Relay: All the Way Up To the Mountain

Whatever harmony I had shattered, it was important that I be the one to restore it

   “Not that way!” Jasper said, after I cut his scrambled eggs into fork-size pieces. His small feet began to stamp a protest beat on his chair. A rant of frustration simmered just below the surface. “You moved it!”
    “Which way?” I asked, unclear of the infraction.
    “Turn it around,” he demanded, a whimper now set to the rhythm of his feet.
    I stirred the eggs in the bowl. Not it. I rotated the bowl clockwise. No. Then counterclockwise. No.
    “If you know what you want, you do it,” I suggested. But he’s 21/2. Whatever harmony I had shattered, it was important that I be the one to restore it.
    He persisted.
    “Jasper, I don’t know what you’re asking me to do,” I said.
    “Not that way. Like a ladybug,” he explained.
    Like a ladybug?! Really? Thanks for clearing that up.
    Apparently a ladybug, if it were scrambled eggs, would form a semicircle snuggled up to one side of the bottom of the bowl.
    Sometimes translation is a guessing game. I can’t say if anything else will need to be like a ladybug, but if it does, I’ll have a better than 50-percent chance of guessing what that means.
    When we fill a cup or bottle for Jasper, he likes it to be “all the way up to the mountain,” meaning very full. And if it’s juice he’s drinking, he prefers that we “make it warm in the dishwasher,” meaning not straight from the cold fridge but mixed with room-temperature water from the sink.
    Since the onset of cold and flu season and all the talk of sickness, germs, and not sharing food and drinks that have been in other people’s mouths, he is emphatic that we not repeat what he says: “Don’t say that. That have my germs on it.” The more I work to understand this sort of reasoning, the more sense it makes. It’s true, that phrase had been in his mouth, and I guess if I put it in my mouth, maybe I could get his germs.
    I should turn his own logic back on him when I hear him repeat some of the expletives his dad and I have let slip in our moments of frustration. They definitely have our “germs” on them.
    Sometimes when he’s talking a little too quietly to hear, I ask him what he’s said. “I’m talking to myself,” he answers.
    While his 41/2-year-old sister begins every day singing or talking to herself in her room before she calls for me, then engages in conversation as quickly and constantly as possible once we’re in a room together, Jasper is often more reflective in the moments before bed and after waking up. He’ll be still and quiet for a long time so I think he’s sleeping. Then, he’ll turn to me and ask some big question that’s been burning in his mind through his long silence: “Mommy? What cows eat?”
    It’s a much easier question to answer than some of Jade’s early-morning inquiries. “Why when I was a baby I ­wasn’t in a people egg?” she wanted to know a few months ago.
    “Because babies grow inside their mommies’ tummies,” I explained.
    “But how did I get there?”
    Umm . . . like a ladybug?


   Carissa Katz is The Star’s managing editor.