Rachel has turned into a real neatnik these days. She not only informs us immediately when she has a “dudu” diaper, she also stops whatever else she is doing to close an open door, to push in a protruding drawer, to put down the toilet lid, or to clear the sidewalk of little twigs and gravel. She also shows a lot more initiative in trying to bring other aspects of her environment under control. She likes to choose one outfit over another when it’s time to dress. She starts fetching shoes and saying waw’ when she’s ready to go out. She heads for Uncle Barry’s car and says rye when she spots the car in our slot as she comes out the elevator. She’d rather push her stroller than ride in it when she’s feeling energetic.
One evening, she pushed the stroller almost all the way home (about 10 blocks) from the Italian ice cream shop we walked to. She tested every metal cover embedded in the sidewalk to see if it made any noise. If it didn’t, she would say no-o-o and move on. If it did, she would try stomping on it again several times. She also labelled every down-and-up driveway slope we passed over, with a down and an uh. (She also uses down and uh for upside down and rightside up, respectively.)
You may have guessed that language has begun to come thick and fast. We had thought that this might be the last complete listing of the words Rachel can produce, but she has already gotten ahead of us. She surprises us with at least one new word every day. She has even begun to talk in her sleep a bit. We’ll have to be content to list some of her favorites.
She can count to five, but tends to start with two unless you remind her. She likes the symmetry of tu, ti, tow, tai. She has the primary colors pretty well under control. Her favorite is doo (blue), followed by rey (red), oh (yellow), and dee (green). She has all of our names down pat: mama, dadi, and daydo. Her nasals, m and n, actually started when she named the nama (llama) that she petted at the zoo one day. Within a day or two, she started to rave about her mama, about checking the mayno (mail), about her nano (Anno’s Journey) book, and about things that aren’t true or don’t exist (no-o-o). So far, her use of no-o-o (it doesn’t exist) far outweighs her use of no-no-no (this is off-limits). That pleases us.
Some words are far enough beyond the frontiers of her pronunciation that she relies on sign language. Her word turn is signed by rotating her wrist and fingers. She uses that sign for revolve, twist, roll, turn over, turn around, turn a corner. When she’s feeling talkative, she signs turn and says wheel whenever any wheeled vehicle strikes her fancy. Open is signed with an open hand, close with a clenched fist. She will signal close before she closes doors, pushes in drawers, and restores seatbacks and tray tables to their upright position. She signs flash and squeak by repeatedly opening and closing her hand.
Rachel has also mastered several pairs of antonyms. One of her most charming pairs is wow (big) vs. wee (small). (Wee she picked up from her Three Bears book, wow probably from our comments about large spoonfuls on their way to her mouth.) She delights in comparing things wow and wee. Another pair, we’ and dwy, get pretty regular use at diaper-changing time. One pair consists of a spoken awake (wey’) and a signed asleep (the sh sign, but with forefinger across her forehead instead of her lips).
One time when she was playing in her crib, she composed a small compare-and-contrast sentence about two little stuffed gingerbread men. It is herewith quoted in full, with accompanying interpretation and commentary provided by a member of the rapt audience of one: rey wey’, oh sh [the last word was signed, not spoken]. The red gingerbread man was face up, the yellow one face down. (She puts her things to sleep by laying them face down.) Not quite “Give me liberty or give me death,” but a memorable utterance in its own time and place, nevertheless.
UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in the Boston Public Schools.