In these few short months since you turned four, you caught bluegills, went bowling, flew a kite, slept all night on the top bunk, played an Indonesian Gamelan, and, with no fanfare of any kind, rode a bike. A real bike, with pedals and no training wheels.
Our late summer was a clutter of trips and festivals, some small and some major, which is tough, because you are a kid who loves routine, who loves feeling like an expert, like you’re in your element. What is so amazing to watch is how you create that safe space for yourself everywhere we go. You enter new rooms looking for familiar things, or for new things that you have seen or read about. It’s fun to follow you on these fact-finding missions, as you name and identify all the cool stuff in each new place we go. You name the new houses we stay in, choose your bed, meet the neighbors.
The meeting of the neighbors is always the most fun to watch. You are sometimes very shy, usually when you are tired or haven’t quite figured out how to make a new place feel comfortable for you. But when you’re on your game, the conversations you strike up with strangers are a wonder to behold. “What’s your name? What’s your mom’s name? What color is your car?” You introduce Zella, launch into complicated stories involving your friends back home, and, depending on how badly you need to go potty, occasionally give some gentle pushes and head butts.
When you have an idea in your head, you can be remarkably focused and determined for a kid your age. You played trains at Nana and Papa’s house on July 4 amid a maelstrom of cousins because that’s what you do at Nana and Papa’s house. You woke up one morning during our weeklong trip to Wisconsin, put on your frog costume, and then wore it all day, because, duh, you were a frog. Kid Frog to be exact. And we were Mama Frog, and Daddy Frog, and Baby Frog, and you corrected us every time we addressed each other all day long.
Our big trips at the end of August came back-to-back. First there was a week at a cabin in the Northwoods, with a beach and a fishing pier and a rowboat and a playground. We stopped on the way to get you and dada fishing poles (a few weeks earlier, you had taken a fishing lesson so we would be ready). You fished every day, pulling in bluegills and pumpkin seeds like it was your job. Every time we took a fish off your hook and threw it back, you would have already caught another. You came up with little stories about them: bluegills liked to take tumbling class, but pumpkinseeds were more into ballet.
We met some other families at the resort, and you struggled a little, being in a tough age between the babies and the big girls. The girls, 6 and 9, mostly wanted to pet Zella, and you got zany trying to get their attention. But as much as I could see them getting frustrated, you mostly just enjoyed being part of the action, and I think you’ll be much more able to figure out how to play with them rather than at them when we see them again next year. This is the first summer of the three we’ve spent up there where I feel like you really might remember it next summer. The fishing, the hikes, the boat, and especially our favorite crazy zoo, where Kid Frog spent a magical day.
A few days after our Wisconsin trip, we turned around and got on a plane to Utah to spend the weekend with Nana and Papa at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. You’ve understood that Papa tells stories for a long time, since we listened to his CD on repeat in the car for weeks, and he visited your preschool last year. But seeing him perform in front of a big audience was new. True to form, you thought the coolest part was the stage and the microphone, and the fact that Papa could get you up there. You also enjoyed seeing another favorite storyteller, Ed Stivender, and getting to play with him between performances was a huge hit.
Our gracious and generous hosts for the weekend lived in a magical wonderland, set up for their 58 grandchildren to enjoy, with a playroom larger than Ezra’s preschool. You guys wandered it in a daze until you picked out your favorite costumes (Ezra: queen, Zella: peacock), which you then wore every waking minute you were in the house. You woke every morning ready to play, had to be dragged out of there every night. There was an elaborate mural of fairy tale characters on the wall, and a poem that referenced all of them, and you had me read it to you over and over and over again, memorizing the lines and pointing out each character. And having Nana and Papa in the same house to play with you and read you poems? Magical icing on the cake.
Here’s a moment from Utah that captures your whole personality in a nutshell. The storytelling festival featured some activity tents for kids, and one of them was a pottery tent. There were potters there operating wheels, and when it was your turn, you could take a block of the clay and the potter would help you make a small vase or cup. We were excited to find there was no wait one day at lunch, so we whisked you in there. You completely shut down, wouldn’t touch the clay, wouldn’t look at the potter. But all the same, you wouldn’t leave either. So we stayed and watched. And watched, and watched, and watched. Until you had figured out the whole thing, saw how it worked, figured out the exact shape you wanted. And then you were ready. We had to wait for the exact potter you wanted to work with, and when it was finally your turn, you were so careful and concentrated so hard, and made exactly the thing you wanted.
And another: after a summer on your balance bike, you started asking when we could go to “the pedal store.” At the park one day, your friend Ewan brought his pedal bike, and you asked to ride it. I pulled you up and down the path while you felt it out, and after just a few times helped by me, and a break to mull it over and think it through, you could ride a bike. Like just out-and-out ride a bike. With no help. Starting, stopping, making u-turns. It was a little bittersweet for dada, who had assumed that he would teach you to ride a bike. But you didn’t need a teacher, just some time to figure it all out.
Just keep watching and waiting and figuring it all out, buddy.
Hugs and kisses,