Listening In

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The wealth of toddlers


3rd December 2010


I met him two years ago but since we live in different countries, I see him only when I visit Singapore.

He is different each time. And now that he is two years old, young Jordy has more hair than he did when we first met.

He has two homes – Singapore and New Zealand, where his father was born. He went there for the first time when he was 15 months old; the holiday photos show him chasing lambs bigger than he was.

Though he’s only two, he meets the world at a run. He suffers his hand to be held only at road crossings: a compromise reached with his parents.

Though he’s only two, he has already met love. In his crib are Hob the Hedgehog, Humdy the Camel, Sheepie and Jolly Bob, a dreadlocked sheep named for Bob Marley. He says goodnight to them before he goes to bed. Sometimes, he kisses them. But he always goes to sleep hugging Sheepie, whose white hair has turned grey from a boy’s fierce love.

Though only two, he already knows loss. One afternoon, his mother took him to Keppel Marina, where she was meeting friends. They let their children play on the grass. As usual, Jordy was the one running furthest ahead.

He wasn’t alone; he had a favourite toy – a small purple ball – with him. But as he ran, the ball somehow slipped out of his hand. It rolled over the lawn, through the railings and into the sea.

His grief hit Shakespearean heights. ‘Purple ball…purple ball… Ocean! No more! Mummy, no more! Ocean! Purple baaaaall!’

Even now, he sometimes cries, ‘Purple ball!’, and wanders around, looking lost. He has eight other balls including three rugby ones – small, medium and large – but he cannot forget the purple.

He also has wheels, though he is only two. His fleet includes trains, planes, ambulances, tricycles, helicopters and many different cars of many different sizes. But he has just one motorcycle. His mother keeps it in reserve, giving it to him when she needs him to sit still for a while. For him, this means anything more than eight minutes. She calls the motorcycle – no longer than an adult’s finger – ‘the secret weapon’.

Though only two, he already has a library. Most of his favourite books have to do with vehicles. He can tell the difference between a backhoe loader, a wheel loader and a dump truck. And this he does though he’s only two.

Though only two, he already has a sense of humour. Sometimes, when his mother is dressing him, he will lift his hand to the sleeve opening, slip it in – and whip it away at the last minute, laughing.

Though only two, he already speaks more than one language. At a cafĂ©, two waitresses from China were charmed into coming over to play with him. His mother tried to get him to say thank you. He looked up at one of them and said: ‘Da xiang.’

The waitress took it well but though he’s only two, he needs to learn that a guy who calls a girl an elephant should not expect to get away with it.

Though only two, he already knows the meaning of the word community. Not one for crowds, he has trouble being in a small space with strangers. He was in the lift with his mother one day when a neighbour entered. He arched back so violently he almost threw himself out of his mother’s arms.

Now, whenever they are in the lift and it is about to stop for more people, they will have a certain conversation.

‘What do we have to do?’ his mother will ask.

‘Share the lift.’

‘And why do we have to share the lift?’

If he does not respond, she will prompt him with, ‘Because we live in a – ?’

‘Community.’

His voice will be quavering but he has learned, though only two, that community means having to share.

Though only two, he is already preparing for bigger things. This is how he practises going to work: he takes a red bag from his bedroom – the bag holds a toy lizard – and leaves, saying, ‘Bye bye, see you later’. He stays outside the bedroom for five seconds, then pushes the door open, steps inside and beams.

Though only two, he appreciates the wider world. His parents took him to Bali a few months ago. He enjoyed the new people, the new food and the unfamiliar furniture. When he got into taxis, he would say, ‘Amazing Bali!’

Though only two, he already knows lyricism. His poetry is urgent, a hand open to the moment.

We were at the playground near his block of flats when a plane rumbled overhead. He checked to see if I was listening. ‘Aeroplane hiding in the clouds,’ he said. Then, ‘See purple flower’.

And if someone who’s only two has all this, can do all this, how much more you must have, how much more you must be able to do.





Exploring a Bali hotel room with a train.

3 comments:

TuaSung said...

Thank you for the lovely 'poem'. Yes, we adults should also learn to share and to teach our younger generation how to live in a community.

Anonymous said...

Today, I read two pieces on Jordy. One when I first awake, one before falling asleep. Though we've never met, we connected. Though we've never met, it moved me to hug my baby alittle tighter tonight.

Both stories left my heart warm and fuZzy. The magic of great poetic writing, the magic of an observing pair of eyes, the magic of innocence!

Thank you Janice for enriching a stranger in a strange land.

Shaun

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