One day during my early December visit to Downtown Abbey, Lady Baby and I sat at the kitchen table, slowly eating bowls of white bean soup and reading “Three Stories You Can Read To Your Cat” by Sara Swan Miller. In the first story, it rains and rains, and the kitty wishes for sun, so we started calling out to the gray Anchorage sky for “snow pease!” (badly needed).
Sure enough, when we finished the book, I looked up and pointed outside and asked Lady Baby what was happening? “Snowflake!” she said, and the “l” in snowflake or “mommy’s hair clip” is as amazing as the strong “s” at the end of “Yes!” which has replaced the everyday “yeah” – so precisely said. (I wish I could insert a sound bite here of how the word angel sounds in Lady Baby speak, it’s like her words for thank you, which melt my heart.)
She has some linguistic shortcuts for fact or emotion: “house” means just the living room, “happy happy!” loudly repeated in a pre-bath runabout, wearing just tennis shoes and nakedy body speaks for itself, as does performing a “happy happy” dance while holding the photos of her world’s important people.
You realize, or think you do, how related consciousness and language must be – or maybe it’s just like Mrs. Hughes said at Thanksgiving, Lady Baby’s been thinking all along, but now we understand better because of language.
And, in a difference even from Thanksgiving, something clicked with books this trip, and Lady Baby truly joined her family of readers. Revisiting so many books that had once seemed too long or complicated, we read and read.
“What Pete Ate” the delightful Maira Kalman book in which Pete the dog devours pretty much the whole alphabet became a huge favorite. (Lady Baby would request “Pete ate, Pete ate!”) Listening to Christmas music, we read Christmas books learning the iconography and vocabulary of rooftops and trimming and twinkling, of Dasher and Dancer, and covered the basics – the night before Christmas, the Poky Puppy’s skunk friend, and Clifford, the giant red dog’s first Christmas.
But we also learned a little about sad, the bittersweet part of loving to be with someone, loving someone. She takes me for granted during our weeks together, and then I disappear. The morning I headed to the airport was very hard for Granny Katy. I try to remember Virginia Woolf’s words to a very sad friend “Remember what you have had.” I’ve had joy.
And I wish you Christmas joy!