Oh, Baby Nora

Our friends say that Nora is smart. Even intelligent. And I think that they may be right? In comparison to what is deemed standard, she started speaking and building a vocabulary early on, her first word being the proverbial “pa-pa.” She moved onto two-word phrases rather quickly. She is now speaking in complete short sentences, albeit not many. Today, while playing outside and waiting for her grandmother to join us, she screamed up at the house, “Come on. Are you okay?” She sings nursery rhymes, in both English and our native language. Sometimes, she mixes things up by changing the lyrics, intentionally, I’m pretty certain. She reads a person well, too. Or, rather, she understands a person well, sensing the heart, and not wanting to hurt it.

Danith bought a new car recently, and she’s taken a great liking to it, being easily satisfied with just sitting in the backseat of it while it stays parked in the garage and music from its sound system filling the air around her. During lunch a couple of days ago, I asked her, “Do you like your pa-pa’s car better, or do you like your momma’s car better?” Surprisingly she did not answer immediately. Soon, though, she said, “Pa-pa’s.” Then her eyes flinched, and another second passed before she continued, “And momma’s.” Her grandmother repeated my question, and she answered, “Pa-pa’s and momma’s.” I told her that it was okay that she preferred her father’s car over mine, that I was not upset, but she was sure of her answer. “Baby likes Pa-pa car and momma car.”

Nora refers to herself as Baby…still. As both subject pronoun and object pronoun. I can’t seem to break her from this grammatical blunder. Two weeks ago she fought bedtime, and because her sleeping well is important to me (maybe too important), I stood my ground and refused to pick her up. I watched her in the baby monitor crying for me. She fiercely declared what she wanted, “Take Baby to go Momma bed!” She also declared the unpleasant state she was in, “Momma, Baby Nora crying.” I don’t know how to teach her to use “I” and “me” in her sentences. I’ve even tried taking her finger and pressing it into her chest while singing, “I…I…I” and “me…me…me.” But to no avail. In the interest of full disclosure, though, I don’t fight this. I actually free her finger rather quickly, and pull her into my chest and speak into her ear, “Oh, Baby Nora.”

Our Nora turned two years old this week. I can’t say that the days flew by, but I can say that the years have. At this time last year, she cried to communicate and was toddling. Now she cries and speaks and is running. Her transformation from day-to-day and week-to-week is flawless and seamless – the magic behind it stunning. How could the mechanics happen so effortlessly? Danith and I are baffled by each new word she speaks and each new nuance she displays. In honesty, her entirety baffles us. She gently pats her friends and offers them her snacks. She happily shares her toys. She leans down and presses her nose to wildflowers. She chases birds. She sings to her grandmother, “I love you more than I can say.” She slow-dances with her father. She grabs my arm with one hand and strokes it with the other, whispering my name, “Mommy.” Where did she learn to express love? How does she know to love? How could a mere child of two years possess the heart that is within her? How could a mere person luminate my world so brightly? I told Danith that eventually she will lose her purity. Some newfound knowledge she gains will have no patience for her innocence. It is inevitable. One day, when we are least expecting it, she will begin to call herself “I.”

Last holiday season, I taught Nora “Oh, Christmas Tree.” I know only the first four lines of the song. A few nights later, when Nora woke up in the middle of the night, I picked her up and rocked her, and sang the song to her, incorporating my own lyrics:

Oh, Baby Nora
Oh, Baby Nora
I love you
Oh, Baby Nora
Oh, Baby Nora
I love you
You are so sweet, and you are so kind
You are so smart, and you are so strong
Oh, Baby Nora
Oh, Baby Nora
You are so beautiful

Sometimes, when I least expect it — like when she is at her play kitchen washing her hands or when she is crouched into a corner with an upside-down book — I hear her sing to herself, “Oh, Baby Nora, you are so kind…”

That is right, my love. You are so smart.