I frequently read about writing mothers who practice their craft in the margins of their days–a moment here, a moment there. This is one of my moments of margin: the hour or so between getting Elvie Kay up and getting the boys up.
I used to wake her at 5 a.m. (and put her to bed at 5 p.m.) but now that Jeremy is with us permanently, I have moved her schedule to waking at 7 a.m. and going to bed at 7 p.m. After feeding her and changing her that leaves me about an hour or a little more before the boys get up at 8:30, and I have time to write, if I can wrap my head around it. I have stories I want to tell, and this is my time to get them down.
It’s difficult to sit here and focus on that one thing. Invariably I glance up and make a mental note to clean the glass on the side door today–I ought to do it every day–no, the boys ought to help me do it every day. Focus! Write a few words. What’s that noise? What is Elvie Kay doing? Go to see…I left her here, where did she go? There she is…NO! Elvie! Don’t eat that! Come here to your toys…Sit! Stay! Three babies who sat for months but wouldn’t crawl and now I have a baby that crawls but won’t sit up…Wait, what was I writing about?
Oh yes, I remember!
Anselm has always been the quiet brother. When we moved here in May, he was really only saying a few words regularly. I’m sure he could say more, but he just didn’t. He moved silently and was occasionally sneaky, and we would often look up to find he was gone. “Where’s Anselm??” He was the toddler that walked by himself.
He started speaking in sentences in early June, I think, in a way that always managed to surprise us. Who is talking? Did ANSELM say that? It became almost embarrassing how excited I would get over things he would say. Of course he knew–as he always has–that he was drawing a pleasing amount of attention to himself. He caught onto word jokes fairly quickly, delivering them with a smirk and then a grin. He has a wonderful sense of humor, I believe, though I may of course be slightly biased.
my fair anselm
Have you seen the film My Fair Lady? How Prof. Higgins uses a xylophone to demonstrate the proper intonation of the phrase “how kind of you to let me come”? Anselm would follow a similar sing-song pattern when he spoke: everything was fit into a three-note phrase that began with a tone, dropped a sixth, and then went up a third. He used this musical phrase again and again, particularly for questions and requests.
“I drink milk? I drink milk? I drink milk?”
“I have my-my? I have my-my?” (My-my is his blankie.)
“I go side-side? I go side-side? I go side-side?” (Side-side = outside, unless you are already outside. Then it means “inside.”)
Invariably, if the phrase was more than three syllables, then only the last syllable would be raised by a third. If you’ve ever been outdoors and heard a songbird trilling the same phrase again and again in a droll, untiring sort of way, that’s exactly what Anselm sounded like.
“I see tractor? I see tractor, Mom? I see tractor?”
WHODAT — An expression of inquiry and/or dismay. When you hear someone speaking and you cannot see them or do not know who they are, and are slightly unnerved by it. “WHODAT?” If you are not sure what the sound is that you’re hearing: “WHODAT SOUND??” Is always said at the top of your voice and does not follow the first-sixth-third rule of other questions.
ROOKYDAT — An expression of wonder and excitement that invites the listener to also observe the object of said wonder, e.g.: You see a combine close-up, and filled with awe at such a large piece of farm equipment, and want your mother and aunt to marvel with you at the sight: “WOOOAAAAHHH ROOKYDAT COMBINE! WOW! Hi, combine! Here he comes! ROOKYDAT COMBINE!!”
-Y Suffix — Anselm is fond of inserting his own -y suffix into his catchphrases. I suppose most toddlers do. It’s somewhat infectious–I find myself using the same terminology right back with him. Thus the aforementioned I drink milk is often transformed into I drinky milk. I take a bath becomes I takey bath. I’m not sure if this is an attempt at the present progressive or just a fun filler that’s there for its own sake. I am rather fond of the sound of it. It turns any word into a Mo-ism. Try it sometime–it’s rather addicting.
NOOOORIKEIT — A filler expression for when you can’t quite find what you want to say. Chiefly used in new situations when you may be asked to do something you want to do but feel the correct thing to do is to politely decline. Also used as a punchline for jokes with Mama, e.g.:
Anselm: I drinky milk? I drinky milk, Mom? I drinky?
Mama: Oh, would you like some milk?
Anselm: NO, I NOORIKEIT.
Mama: …Then why did you ask?
Anselm: (looks smug and mischievous)