Acting her age

One of Leta’s favorite ways to pass the time these days is to recite the age of everyone she knows. She loves to tell me that I am 31, that Daddy is 41, and that Chuck, he is five, and that is not very many. Whenever we ask her if she is tired she will shake her head like she can’t believe she has to explain this to us again and say, “No, I’m not tired. I’m THREE!” As if three is the opposite of tired. I’ll tell you what three is. Three is the opposite of A DISTINCTLY LIKABLE HUMAN BEING.

Many had advised me that three was much worse than two and I didn’t believe them, and so I think I should warn those of you who haven’t yet been through three that three is so much more horrible than two that you might want to start drinking heavily right about now.

I taught Leta that our cousin GEORGE! is 22 years old, and she remembered that number instantly. So instantly that GEORGE! is nothing but 22 years old and is not allowed to be anything else. Is GEORGE! awake? No, he’s 22. Is GEORGE! on the phone? Nope, he’s 22. Is GEORGE! a boy? HE IS NOT A BOY, HE IS 22. Because if someone is 22 they cannot be anything else at the same time. Being 22, I guess, is an absolute state, like being dead. Or Republican.

During the move last week we did a lot of running around town picking up and dropping off boxes, and one afternoon while Jon was inside the new house beheading talking heatedly with a contractor, Leta and I sat outside in the car singing songs and reciting ages. She asked about everyone in the family, the cousins and aunts and uncles, and when I told her that Grandmommy was 62 years old I saw her brain trying to figure out if that was an actual number and whether or not it was possible to count that high. Yes, it is possible, but only if you stop now and then to stretch your legs.

“Is that a lot?” she asked.

“Yes, that is a whole lot,” I told her knowing very well that if given the chance my mother would teach her something as equally subversive about me. That is one of the things that I love most about my mother, that she is the most refined person I know and yet would not pass up the chance to break into our house while we’re gone and cover the toilet seats with plastic wrap.

Minutes later I asked Leta to tell me if she remembered the ages of everyone we had talked about, and she listed off each and every one until we got to Grandmommy. For several seconds she sat with her mouth open and her eyes focused to a certain spot on the roof of the car in an attempt to concentrate on the answer, when it suddenly came to her and she happily squealed, “A WHOLE LOT YEARS OLD!”