I have just retrieved a load of kitchen towels from the dryer, and while I’m folding them on the floor in the bedroom Leta collects all the placemats. As she lays each one flat on the carpet she chants, “I have a nap for you,” to some imaginary audience. She does this a lot, pretends to have an intense conversation with someone we cannot see, and if we dare interrupt her she will hold up the palm of her hand to hush us up, like, is it not obvious that I’m having a riveting discussion with someone in my head? Do I interrupt your hallucinations?
I wait until she reaches a lull in conversation and then ask, “Did you just call that a nap?”
“Yes,” she answers. “These are naps.” And then she points to each individual nap and identifies them by color: an orange nap, a green nap, a nap with stripes. Not unlike her mother, she is very good at expounding on the details of that which she knows nothing about.
“Leta, those are called mats,” I say. And then I brace for a cannonball of wailing vowels to explode out of her head because, oh, I don’t know, I exist? And that bothers her?
Instead, she sits silently for a few seconds and rolls around the suggestion in her mouth. “Maps?” she asks.
“Close,” I say, relieved that she is being receptive to this small lesson in language, and then I demonstrate it again, dragging out the T for effect. “Mattttts.”
She tries again. “Mappppptttts?”
“There is no P,” I explain. “It’s mats, M-A-T-S.”
“Ohhhhhhh,” she sighs, as if it suddenly makes sense, and with her head casually tilted to the side she says matter-of-factly, “Mats.”
Leta immediately goes back to her imaginary conversation, and I sit there beaming over the fact that my genius three-year-old has just figured out how to say a word from its spelling. Holy crap! I know thirty-year-olds who can’t do this, and with a huge smile on my face I start folding another dishtowel. Suddenly she turns to the wall, holds up a place mat and announces, “I have a NAPS for you, M-A-T-S!”