama, mama, mama, mama!” The pitifully trilled words tripped over themselves tumbling down stairs and pulled me away from writing before a full sentence had a chance to click from the keyboard. These days, Mama is tops on the Little Friend list of favorite summer things. Big Friend is okay for bubble baths, tummy raspberries, and chasing balls around the nursery, but when it comes to Goodnight Moon, a rocking chair, and lights out, only one person will do: Mama. Not a bad gig, most days.
Today was not most days. I’m running a bit ragged, and for once I can only blame myself. Last night, I actually stayed up reading a book until 12:47 am. What was I thinking? Well, to tell you the truth, I was thinking that I just had to find out what happened to the last human survivors in a blood-thirsty vampire-infested post-apocalyptic world. Is this what happens when English teachers go soft? 18 months ago I was analyzing themes of redemption and mob mentality in The Crucible, and now I’ve set that all aside for a life of motherhood and (cringe) vampires? A fall from grace, to say the least. The summer-reading book that tempted me from my lofty ideals is none other than The Passage by Justin Cronin. Since the book has vaulted to number four on the New York Times Bestseller list, I doubt I am the only bleary-eyed reader still turning pages in the wee hours of night. (Also, in defense of my now questionable Mrs. English status, Cronin’s novel is actually well-written, unlike another recent and unnamed vampire pop fiction series.) All this to say, I’m glad that the “Mamas” have now been silenced by a fluffy white blanket and a dark room.
I thought I’d share today some of Little Friend’s favorite things, since I’m constantly spouting off about my own favorites (vamp fiction among others). Through Little Friend, I have learned that a favorites list, as composed by an 18-month-old, camouflages as simplicity but explodes with significance. Let me elaborate as I share the list:
LITTLE FRIEND’S SUMMER 2010 FAVORITES LIST
1. Swinging. Simple in its execution (swing, rope or chain, harness, willing and able-bodied pusher). Simple in its motion (ain’t got much more to give than back and forth, back and forth). In reality, Little Friend’s love of swinging is as varied as her moods and experiences. Sometimes, like this evening, swinging is soothing and hypnotizing as she holds her favorite toy and sucks her thumb, eyes staring into the distance. At other times, swinging becomes a vehicle for storytelling. Using a garbled mix of sign language and simple words, Little Friend tells me over and over that her grandmother has a swing and dogs and cats and a swing (multiple mentions of the swing are necessary), and that she should come visit RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW! (Insert emphatic index finger pointing at swing.) Really, I think the swing and its accompanying obsession symbolizes all that is soothing and loving in Little Friend’s life. Not bad for a bit of molded plastic and a length of chain.
2. Thunder. Actually, I think the jury’s still out on this one. Little Friend is currently weighing whether or not to love or fear the big booms from the sky. I’m hoping the scales will tip toward love. June thunderstorms have been rolling through every couple of days here, interrupting trips to the swimming pool and raspberry picking. Try explaining some big booming and potentially frightening sound to someone who lacks the basic understanding of sound waves and water molecules. “You know the rain?” I query in what I hope is a convincingly cheerful voice. “You know, like in the itsy-bitsy spider? (insert off-key a capella version of song here).” Little Friend gives a tentative nod and flashes wide eyes back to the sky. “Well,” I continue hastily. “The rain comes from clouds in the sky. Where’s the sky?” A chubby finger shoots toward the ceiling. “Yes! You’re right! Well, the thunder is like the clouds are clapping.” Two chubby hands give a few tentative claps. “Yes! You’re right! Clouds clapping.”
Since the first two such explanations of thunder, Little Friend has retold her version of the story countless times. Her version goes something like this: “Thunder” (hands opening and closing in a quick, mirrored wave), “Rain” (hands go above head and flutter down, a motion stolen from the hand motions of itsy-bitsy spider), “Clouds clapping” (hands collide in some energetic claps), “Where is it?” (Shoulders shrug, hands raise to chin, and a clear “Huh?” comes from her mouth.) Then, if I’ve narrated this pantomime appropriately, Little Friend concludes with a decisive “Yeah, yeah.” Then we start again with her hands opening and closing in a quick, mirrored wave.
3. Ice Cream How hard is it to love ice cream? Isn’t this summer treat on all of our summer favorite’s list? Sounds simple, but for Little Friend a lick of ice cream is a rite of passage. Because she was born six weeks premature, her digestive tract had not yet developed the ability to break down large milk proteins, a fact we learned the hard way after bouts of diarrhea and painful gas (just what you all want to read about after introducing the idea of “ice cream”, right? Especially that chocolate ice cream featured in the pic). So for fourteen of the eighteen months of Little Friend’s life, I made sure not a speck of milk (and that includes specks hidden in everything from mayonnaise to crackers to barbecue sauces) passed her lips. Along comes summer and a release from the milk-free diet, and what could be more welcome than a nice slurpy, drippy, gooey lick of ice cream? Personally, I also love how Little Friend’s ice cream eating means smears of chocolatey, slurpy, drippy goo on my own arms and clothes. Bonus.
4. Mama. Yup, that’s me. I know, I know. All kids love their mamas, so what’s there to brag about? I concede. All kids love their mamas, but not every mama is lucky enough to have Little Friend for a kid. So I’m pretty thrilled to be on her favorites list these days. When she calls for me from upstairs while I’m huddled downstairs with my laptop trying to write a new post and get to bed early (a remedy for that previous vampire infested night), I push away the flare of irritation I feel and remember that all too soon this little baby/kid is going to reject my opinions on which shoes look best with her outfit, what she should eat, and with whom she should play. Already I’m watching the present Little Friend disappear into the future Little Friend like a Russian nesting doll. The infant became the baby, who became the toddler, who will become the teenager, who will become the young woman. So I’m cherishing the Summer of 2010 when a sweaty little hand reaches for mine to drag me toward the swing set, or the geraniums, or the ice cream line. Can’t we all learn some life lessons from the simple loves of a toddler?
If you haven’t already raced out the door to fulfill a summer ice-cream craving, perhaps you have some summer-reading suggestions for me. I now have a vacancy in my bookshelf that needs to be filled before we head to the beach at the end of July. What book should I pick up next?