In spite of the tremendous verbal talents of each of my children, they were both late talkers. Daughter barely spoke at all until she hit two years of age, and then said a complete sentence out of the blue. After I tucked her in one night and was leaving her room, this little Alvin and the Chipmunks voice rang out in the dark: “Please close the door.” I spun around, straining to see the invisible voice hanging in the air. “Mommy, the door,” it squeaked again, and I numbly pulled the door closed as I crossed the threshold. I stood outside her room thinking, What the hell just happened? We went from “ball” and “shoe” and “daddy” to detailed exit instructions? Daughter awoke in the morning with a 5000 word vocabulary and never looked back or took a single breath between sentences.
Son, who arrived two years and change later, was silent to the point that my father once clapped his hands behind his grandson’s head and waited for him to react. I asked, “What are you doing?” My father looked at me concerned and said, “I’ve never heard him say a single word. Have you had his hearing checked?” I told my dad that if family history was any indication, in a couple of months he’d be saying, “Would someone please pass me the sports section? I’m dying over here with these strained peaches.” And that’s pretty much the way it turned out.
The tradeoff to all the quiet was that both Son and Daughter were very early walkers. Apparently they put their creative energy into movement rather than narration. They were each 7 pounds and 21 inches at birth, and were both walking professionally at ten months of age. Daughter was a particularly singular sight to see because at a year old she only weighed sixteen pounds, but was taller than the average toddler. She flew across the room like a silent, springy Gumby.
Son was more stealth than swift. His room was added on off the kitchen with the result being I could see him through the window over the sink while I washed the dishes, unless he was asleep in his crib which was just under the ledge. One night, I looked up from the sink and his face was right across from mine on the other side of the glass. I screamed. He just stared at me, his little hands holding onto the frame as he balanced on the window sill. Another time I looked all over the apartment for him and was starting to panic when Daughter called out excitedly, “I found him!” I ran into the kitchen and followed her gaze up to where Son was perched on top of the refrigerator, his legs sticking straight out over the freezer. Spider-Baby.
For a while, they were an actual comedy team as Daughter responded verbally when Son was asked a question. I would say to one-year-old Son, “Do you want some more cereal?” And he would look at his sister and she would say, “He’s full.” It was even more hilarious when other people were around. One day at my friend betty’s, whose basement was playground to all the neighborhood children, there was a loud ruckus and about eight kids suddenly appeared in the living room in various degrees of upset. betty held up her hand and said, “One person! I want one person to tell me what happened.” Toddler Son stepped forward, bounced a ball off his forehead, then pointed to two other boys and one of their sisters while making a sad face. Daughter said, “My brother says that Neil and Evan were throwing the ball and it accidentally hit Tara in the head and she started crying.” Truer tale was never told.
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