31 August 2007

Child of vision

Children do say the darndest things, and mine are no exception. The son, in particular, comes out with some zingers that leave us flabbergasted (and usually laughing in private). He started to speak fairly early, and his first phrase was "Damn dog," enunciated with stunning clarity in front of our elderly neighbor. That he would choose this as his first phrase is no surprise; he heard it often enough.

But then the son did something that young children aren't supposed to do, and he stopped talking. He didn't stop vocalizing, but where he'd once pointed out the "moon," lights that were "pretty" and the "damn dog," suddenly he only said, "Da." Of course, being a conscientious mother, I immediately took him to the pediatrician for an evaluation, absolutely certain that my beautiful blonde baby was showing the first signs of autism.

"Nope," said the ped. "He's just abandoned language to work on other things right now."

And it certainly wasn't that the son was disengaged or disinterested. It's just that he couldn't be bothered to utter anything other than "Da." That I understood his "da's" perfectly only undermined any need that he saw for additional communication.

He more than made up for his single sound utterances, however. My mother-in-law often likes to recount how she left a uni-word child behind for a trip and came home three weeks later to a grandson who was speaking in paragraphs. No joke. He was.

Once he decided that speaking was a viable way of expressing himself, we couldn't shut him up. And we also suddenly discovered what he'd been thinking about all those "da"-laden months.

"Mama? See that star?" he asked one evening pointing at the summer sky while we waited outside for Daddy to come home."

"Yup."

"It's called Mossacube."

"Really?"

"I'm from Mossacube, Mama. That's where I came from."

I stopped pulling at the grass and looked at my solemn, chubby toddler. Forget autism. My child was insane.

A few nights later, I decided on a little memory test. "So," I said in a conversational tone, "show me where Mossacube is again."

"Oh," he said in a very matter-of-fact way, "it turned into a spaceship and flew away."

A little chill ran up my spine.

So, a couple of weeks later, I tried again. "Where's Mossacube tonight?" I asked.

"I told you," he said with a certain severe annoyance. "It turned into a spaceship and flew away."

"Well, where did it go?"

"AWAY!"

No less unsettling was the night he announced out of the blue that the true name of God is Stingray.

Then there was the time that he turned to his 6-month-old sister and said severely, "Never trust a domeless baby. They aren't respectable."

To her credit, she just giggled and drooled, and I at least knew that had been adapted from a Thomas the Tank Engine episode.

Over the years, we've parlayed Mossacube into something of a family joke.

"Could you call your friends from Mossacube and have them come pick you up? 'Cause I've just about had enough of you for one day," I told him after one very trying afternoon.

In 6th grade, he wrote a poem for his literature class about the Mighty Military Man of Mossacube. We tried to explain the origin of Mossacube to his lit teacher, and I believe she now thinks the entire family is nuts, but hey, I bring snacks for Pentathlon every year, so she'll keep me for a bit yet.

And even as a teen, he manages to surprise me with some of his more blatant confabulation.

Tonight at dinner, the daughter was waxing poetic about recognizing the dawning of her own consciousness, and how did it happen that she was born to these parents at this time in this place, the fairly standard mysteries that periodically occur to children.

"I know what she's saying," the spouse said to the mildly mystified son. "How is it that she's here now rather than Bulgaria a hundred years ago."

"Well," I said, always happily prepared to be the voice of trouble, "she may well have been in Bulgaria 100 years ago."

"WHAT?" squawked the daughter, clearly confused.

"It's like this," said the son in a soothing and paternalistic tone, "there are all these souls in heaven and God keeps a waiting list for the souls that want to go back to Earth..."

Go listen to some good music: "Child of Vision" from the album Breakfast in America by Supertramp.