Sunday, December 4, 2011

Is Anyone Listening?

(picture me peering into the fridge, or making the bed, or watching football...then hear the patter of little feet come closer, then see the two-year-old size frame round the corner or the edge of the door, and imagine those round brown eyes ((they twinkle a little, like his mom's do)) stare up at me)

K: Daddy?

D: Yeah, buddy?

K: Deet deet deet deet, Sesame Street?

I wish someone could explain to me exactly what function this plays in K's continuing adventure in learning the English language. I, of course, have my own theory: the (hilarious) string of "deets" is the imitation of the portion of a normal adult-adult conversation that precedes the subject of the exchange.

"So I went to the store to grab some milk and who did I see buying cucumbers but Bill Smith?"

K probably doesn't have anything important to say about Sesame Street, or George (Curious) or Mazzy. It's just important that he says something that will force me to give him a response. Even if that response has little or nothing to do with what he said, which makes his "Deet deet deet [subject]" pretty much the same as 99% of the adult conversations we conduct on a day to day basis.

No one really cares if there is an answer to their (our) question about cooking pork chops, and they (we) are well aware that their (our) account of a recent trip to Target isn't all that interesting. It doesn't matter if it is. They (we) run around in open desperation vying for snippets of attention from those they (we) are closest to because, statistically, there is precious little chance at finding a receptive ear. So we fill the air with verbal arrows, hoping to hear the thwack! of a target struck. When a true listener is discovered (these people are usually called parents, lovers, best friends, if we are lucky) they (we) fill those rare empty spaces with whatever is at hand, within our ability.

(The people best at this are called stand-up comedians.)

It is perhaps the most basic of existential human acts: creating the right kind of racket so that people will notice, respond and reaffirm that we(we!) in fact do exist, that this is the real world and not a dream, or (the more terrifying possibility) that we ourselves are not dreams conjured by a larger, somnolent consciousness, cursed to journey through the plane of concrete existence unheeded, a shimmering phantom unable to frighten, a ghost incapable of causing a spook, unrecognized and ignored until the consciousness that created us wakes, and we are blinked away.


Watching your kid grow up is some strange business.

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