Wednesday not only marked the fiftieth monthly anniversary of your birth, but also your first paycheck.
Well, dollar bill, actually. I was working on the lawn, and as usual you decided to assist me. Typically, your assistance consists of four duties: (1) grabbing grass bags from the garage and opening them for me, (2) sweeping up errant grass in an attempt to clean up the mess I leave behind, and (3) pretending to mow the lawn with your bubble mower along with me, and (4) providing constant encouragement in the form of exclamations such as “Good job Dad!” or “The lawn looks beautiful!” or “You’re almost done, and then you can get a Coke, and I can get a Tummy Yummy!” In fact, it’s the last one that really explains your left-field love of lawn care: whenever I’m finished, I dump my lawn clippings and then get a soda for myself and a Tummy Yummy for you. Tummy Yummys are these little bottles filled with neon-colored form of sugar water billed as a “juice-like beverage.” Equivalently, it’s hummingbird goop sold to toddlers.
However, when we finished with Wednesday’s lawn work, you announced that in lieu of a Tummy Yummy, you would rather have a dollar.* I really couldn’t argue with that, on the twin grounds that (a) your mother hates it when I get you a sugary drink and (b) a dollar is actually less expensive than a Tummy Yummy. Interestingly enough, the very next day you volunteered to scrub the toilet for another dollar, to which I again happily agreed again. By the weekend, you had a whole $3.50 of “chore money” burning a hole in your pocket, which you’d managed to earn by opting to do chores with (or in some cases, for) me.
* You actually pronounce it as a DOUGH-lar, with significant emphasis on the first syllabus, like a mini Scrooge McDuck.
It didn’t last long. On Sunday we headed to the mall expressly so you could purge your piggy bank. Specifically, we headed to Claire’s, which is like a crack den for pre-tween girls. After a hour of deliberations, you settled on glitter nail polish and a week’s worth of stick-on earrings with matching crown rings. Unfortunately, it turns out that the nail glitter scratches off almost immediately, and the earrings only adhere to your ear lobes for about an hour before falling off, which more or less means that in one weekend you’ve been introduced to the twin concepts of unbridled consumerism and buyer’s remorse in one sitting. Welcome to America, baby.
As you might have gathered, you’ve become significantly more assertive in your loquacity. You’ve still got opinions on everything — what to watch, what to eat, what to wear — but now it’s insufficient merely to share them anymore; now they must be seriously considered by all parties within earshot. This isn’t to say you’ve become rude or snotty — you’re not! — you’re just interesting in making sure your two cents’ worth are paid their full due. (What is it with you and money this month?) In fact, you often punctuate your commentary with the phrase “I promise you” to emphasize its importance, such as “I promise you that Claire’s is cool” or “I promise you that a lollipop is a good dessert if I finish my dinner” or “I promise you that a mammoth’s jawbone will make an excellent guitar,” and so on.
It’s a rare occasion indeed when a conversation is not started by you anymore. I don’t mind this so much, since you frequently have interesting observations to make, many of which catch me completely off guard. For example, we went out for a walk the other day to enjoy the nice pre-summertime weather. Part of the trip included a short uphill hike:
You: You know want to know something? Walking uphill is tiring.
Me: Yes it is.
You: Well, it’s part of the walk back home. But you know what they say: you gotta do what you gotta do.
Me: That’s very wise, but who says that?
You: Leela. On Futurama.
And you know what? She’s right.
My only gripe is that, despite all the interesting topics upon which you’re prepared to expound, you have exactly one way to introduce them: You want to know something? (or in its phonetic form, You wanna know sumpin’?), as in:
- “You want to know something? If I give you an apple, you should give me a flower,” or
- “You want to know something? If you take off the bottom of the letter Y you get the letter V,” or
- “You want to know something? I’d make an excellent paleontologist,” and so forth.
In fact, you previously used You know what? as you standard salutation. My dad (your Papa K) hated it when I started conversations with “You know what?” as a kid, and taught me to find alternate ways of starting a conversation; in fulfillment of the prototypical parental prophesy (viz. I’ve become my father) I have been compelled to pass this sense of talkative transgression to you. Hence, you’ve pioneered an alternative that subscribes, if not to the spirit, at least the letter of my admonition.
It’s not just verbal communication that you’re improving — you’re also working on your written communicative skills as well. You been working hard on mastering all the letters of the alphabet, and for the most part you’re getting pretty at recognizing them, although some of the less frequent ones still give you trouble. (I’m looking at you, J and Q.) Of course, you only recognize the capital versions of the letters, and then only if they’re in a sans serif font. In fact, any lettering scheme that does not subscribe to this convention you summarily dismiss as “cursive,” along with the invariable post-script “I promise you I’ll learn those next.”
It’s not just recognizing letters, though: you’re mastering writing them as well. I find this a bittersweet development. On the one hand, it means that you’re less likely to spend hours writing Gilgamesh-esque epic poems in your distinctive alien scrawl.
On the other hand, it means you can, after a little effort and a comically furled brow, now write your name (and mine and your mom’s (although you spell her’s M-O-M-O, despite my many protestations to the contrary)) in an equally distinct and adorable script:
An you want to know something? That’s awesome.
I promise you!
— Ba ba