Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Listen All Gone
The baby looks a bit like a troll. Not the mean gobble-you-up kind that the Billy Goats Gruff encountered on the bridge; more like the happy troll dolls of my childhood, with perfectly round tummies, cherubic cheeks and fluffy hair that stands straight up. Her eyes are piercing grey almonds with sandy lashes that blink to buy time as she plots and schemes with her hands folded at the small of her back. She does what she pleases and if you ask she will tell you she is three although her second birthday wont come round until mid-February. She stomps around, crawling over us to sit on her brother’s head when she tires of making mischief out of sight at the end of the hall.
A good deal of our communication runs like the cliché ol’ Western shoot-out in front of the saloon. An example: she opens the fridge and takes out some yogurt. “No thank you, Baby,” I say. “We already had breakfast. We will eat snack as a family later. You need to put that yogurt back.”
“No,” she says, looking straight at me and rocking from heel to toe, a metronome ticking off the tense seconds while coyotes call and an unseen narrator whistles off stage left. “Peanut, you need to put that yogurt back in the fridge. Your mama is talking to you. You need to listen.” I put my hand on my holster. She blinks, twitches and puts the yogurt behind her back. A half step to the side, then a shifting of weight to the back leg in anticipation, like a triple jumper at the end of the approach.
“Little Baby, you need to listen.” I repeat. More blinking. Shoulders sway side to side, to reinforce the defiance.
“No,” she says. “Listen all gone.” Then she runs for her horse, yogurt cradled at her elbow like a running back. And so I chase. And chastise. Eventually the yogurt is in the back in the fridge. I call Grandma to update her on the toddler antics, turning my gaze away long enough to dial. A fluffy blur runs across the periphery and I pretend I don’t see. But then there is a still silence, the kind that signals a contraband haircut, permanent marker mural or the emptying of a Wal-Mart sized bottle of lotion. So I hang up and make my way down the hall to find a guilty baby sitting on her bed covered in gum wrappers.
“Gum baby,” she grins, shaking her head vigorously from side to side to blur her view of my stern face.
“Peanut, you know we don’t give gum to babies,” I say, frowning.
“Gum baby, all gone,” she grins again, wrinkling her nose, augmenting her response with American Sign Language, up-turned palms flicking the air- as if I did not understand the first time.
I turn and walk away, Sheriff Mom defeated, the evidence chewed and swallowed. Perhaps I should have turned a blind eye to the yogurt.