Konban-wa my sweet love, and Happy Forty-Six Month birthday!! It’s the evening and I’ve just put you to bed, and as is your custom these days, I closed your door to the sound of “Konban-wa!” which is “good evening” in Japanese. Your Daddy and I traveled to Japan this past month, and we spent some time before the trip attempting to learn a little of the language. I wasn’t even trying to teach it to you (though in retrospect, I should have), but you watched me work with my flash cards and started picking it up on your own. The day I learned konban-wa, you wanted to know what it meant. I told you, and you announced, “I’m going to say that to you tonight when it’s night-night time.”
That night I tucked you in like always and closed the door, not even thinking about your earlier declaration. But I hadn’t reached the stairs before I heard your feet hit the floor, slapping on the hardwoods as you bolted across your room. Flinging open your door, you proudly said, “KONBAN-WA!” And now I hear it every night.
I missed hearing it from you while we were in Japan – oh how we missed you! There were many times on our trip that I wished you were with us, like when we had a picnic along one of the shallow rivers snaking through downtown Kyoto. Children your age spent that unseasonably warm afternoon wading through the river, dipping their little fish nets in the cool water. You would have loved it. But there were lots of other activities that wouldn’t have interested you a bit, and I’m positive you wouldn’t have enjoyed the 24-hour travel time each way. But I’m already looking forward to taking big trips like this with you when you’re a little older.
Your Daddy and I have been bitten by the travel bug – no, perhaps it’s more like an infestation. Thankfully, we seem to have passed that along to you as well. Whether its a short trip to go camping in north Georgia, or a flight to Chicago or Boston, you seem to enjoy the adventure and are a great travel buddy.
While I’m glad you’re not timid about leaving your fair city of birth, I wasn’t prepared for the announcement you made earlier this month. We were assembling a puzzle of the United States, so I guess geography was on your mind. Suddenly, your head snapped up and you looked at me as if you just remembered something really important you’d been meaning to say. “Mama!” you said. “When I get older, I want to live in Europe!”
I’m really not sure where this came from, but I didn’t think we’d have this conversation until you were much, much older. I told you that you could if you wanted to, but secretly I was already thinking that I’d miss you too much. Visit Europe? Sure. A college semester in Europe? Absolutely. Live in Europe? Hmmm… maybe we’ll have perfected teleportation by that time. In that case, I’d be all for it.
And although you didn’t get to accompany us to Japan, you still had plenty of your own adventures while we were gone. The day before we left, we took you to stay with Boo. It was very good timing because Auntie and Jones were also visiting Boo, so you got to spend time with three of your favorite people. You were so smitten with Jones when we arrived, wanting to hug and kiss him and hold his hand. Fortunately, he wanted to hold yours too, and giggled at everything you did. You mothered him so thoroughly while we were there, constantly encouraging and affirming his every move. We hated to leave the scene of such cuteness.
After a few days of soaking up attention from them, you traveled to Tennessee to be with Nana and Granddaddy. They took you for your first amusement park experience –
Dollywood! I’ve never even been to Dollywood, although I have a feeling
we’ll remedy that soon because you loved it so much.
plenty of rides for the preschool crowd, and your favorite was the
flying elephants. You also liked this car ride, which let you feel like
you were controlling the car, even though a rail at the bottom was
really keeping you on track. Nana told me when the ride began, you
excitedly said, “I’m REALLY driving it!”
They also took you fishing for the first time. You didn’t catch anything, but I hear you enjoyed the experience (especially the post-fishing boat ride and picnic). I do wonder how you would have reacted if you caught a fish. Would you have been worried about the fish, seeing it flopping on the dock with a gaping mouth and a hook? I must admit, while I like the idea of fishing, I sometimes can’t get past my sympathy for the poor fish to enjoy the sport.
But you may not have that same limitation. After all, your favorite exhibit at Oatland Island right now is – no, not the farm. Not the buffalo. Not the eagles. The deer bones. Yep, bones.
This may have something to do with your love of dinosaur bones, but it’s hard to know for sure. All I know is that when we go to Oatland, you beg me to take you to see the deer bones.
They’re situated along the trail leading toward the wolf house. There’s a narrative along this part of the trail, talking about the lives of wolves in the wild. The bones are there to represent the site of a deer kill. When we first happened upon them, my instinct was to hurry by, especially because the signs show images of wolves feasting on a bloody deer carcass. But you are fascinated by the bones and by the picture. You asked what was happening in that image, and I told you. After a pause for careful consideration, you seemed fine with it. Circle of life and all that.
Then we walked to the wolf house, where you stood behind the safety glass and watched them pace by. Thinking about deer bones.
Oh, you are so full of questions these days, and many really good questions. Like where are the eyes on this alligator (from story time at Oatland)? Does he blink?
Even when you’re not asking questions, I’m learning that you’re still very aware. Your Daddy and I have always tried to be careful about screening music in the car, but mostly I’ve been screening for language or lewd content.
So when you professed your love for my latest Pearl Jam CD, I was delighted. It’s a current favorite of mine, and it’s light on four-letter words and devoid of suggestive lyrics. And while there is a time and place for your Elmo and Wonder Pets CDs, I like the idea of expanding your musical horizons. If I ever have to turn the Pearl Jam songs down to talk to you or take a phone call, you immediately demand, “Turn it LOUDER!” That’s my girl.
But while the Pearl Jam songs aren’t objectionable according to my usual standards, I didn’t think about the fact that the subject matter can be a bit intense for a three-year-old. One of your favorite songs is about the death of a loved one. You asked me what it was about, and I said it was about love, which is sort of true. But I was surprised when in the car the other day, you laughed after the phrase, “I understand every life must end…”
Me: “Why did you laugh?”
You: “He said laugh!”
You thought “life” was “laugh.” Then later, you asked to hear the song about “the first time you saw a bird.” I was clueless, until I realized you misheard the phrase, “the first time you saw blood.” Oops. You LOVE that song, and practically shout that particular phrase, albeit incorrectly. I must say, I like your version, and find myself singing that phrase now too.
You’ve also begun freestyling your own songs, coming up with hilarious lyrics on your own. We’re probably one of the few families that keep a ukulele in the master bathroom (what would a stranger think, wandering through our house and finding a ukulele next to the toilet?). But your Daddy likes to play the ukulele during your bath, while you come up with the words to his songs. I’ve yet to successfully capture this on video, partly because you still get a bit shy about your lyrics when I pull out the camera. But your songs are great, and I love watching your creative mind in action, especially in tandem with your Daddy. You two are a great duo.
And I just love our trio. You bring so much joy to our lives, sweet girl. Sleep well, and know you are loved. KONBAN-WA!