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Wednesday, December 11, 2002  

How glad are all of you that my niece Deniece (not her real name, obviously) has moved away so I can only see her every couple of months or so? And how much dread fills the pit of your stomach when I do?

Yes, Trash and I drove down to Iowa this weekend to deliver Christmas gifts to the relatives and see Deniece, who is now ten-and-a-half months old. I haven’t mentioned this before because it seems kind of immodest, but I appear to be one of Deniece’s favorite people. For whatever reason. She and her parents were in town a couple of weeks ago. Trash met them for lunch, but I wasn’t free. Deniece greeted Trash warmly enough, then started looking around for the guy who always shows up with her. The message was clear: y’all are fine and everything, but where’s my boy?

So in advance of our visit, Deniece’s mom admonished her not to ignore my wife in favor of me. Not that Deniece would be able to understand, mind you. All she understood was my name, which sent her into wiggly chuckles. I’m not letting it go to my head, though. Most of the women in my life outgrow that at some point. Not all, though, which has made for a few embarrassing moments in Detox.

But back to the point at hand, which is that Deniece was pretty happy to see us when we showed up. She flashed her radiant hockey-player smile and started pointing at things. That’s her new primary way of communicating. She knows a few words, and she’ll use an undifferentiated vowel noise when she doesn’t know the right word, but mostly she’s into pointing. It’s kind of an all-purpose gesture for her. Depending on the context, it means “hey, look at that” or “I want to look at that” or “what’s that” or “get me, I recently learned how to point.” She’s still not an expert, though. Sometimes she has to stare at her hand with an air of intense concentration while she gets it into pointing configuration, like a Prom Queen trying to do a Vulcan salute. Except cuter.

We let her open one of our Christmas gifts to her early. She doesn’t quite grasp the concept of opening gifts yet, mind you, but I’m sure that’ll change with lots of practice over the next few weeks. We got her an inflatable gym, which is basically a balloon shaped like a basket big enough for her to stand in. And there are these inflatable hammer shapes hanging from the handle over her head that she can reach up and bop so they’ll make a jingling noise. She loves it. She’d love it even more if it were big enough for all of us to join her in it, but she makes do with leaning against the sides and hollering if nobody’s within a few inches of her. And we like it because can you imagine the effect a giant balloon sitting on the carpet has on the fine, light hair of the baby standing inside it, directly under two other balloons? That’s right. She looks like a tiny human Tesla coil.

Did I mention she’s walking? She’s not going to be strolling to the park this week, but she’s definitely finding her feet. She can take a couple of steps in a row unaided. You just have to set her up first by getting her to stand up straight and balance on her own, which is sometimes a bit like balancing an egg on end. Then she’ll either stumble a few steps to the nearest person or decide she’s not in the mood and collapse the short distance to the floor. I can still beat her every time in a footrace, though, so go me.

But buy far the coolest thing she can do (at least IMHO) is say my name. “Mama” and “dada” are well and truly ensconced in her vocabulary, to the point where she’ll go into lengthy free-form riffs along the lines of “mamamamamama” and its masculine equivalent. And she’ll also emit a staccato vowel sound with a little sigh on the end of it once in a while. I jokingly commented that the staccato vowel sound with a little sigh on the end of it was her way of saying my name, since my real-life handle has a phoneme or two that nobody should expect a ten-and-a-half-month-old to produce. Then we realized that she was emitting it the same way every time. Then her parents asked her to say my name and she did it again. The same way. Twice.

She knows my name. She says my name. It’s a staccato vowel sound with a little sigh on the end of it to her, but that doesn’t matter. She’s still learning her first words and one of them is the word for me.

I’m going to get along pretty well with this kid.

posted by M. Giant 3:31 PM 0 comments


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