It’s 5 a.m.
This seems to be the time for me. The house has that sweet quiet, the kind of quiet I yearn for when Cassius is trying to jump off the kitchen table or escape through the back door. The kind of quiet I want when Jonquille, my 2 year-old, is playing the “what that, mama?” game and pointing at everything in the room, on the floor, outside. The lobes of her brain that involve language are on fire, they’re flashing neon. It’s not an exaggeration to say that she’d crawl down my throat to collect words if she could.
She said penis yesterday. I had said it to my husband, Chase. It was a whispered “penis,” an innocuous “penis.” And, as she was leaning casually against the couch we were sitting on, she heard it. Penis she said again, and smiled. We smiled. Imagine she just said, “butter,” I whispered. Penis is a good word, a fine word. Penis. Yup. Oh, look, Jonquille, the neighbors are blowing up their big, vinyl santa carousel outside! Yippee!
When I remember my hazy college days, an Aristotelean confetti comes flying in around the subject of language. If I remember correctly, Aristotle thought that our brains had no recognition of something until we had the word. It’s so chicken and egg, such a epistomological koan – language and meaning and how they shift and float and change. It’s like sound penetrates the brain and makes a mark. Meaning gets filled in later, after repeated use, after culture inserts itself. Painting analogies could be made here, sculpture. Regardless, Jonquille has penis imprinted on her brain now. There’s a light sketch, just barely enough to see. Penis. Soft light and a pen drawing that will get, ahem, fleshed out over time.
Which reminds me of something she said to my husband, Chase, Just two days ago. They were in the park. They were likely swinging or riding on the big Tucan bird that sucks at bouncing but has happy colors. They saw a person walk by; dark trench coat, long dark hair, heavy boots. Jonquille pointed. “Man,” she said. My husband wasn’t certain. “Could be man,” he said. Which is when things got funny. And Aristotelean. Jonquille thought about what he’d said and the mark was made. “Could-Be-Man,” she said, understanding that this was a new word meant to describe a new kind of person. A Could-Be-Man. Cool.
Since Jonquille is two, Chase and I haven’t broached the ideas of gender, sex, and all of its manifestations. We figure getting the basics down first is a good move. Milk, cow, man, woman, penis. But she seems to have gone down the road into understanding something pretty complex without batting an eye. No discussion on transgender, transsexual, how people feel, that gender is something aquired over time, like a southern accent, say. No. No discussion. The mark is there, somewhere in her brain.
Could be lots of things.
She could dig it.