It is early Sunday morning and I awake to soft and familiar sounds. Through a hallway and behind a sliver open door, lies a little grandson trying to form his sounds, his pitches and his syllables into words. It’s a one year old’s private game of boggle, no competition or pressure, only joy. I listen to his word play for only a moment before I can resist walking in on the game. “Good morning,” I say forming my own old and familiar sounds. I reach into the portable crib and lift up a little boy in a flannel pajama suit with built in stockings and appliquéd airplanes. His eyes are bright and he is ready, trusting, purple crayon in hand, for a new adventure. I like to call him Harold, and one morning while he toddled around the kitchen, going from truck, to cupboard, to scattered crayons and toys, actually brought me a purple crayon.
On this day in his early morning sweetness, at his insistence, I wrap him in his “bay-bay” hurry downstairs where I pop a piece of bread in the toaster and fill a bright green sippy cup with milk.Breakfast will be outside, among the trees, the birds, wrapped in his bay-bay, wrapped in my arms. It is a lovely morning, before the color enters the cheeks of this world, before the “vroom vrooms” can be heard in the street below, before the birds and quail hide from human intrusion. As we walk down the hill there is a rustle. Two deer have heard our approach and are tip-toeing away. If we hear a dog bark, this little boy will start to pant like a dog; if a bird darts through the air he will point and say “bur, bur,” but when I say “Deer. Look,” there is no reaction. He is a clean slate and nothing has been written about deer.
We settle at the end of a staircase on the ledge of a very small valley. It is like sitting on a boat dock but instead of water, there are trees and a spring surrounded by cattails and aqua blue, wispy brush. Nature, aware of our presence has become bashful, but so have we. This child and I are usually exchanging syllables, half words and half thoughts. So eager are we, the nurturers of this little boy, for him to learn and develop, that we are constantly speaking, pointing, and defining the concrete and abstract objects in his world. “Look Max,” we say, “this is the color green,” or “Can you say thank-you?” and “What kind of truck is that? Dump truck? Can you say, ex-ca-va-tor?
But today is different and we continue our observations in silence. We both understand that voices would be an intrusion, that reverence is satisfying. My incessant hopes for his language development are calmed when I recognize that he is still learning, for silence is a language too.