Because my daughter is seventeen and fiercely independent (verbally & socially, that is), I like to remind myself of those beautiful moments when she was still innocent and blooming:
When Arielle was three, I couldn’t find my keys, so she asked if I had looked lately in the hall closet. I suspiciously opened its door, looked inside, and saw no keys. She pranced a moment, stretched her shirt hem and asked, “Did you look under the towels?” I gave her my steady-eye-look, folded one towel back from the stack, then another, then another and found the thick ring of keys.
“Wait! Don’t touch them. They’re sleeping,” she said, pressing a finger to her lips, making me whisper. So I stood there, whispering that I thought they had slept long enough, and she agreed only because the timer dinged that dinner was ready.
When she was about four, it was raining one day, and we were driving across town in my blue Toyota Supra when she peeked up and out her window. “Mom look," she said, pointing to a bush near the corner where I was turning, "the branch is bent, but not broken.”
“Whew," I said, "those B’s are boinking and bapping your lips!” She smiled, thoughtfully, then I watched her repeat her line again and again, listening for the b's, feeling the boink and the bap--the wonder of words being born while we glided along wet city streets and under green lights, windshield wipers knocking the chrome sides.
When she was thirteen, we were driving along in my blue Chevrolet Beretta when we came to a red light. Arielle turned to me and announced, “I like the word moist."
I looked over at her. She was shaking her head matter-of-factly. I looked away and smiled, partly because I didn't want her to see me admire her poetic instincts and partly because I wanted to see what else she had to say. I had to push my tongue around my cheek to master my smile, then, I asked, “That’s interesting. Why do you think so?”
She shrugged, then said, "I like how it makes my mouth feel." She added, "I feel the same way about the word limoleum."
I corrected her and said, "You mean linoleum."
She stared at me. “That’s not the same,” she decided.
We sat there under the red light, the mom in graduate school getting a masters in poetry and the daughter who was thinking about how her mouth feels when words roll across her tongue.