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Dear Ezra: Months Forty and Forty-one

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Dear Ezra,

You’ve always really liked music and had strong opinions about what songs you wanted to hear. But in the last few months it has reached dizzying heights. You can hear a song and dismiss it or become obsessed with it in an instant, and based entirely on an internal algorithm I cannot discern in any way. Because you loved a few songs from Mary Poppins, I took out an album of show tunes from the library. Within minutes “Oklahoma” was your new jam, though you had no use for anything else on the album. Until the next day, when You’re Just In Love came on, and you realized instantly that it was the best song ever. We played that song 20 times in one day.

Your Aunt Lilli obliged your new show tune fascination with 60 of her favorite songs, and you’ve passed quite a few of them into your bafflingly assembled pantheon of greatest hits. For a week it was all “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof, which has the distinction of being almost 8 minutes long and featuring long stretches of talking punctuated by some angry singing. You memorized the look of the cover art on my phone, and figured out within a day how to open up iTunes, locate the album view, find Fiddler, and choose the correct song.

Since Tradition’s lock on your affection has loosened a bit, you’ve also become quite fond of a few others — a few more from Fiddler, something from Annie, one from Wicked. When we visited Aunt Lilli in Vermont, we discovered Really Rosie, a favorite from my childhood, and we got some of the books out of the library and listen to the songs while we read them. You can actually sing all of “One Was Johnny,” every word. Except that you’re obsessed with rhyming, and now, when I ask you to sing it, we’re pretty likely to get “One was Johnny…PONNY! Hahahahaha!” instead of the song.

You’re not just obsessed with songs, but with the instruments playing them. When a new song comes on, you frequently stop to suss it out: “I hear violins,” you tell me. Or, “I think that’s a trumpet.” A few weeks ago, you demanded “trombone music,” and now our record player is constantly occupied by old Louis Armstrong records, which was as close as I could get. Our recent trip to Boston was amazing because we stayed with my friend Amanda whose house features a banjo, a guitar, a mandolin, and (gasp of joy and excitement!) a viola. Her 9-year-old son Jonah was amazingly patient with you, letting you hold and play his viola over and over again. Since we’ve been home, you have taken to holding your ukulele like a violin and drawing a drumstick across it like a bow. You refer to this contraption as “George.”

You love names and naming things these days. Our trip to Vermont and Boston was a name-obsessed kid’s dream, with with four new dogs: Rufus, Bessie, Levi, and Heidi. You talked about them constantly, comparing their sizes and colors. You give all your favorite songs names, picking a lyric that stands out for you. Sometimes when you forget names, you refer to people by the color of their shirt. That is cute when you call a kid in a blue shirt “blue guy,” less so when you refer to a hotel valet in a black jacket as “the big black guy.”

The rate at which you are absorbing new phrases from us and making them your own is dizzying. Just a few days ago, you glared at Zella, who had just pulled up some puzzle pieces you were working on. “How many times have I telled you not to broke it, Zella!” you demanded. You even repeated your crazy conjugations a few more times, for emphasis. When you are trying to convince me of something, you end it by saying, “so that’s a good idea.” When I make you apologize to Zella, you often grab her shoulders and start by saying, “Zella. Look at me in my face. I have to talk to you.” Then, finally, you cheerfully add, “I’m sorry.”

I suppose your obsession with understanding how things works is nothing new, but the last few months have brought a new level of verbalization to it. On our way to nana and papa’s house a few days ago, you told me, “nana and papa are a grandma and grandpa and that’s family.” You also recently informed me that “when I go hide and you come find me that’s called hide and seek, and that’s how that works.”

You’re getting better at understanding and naming your own feelings, or at least trying to. When you smush Zella into tears, and one of us yells at you, your lower lip trembles and you urgently want us to know that you “feel sad.” And sometimes you suddenly “feel sad” or “feel afraid,” but happen to be standing with your legs tightly crossed and a hand grabbing on for dear life.

You remember everything I tell you. A few weeks ago, I had told you that after preschool, you were going to have lunch with Zella and the babysitter. But rain and traffic and delayed trains intervened, and the plan had to be changed. When you realized that Mia wasn’t coming over, you completely broke down. We had a long talk about how sometimes you have a plan and it doesn’t work out. And for three weeks, every few days, you said, “remember when we had that plan about Mia and it didn’t work out? We made a new plan.”

Here’s a plan that’s not working out for mama: you’re giving up your nap. After three separate incidents in a single week where you took a nap and then stayed up until 10:30, I had to concede that you just aren’t going to be a daily napper anymore. We are working on developing a new “quiet time” routine. One day I drew you a few pictures of things we could do during quiet time (listen to music on an old phone, rest on the couch, play trains, read books). You call it your map, and insist I draw a new one every day. Mostly we don’t stick to it, with distracted mom and crabby boy bouncing around from one thing to another. But sometimes you get so relaxed with your music that you drift off to sleep. The other day, you somehow got a Judy Garland song on infinite repeat and fell asleep with the phone tucked under your face.

Today you fell asleep with your head on my lap, listening to toddler songs and reading a book about an elephant. You are a big kid, but you are still my sweet baby. Here is my favorite thing you do this month. When I say “I love you,” you say, “awwwww….I love you, too.”


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