Once they’d quieted down, we took their hands, looked them in the eye, and told them we loved Jamie more than them.
They both frowned. “Are your sure?” Will said, “Because I thought you loved Lucy best?”
“Yeah,” his sister piped up. “You always said I was your favorite.”
“That’s right,” Ellen said to Lucy, as I stroked Will’s cheek (being the first child is always so bittersweet.), “we used to love you best. But now we love Jamie more.”
Will’s frown deepened. “That’s not even a real word.”
“Yes it is,” I said.
He peered into space, thinking deeply. Then he shook his head. “No it’s not.”
Ellen cut in. “Honey, it may not be a real word, but it’s a real emotion.”
“What’s it mean, then?”
Ellen and I exchanged a glance. I shrugged.
“It means we like to hug him more,” Ellen said. “That he’s so cute, you just want to pick him and smoosh against you as hard as you can.”
“I can be smoodgy,” Lucy said.
“Squoodgy,” I said.
Will had returned to his book. I poked him with a sharp stick. “Pay attention, son,” I said. “This is important.”
“I don’t get it,” Lucy said. Her forehead was red. “You always said that I was the cutest.”
Ellen leaned in and gave her a kiss on her fat little lips. “That was before, sweetie. Things have changed.”
“Evolution,” said Ellen.
“That’s right,” I said. “Survival of the fittest. Just like Darwin said.”
“I hate Darwin,” Lucy responded.
“That’s because you didn’t read him carefully enough,” Ellen told her.
“Jamie’s just so cute,” I said. “With his little butt. Have you seen him in his pajamas? I mean, have you really looked at him in his little pajamas?”
“He walks on his toes,” Ellen said. “Follow him when he walks down the hall sometime. He’s just the sweetest little thing.”
“Especially in the dinosaur pajamas,” I added.
“He can’t even talk,” Will said, without looking up from his book. I craned my neck to glance at the title. Das Kapital. Huh. I didn’t remember getting that from the library.
“Yeah,” Lucy said. “He says ‘ladder’ instead of ‘water.’”
“And you used to call your polar bear ‘Dapple,’ because you couldn’t pronounce it correctly.”
“Until you lost him,” Lucy said.
“You were 20 months. Old enough to be responsible for your own possessions.”
“Jamie poops in his pants,” Will said.
“Now see,” I said, “that’s exactly the kind of comment that loses you first place in your parents’ hearts!”
“But he does,” said Lucy. “He knows how to do it on the potty, but instead he’ll go out on the patio, poo it in his underpants, then walk around the house with his pants dragging down.”
“It’s actually pretty funny,” Will said. “He waddles.”
“Jamie’s just really really cute,” Ellen said, stroking Lucy’s brow.
“Says who?” she responded.
“Only about 7 million Hongkongers,” I said. “Haven’t you seen how much they like to pick him up?”
“And get their picture taken with him?” Ellen said.
“They like to get their pictures with me too,” Lucy said.
Ellen frowned. “That’s just because they think you look like a little Loni Anderson.”
“Who’s Loni Anderson?” said Lucy.
“Only the greatest actress of her generation,” I told her.
“Does this mean we get to stay in Hong Kong when you guys leave?” Will asked.
I glanced at Ellen. “We’re not sure.”
“It depends on the tickets,” Ellen said. “If they’re too expensive, we might have to leave you both.”
Okay, so I’m guessing that you know by now that none of this really happened. Certainly, if the unnecessarily cruel dialogue with the kids didn’t give it away, then the comment about Loni Anderson would have. Because everyone knows that Joyce DeWitt was the best actress of that generation—I mean, seriously, to hold your own against Suzanne Somers? Not just anyone could do that.
Getting ready for this, my second round of self-indulgent, shmarmy, totally hetro-centric grandparental updates about the kids, I struggled to find some organizing moment around which to center my discussion of Jamie. Nothing seemed to work.
Sure, he’s still struggling with the where-to-put-the-poop question (big hint: not someplace that causes your pants to slide down);
Sure, he’s taken to sneaking out from his nap, into Will’s and Lucy’s room, gathering all their stuffed toys, and bringing them back to his bed;
Sure, we’ve now realized that he thinks “Cho Sun,” is less a morning greeting than the name of every security guard on campus;
And sure, he’s obsessed with airplanes. Ellen and I spent an hour last night discussing whether or not it was appropriate to “disappear” Richard Scarry’s “A Day at the Airport.”
But seriously? The main thing about Jamie right now? Is that he’s just so damn cute. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s just that stage, that moment, those few short months where he’s exiting babyhood and entering personhood. The baby fat is disappearing, the vocabulary is expanding (though it’s still incomprehensible). His eyes are focusing more—when he looks at you, he really looks, and when he asks you a question, he’s really asking it.
But mainly, it’s that walking down the hall thing. When I follow him to the bathroom, watching his little arms swing and his little bounce on his toes and his little butt in those dinosaur pajamas, he’s just so—so—sooooooooooo cute.
Sorry. Particularly for those of you who don’t have kids, don’t want kids, or generally prefer kids spread on toast with a little grape jelly.
But when all is said and done, the take-away message of this post can be summed up in a single, old, Anglo-Saxon word: