image via here
We were driving around in circles the other day, Harry and I; lost on the way to the house of a new friend from school. ’Oh Mummy’ sighed Harry, ‘We should have asked the CatNap how to get there’.
Such linguistic slip-ups are one of the great delights of these wonder years as Harry masters the art of language, and each time I struggle with the urge to leave them uncorrected in the hope that they somehow get preserved forever in all of their magic. Many are logical and smile-inducing; a plate of buzz-ghetti is a favourite food (apparently this switching of sounds is very common, along with the usual mixing up of plurals and tenses). Others are more mysterious in origin; add parmesan to your spaghetti and you now have a plate of ‘Pasta with Damage’ – another keen favourite, though none of us can understand where the damage bit comes from.
The first voyages into empathy are also touching and occasionally comedic; when one of his classmates was tearful at the prospect of school last week, Harry leaned over to her and stage-whispered ‘It’s ok; they won’t make you have hair-washes here’ – hair washing, for him, being the most scary and distasteful thing he could imagine and therefore the obvious cause of her anxiety.
It’s hard not to laugh when these things pop out, but fortunately Harry is remarkably affable and good-humoured about causing mild hilarity. ‘I’m a funny guy’, he beams, chuckling, before testing out the correction and making a mental note for next time. And I usually do correct, because the social perils of ignoring minor speech errors loom large in my mind; I still remember vividly the heated prickle of embarrassment of breakfast after a friend’s sleepover in my teenage years when I asked for a bowl of muesli – pronounced ‘mursley’ in our household, where such things had only been read on the packet and never heard spoken aloud. The stunned silence around the table, and the sniggering of her younger brother before someone ventured ‘do you mean moo-sley, dear?’ almost ruined my 14th year (I was a very melodramatic teenager). I blame my parents. Still.
Ages ago my mum urged me to scribble some of Harry’s sayings down before they got lost in the hurly-burly of time passing and the white noise of growing up. I harboured vague intentions for way too long, never quite settling on the right way of doing it – the right notebook to scribble them into; the right way of recording them – and thus losing countless gems in the process. Then a couple of weeks ago I read Joan Didion’s memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she recounts how her late husband used to keep a jar on his desk filled with bits of paper capturing the sayings of their young daughter, which he then occasionally recycled into the mouths of characters in his books.
So simple, yet so obvious. Write them down, stick them in a jar. Fill up the jar.
Pause at odd sentimental moments and go find the jar; sift through, smiling and remembering. Allow yourself to become a bit misty-eyed. Sign a poignant sigh and then get a grip.
That’s my plan anyway. And my jar is in fact an old teapot, which sits majestically on a shelf above the kitchen sink, and is now rustling with very important scraps of paper.
I added the most recent one this morning, after we stepped through the door into a classically autumnal world of swirling mist and fog. ’Look, Mummy!’ exclaimed Harry; ‘there’s Sky Dust everywhere!’.
A perfect world of buzzghetti, CatNaps and sky dust; long may it remain so…