Wonder is the beginning of wisdom. Socrates
Why fit in when you were born to stand out! Dr. Seuss
. . . be joyous and romping full force toward what you want! Abraham-Hicks
It was a warm June morning in Moscow Idaho when Addie took off down Main Street full throttle. She cocked her head to one side, raised the other shoulder, let out a high-pitched steady shriek and skidaddled as fast as her pink-sneakered feet would carry her — past the art gallery and the rock shop and the outdoor store, straight ahead in a bee-line for the fountain. It was a moment to behold, a moment of high velocity pig-tail-flying joy. And I her Grandma Helen witnessed it as I scrambled to catch up with this out-of-my-grip toddler. A while later, while the two of us sat on a bench, drinking our smoothies, a grandpa-aged man approached us and gleefully pointed at Addie. “I heard you, young lady! You keep it up! We need to hear voices like yours!” And to me, he said, “Isn’t it the best?!?”
It is the best, an honor I hold dear, to hang out with the young people in my life. Our two sons and their families live in the same town in northern Idaho, so, on visits west, I drink up an over-the-top healthy dose of grandparent immersion. And claiming time with a two-year-old is about as fun and funny as it gets. On mornings after her parents have left for work at the university, Addie and I prepare for our day of play. When I was a girl, a highlight of my grandparent visits was knocking on the guest room door, and being invited in to watch my grandmother dress each morning. It seemed exotic to me, the rituals of my grandmother, the way she carefully braided her long salt-and-pepper colored hair, powdered and perfumed her body, slipped into layer after layer of silken underclothes and a loose-fitting patterned dress. I loved this waking up time with my grandmother, and remember it more clearly than anything else about her. I’m astounded that I have now switched roles, am the grandmother being watched by the young granddaughter. And I’m equally astounded that this ritual seems as exciting and as sacred to Addie as it once did to me. We lay out my clothes on the guest room bed — the sparkle skirt is her favorite — and I slip into the sport bra and tank top and leggings with a lot less fanfare than my grandmother did with her mindful motions. It’s the preening after the dressing, however, that really stirs Addie’s juices, the hands-on part, literally sticking her hands into the container of Grandma’s lotion and smearing it on her little arms and legs and face. I wonder if I too was not just an appreciative observer of my grandmother’s rituals, but an active participant like Addie. For Addie, lotion-smearing is right up there with skidaddling along Main Street toward the fountain and throwing pennies into the stirred-up water and drinking a green smoothie through a straw when the pennies have all been thrown.
In Addie’s world, the day begins with an enthusiastic “yes” and the “yeses” keep on coming! Whether it is shoveling food into her mouth — she loves to eat! — or racing down the driveway on her pink kick-bike or running across the lawn with her five-year-old cousin Viren who has brought her into a game of police and robbers, Addie thrusts herself full-force and forward into her living. Her strong bold color strokes and unique dance-moves reflect this exuberance for life. And it is contagious, this exuberance. I find myself joining in as she and I drive from her home in the woods up and down the country roads past wheat and lentil fields into town each day. Our voices rise into a shout as we call out our observations. “Little white house!” “Big red barn!” “Bird in the sky!” “Horses on the hill!” “Tall green tree!” I’m not just playing along. I’m genuinely excited. I find myself wide-eyed and eager, ready for the next ordinary extraordinary “something” around the corner. One car ride in particular stands out as a highlight among highlights. It was late afternoon, and both Viren and Addie were sitting buckled in their car seats in the back of Grandma’s rental. Viren had just finished a story about Lego Batman and it was Addie’s turn. She said it to us, “Addie’s turn!” And then she began her litany of likes. “Addie likes Mommy. Addie likes Dada. Addie likes cousin Viren. . . ” She named us all. But she didn’t stop with family and friends. She wanted a long turn because she had a lot to say. “Addie likes trees. Addie likes houses. Addie likes Whiskers kitty. Addie likes yellow.” I felt as though her list could go on forever; there are that many “likes” in Addie’s world.
I pushed the save button that afternoon. I don’t want to forget how good it feels to shout out appreciations to the world as you pass it by, to not pass it by at all, but, instead, to soak it in like a toddler does. I don’t want to forget how good it feels to listen to a litany of “likes”, how good it feels to come up with your own list — on a daily basis. Baby Aila, Viren’s little sister who is a few months old, made it onto Addie’s “like” list that afternoon in the car, and, when Addie is in the presence of her baby cousin, she lights up, gently touching Baby Aila’s face or hands. And now, within a matter of days, Addie’s baby brother will be born and I’m sure of it, that Baby Brother will make it onto Addie’s list of likes. I also was two when my baby brother was born, a few months older than Addie is now. My grandparents came to stay with us and I remember that they brought candy and a box of cookies. And I remember that my father walked with us, my older siblings and me, to the hospital in our neighborhood, remember that it was a brick building, that my mother held the baby up in a second story window for us to see from the grass below, that we had ice cream on the way home. And I remember sitting on the radiator in our home eating the cookies. I wonder if I too was exuberant with my likes. “I like my Grandma and Grandpa.” “I like my mama and daddy.” “I like cookies and ice cream.” “I like my baby brother.” Addie is my toddler teacher and I certainly feel it now.
Addie at two: August and September, 2017