A big manilla envelope arrived in the mail yesterday -- a welcome package from the Early Intervention people. It was addressed specifically to Noah, and cover letter was both exceedingly chipper (Dear Family! Hi! Welcome! Thank you SO MUCH for submitting an application! It was just what we wanted and exactly the right size.) and kind of vague (Someone from our staff will contact you by phone. More information will be available at that time. This letter will self-destruct if fed through a shredder.).
The package included several helpful worksheets and "Help Your Child Learn to Talk!" checklists, most of which boiled down to: Have ya tried reading to your kid, jackass?
I was folding laundry in our bedroom yesterday, and Noah was down the hall in his room. Reading book after book after book. He'd pull a book off his shelf and slowly page through it, pointing at objects he recognized, cocking his head and pondering ones he didn't. Then he'd close the book with a soft sigh and reach for a new one. He didn't say a word.
I debated joining him. I should be reading those books TO him. I should be labeling all the pictures and asking him questions and trying to get him to say the words instead of pointing. Maybe work on some sign language! Hover! Teach! Intervene!
I kept folding laundry instead. After 10 minutes I finally heard him speak: Oh no! Oh no!
I went to his room. He was looking at The Giving Tree, which I haven't read to him since he was tiny. It's too long for a toddler, I think; it's black-and-white; there are no pictures of aballs and it makes me fucking cry every fucking time.
He was on the page where the little boy has cut the tree down.
"Oh NO!" he said to me, pointing at the sad little stump. "Oh NO."
I crouched down next to him and explained that yes, the little boy had cut the tree down, and yes, the tree was sad.
"Oh no," he kept saying. His eyes teared up. He reached out for a hug.
I turned the page and kept reading, despite the huge lump in my own throat. The boy comes back. The tree has nothing left, except itself, and in the end, that's all the boy needs after all.
And the tree was happy.
I remember the first time I read that book to Noah. I started crying halfway through because I GOT IT, finally. I was the tree, he was my boy, and the job of sending him off into the world would require so much sacrifice and selflessness on my part, but as long as he was happy, I would be happy. I sobbed because it was all too frightening and beautiful and I wondered if I could handle it.
I have no idea how Noah understood that the tree had been cut down. I have no idea how he knew there was something wrong. But I know he did.
I hugged him awhile longer before he wriggled away and ran down the hallway, laughing and yelping in gibberish. Even without words, I knew he wanted me to chase him. So I did.
And the tree was happy.