Wednesday, February 23, 2011


As with most kids, I suspect, around our place the final minutes transitioning from dinner and post-dinner activities to bathtime and bedtime are fairly crackling with manic bursts of home stretch madness. A furious naked dash across the living room, trying to make it into the master bedroom closet to hide or maybe even leave a last puddle of goodnight to clean up. Last week, she was down to her diaper and broke free once again - security at these times is admittedly fairly lax and willing to look the other way north of eight o'clock - only this time she picked up a spigot from an almost-empty bottle of lotion and started brandishing it around like a sword, making these zhhnn zhhoww noises that we absolutely could not make heads nor tails of at the time that now clearly seem to be a recreation of lightsaber sound-effects (though of course she has not seen any piece of that yet)(though, again, come to think of it, there is a Darth Vader mask and lightsaber still hanging up in her room, maintaining from the days when I wrote in there)(and since we're already over parenthetical quota and in case you're wondering, the other two holdovers are four black and white framed pictures of Bird, Eric Dolphy, the Kind of Blue horn players laying down a track, and Elvin Jones, as well as 19 longboxes containing 7,000+ comic books; it is about time to move out of good old #936, yes).

But, the zhhnn zhhoww. We were cracking up at this routine and finally asked what are you doing, to which she replied, "I'm fighting crime in Gotham City!" which of course knocked us out.

A couple of days later, she was looking through an old BATMAN comic and came up asking, "Who's this, Daddy?" The scene was Batman and Gordon on the roof. "Well, honey, this is Commissioner Jim Gordon. He helps Batman fight crime. He's in charge of all of the police officers in the city, and he helps Batman catch the Joker and guys like that. They're pretty much best friends." She took all of that in stride, gave the page due consideration. Something popped into my head. "Hey, who would you say your best friend is?" Now, as far as I know, no one has explained that concept to her, and I was just wondering which one of the two girls that we play with regularly would be her answer. Or, you know, Batman, maybe. She put her hand on my knee and gave it a couple of pats. "It's you, Daddy. My best friend is you!" As you might expect, this about knocked me off of the couch. I didn't want to just smother her but gave her a reciprocal pat on the back and said thanks, that meant a lot. Then she looked me right in the eyes and grinned total mischief. "You're welcome, Daddy. I'm trying to give you back the magic."

Make of that what you will.

The other funny bit, lately, we were walking to the park and she wanted to wear her Superman outfit and ran far ahead of me, then doubled back. When she finally ran into me, she laughed and said, "I just went back in time, Daddy! Back in tiiiiiime!"


A couple of weeks ago when I was reading our girl NOW ONE FOOT, NOW THE OTHER, we got to the fourth or sixth page and she got upset.

"Say the magic words, Daddy! Say the magic words!"
"Please? Thank you?" I was pretty sure those weren't it. She repeated her demand. "Shazam? Abracadabra?"
"The words in the book!" She angrily pointed at the words. I started back up again and she kept trying to make me say the magic words, but I had no idea what they were and just got us through for the 200th time and on to into naptime.

She did the same thing the next afternoon, and I still had no idea. That night, I remembered to ask Catherine about it. Apparently, at some point, they established that they were all magic words. You just had to point at them and read them out loud to activate the spell. Which, yeah, I guess I've been behind that for some time now, storytellers as magicians, etc, and not even just Alan Moore, who, clearly.

So. The next afternoon or evening when we were rocking the Tomie de Paola, I knew just what to do when the call came. I put my index finger down and pointed along as I read. And it was magic. Or if you prefer science, it was like somebody put the batteries in the translator. She just started reading along. She didn't get every word and would even sit out the odd phrase, but I'd say she was getting close to half of it perfect. And the funniest part, she wouldn't stop talking for the other half, just kind of la-la-gluh-bla, jabbering her way through until we made it back to a part she remembered.

It made me think, though, how much I take the whole written communication thing for granted. How we trap such a wide spectrum of experience, thought, and emotion and leave it there, charged in just a few possible letters, waiting for someone who speaks the same language to come along and unlock whatever it is we left for them.

They really all are magic words.