I say to the baby, “Ooooh.”
He says, “Ooooaaaaaaaooooo.”
I say to him, “Goo.”
He says “a-goo” right back. Then adds another “aaaaaooooaoooo” for good measure.
“Tell me what you want, buddy,” I’ll ask.
“Ook,” he responds.
“Like, an oak tree? You want an… oak tree? An acorn?”
I am impressed. “Wow, dude, that’s like, a whole sentence.”
Then he makes a pterodactyl-like shriek. Or one of his coyote yips.
And he gets this big smile.
And then no matter what I say next, he starts to cry.
* * *
I’m pretty sure that whoever made babies — like, not this baby, because I know who made this baby, but rather, all babies, the “baby prototype” — designed them with systems that really don’t function right at the outset. It’d be like buying a car whose tires are half-flat and whose radio only gets staticky transmissions, but the more you drive it, the more functional the vehicle becomes.
Because this baby just doesn’t work right. The little sphincter flap between his stomach and throat — we’ll just call it his “abdominal butthole” — has about as much muscular tension as a piece of lukewarm tuna sashimi, and that’s why he spits up. His arms flail. His legs kick.
And the wires are crossed in his brain. Whatever portion of his “baby cortex” is given over to emotion is as yet just a tangle of wires that nobody’s sorted out, yet. So, when he gets close to happiness, I think it also means he’s just next door to sadness, too. One wrong move and the frequency switches. From big gummy, drooly smile to shrieking baby hell. From glee to grief in a moment’s turn.
* * *
Then again, maybe he’s just frustrated.
Maybe he’s trying to tell us something and here we think we’re “communicating” but really, we’re just parroting his garbled baby babble back at him. Meanwhile, he has intent and desire, and we just have goofy noises to which we hope he responds. He’s trying to say, “Dad, I would like very much for you to open your mouth so that I may reach in and grab hold of your lower lip. Then I would like some time in the swing where you play the shrieking tinny jungle noises that, conveniently, sounds like the rush of blood in the womb. Finally, when my time there is complete, I demand the boob. The boob, sir. The boob.”
And meanwhile we’re just like GABBA GOOBA GOO WOO OHH DADA MAMA.
I mean, shit, I’d get sad, too.
* * *
Sometimes he doesn’t really cry.
No pouty lip. No squinty-I-would-weep-if-I-had-functioning-tear-ducts eyes. No simpering whimper.
This is especially true when we sometimes stand him up. Because, trust me, he likes to stand now. And he’s just past two months. He holds his neck out real long and tall and his eyes bug out and his mouth opens and Sweet Crispy Christ On A Crumbling Crouton he just starts yelling. “Ahhh! AHHHHHH. Ahhhhahahhhhh.” Sometimes it looks like he’s enjoying it. Standing there. Broadcasting his insane infant rage to the world.
* * *
He said “Da” the other day.
Not Daddy, not Dada, but rather, Da.
Clear as the pealing of a bell.
I know it was just an accident of the lips, a clumsy positioning of his gooey slug tongue against the roof of his mouth as he was about to say “Oooh” or “A-goo” or “AHHHHH,” or maybe he was just trying to say “yes” in Russian, as in, “Yes, my KGB handler, I will assassinate these two pink apes — but I will not kill their bodies, no, instead I will kill their souls,” but there it was.
To say it melted my heart like a spoonful of duck fat on a hot skillet is underselling it.
The heart is still warm, runny, goopy over that.
* * *
He talks to the ceiling fan. He actually finds the ceiling fan in all rooms quite fascinating. Moreso if it’s moving, but even if not, fuck it, he’s still up for the chat. He sleeps in the bed with us (a super-big “no-no” or a giant honking “oh it’s a must” depending on who you listen to), and sometimes at night we will wake up from a rare moment of sleep to find him laying on his back, eyes wide, fists pumping, legs kicking.
And talking to the ceiling fan like it’s his best buddy in the whole wide world.
If only I knew what they were talking about.
* * *
Sorry, I had to say it again.
I mean, it’s stuff like that which prevents me from gently depositing him in an unlocked car at Target with a couple of $20’s tucked in his diaper and a note that says, “PRO-TIP: He likes to talk to ceiling fans.”
* * *
The other day he was in his swing, dead asleep in a rare moment of somnolence, when suddenly he started making these weird yips and peeps — then his eyes opened halfway and I could see them rolling back in his head. And I think, holy shit, he’s choking, and I tell the wife because she’s closer and she does this fantastic “slide into homebase” move where she gets carpet-burn on her knees and she rescues the baby from…
Well, from a dream, best as we can tell. No choking. I mean, what the fuck would he be choking on? A suddenly solidified glob of oxygen? Did one of my car keys accidentally fly down his throat?
No, we just interrupted his dream.
He looked at us with his wide-eyed “What The Fuck?” face.
We’re starting to see that face a lot.
* * *
I gotta ask, though, what the hell is he dreaming about? He’s got all of two months under his belt. Is he dreaming of full diapers flying at his head? Of a boob with endless milk floating before him?
* * *
He talks to the TV, too. I am both disturbed and pleased by how easily the TV placates him. No, we don’t intend that to be a habit, nor do we plan on even letting him watch much television, but at this stage, I would do anything to extricate him from his own worst moods. If it took me placing him in the lap of a starving panda bear covered in bamboo, I just might do it.
Regardless, the other night Craig Ferguson was on the tube — not the talk show, but rather, one of his comedy specials on some channel I didn’t know we had called “Epix” — and B-Dub clearly believed he was holding some comedy palaver, some Scottish tete-a-tete, with Mister Ferguson. The child was having a lovely time, so I dared not interrupt.
He will also talk to Jon Stewart when given the chance.
I guess he likes comedians.
Which means he is truly my son.
* * *
The baby tries to laugh. Tries, but mostly fails. We’ve yet to earn a proper laugh. Which is perhaps his way of telling us we’ve yet to do anything properly funny. Someone — I believe it must have been Twitter’s own “TheRussian” — said that baby smiles and baby laughs are like crack. You’ll do anything for the next fix.
This is truer than I care to admit.
* * *
He also talks with the boob in his mouth. He stares at his mother while breasfeeding and offers an “mmmph” or an “ooopppph.” It’s not a microphone, kid. I mean, c’mon.
Shit, it’s cute, though.
* * *
We all packed up our shit and went to Target the other day. The child did pretty well — really, taking him anywhere is like a game of Russian Roulette as you never know when the cranky bullet is in the baby’s chamber — but toward the end he started getting “fussy.”
(That’s always the word, isn’t it? “Oh, he’s fussy.” No, he’s cranky. Or pissy. Or acting like King Dickhead. Fussy is someone who can’t decide on what thread to use to sew a button onto a ladies’ frock coat. What my baby does is nothing short of doom-bringing, spit-flinging apoplexy.)
At the time of said, ahem, fussiness, we had just pulled into one of Target’s baby-gear aisles.
The toy aisle, specifically.
And so we made a desperate attempt — like many failed attempts before — to appease him with a toy plucked off the shelf.
First, an elephant who sang songs (and cricket chirps for some odd reason) when a cord is pulled.
Second, a ball composed of plastic webbing with another smaller ball inside.
Further, at home we discovered that B-Dub now has a new best friend to replace the ceiling fan: a glowworm. Er, not a real glowworm, but rather, one of those plastic-headed oddballs whose face lights up and who sings songs when you depress his shattered breastbone. B-Dub loves this creature. He is rapt. He grabs at it. He holds its hand. He talks to it.
The boy is beginning to interact with the world.
* * *
And that’s really what this is about. He’s interacting. His brain is changing. His mind is emerging.
He’s growing up, one little thing at a time. Whether it’s how he now interacts with his own feet or how he tries to chew his tongue like it’s a piece of gum, he’s starting to become more than he was, more than just the, well, weird little glowworm he’d been for these last two months. Smiling and laughing and babbling and yelling. Not just at nothing, but at the world.
Talking to us. Yammering at the ceiling fan. Reaching for the glowworm.
It’s a weird and wonderful place. I know, I know. They grow up so fast. I should hold tight to the days lest they slip away. But the old days of the early baby are limited in their excitement — he’s not really a person at that point but rather, an adorable grub of some kind with limited understanding. Can’t talk. Can’t grab. Can’t even really see you. But now he sees. Now he speaks. Now he interacts.
And he then becomes interactive. Like a game or a toy, like the elephant whose tail is pulled so that he plays music. He’s more than that, of course, I only mean that suddenly we have both stimulus and response.
You can start to see tiny synaptic flashes of the person he’s going to become.
I only hope that by the time he’s 20 he stops that “standing up and yelling at people with bugged-out-eyes” thing. Because that’s probably going to get him kicked out public places.
Of course, again that would mean he’s truly my son.