The River

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Happy Birthday Eleanor

One of Leigh’s friends from her belly dancing class came over to dinner recently. She brought a friend, Mike. A nice man, he liked the music I played, Bill Frisell’s Good Dog, Happy Man. He called it authentic music.

So naturally, I liked him immediately. He’s in his 50s, works for a mortgage company. He said he could do much of his work behind a desk, but he prefers to get out and meet his clients face to face. He said he’d rather get to know them as a person, find out what they’re like, what makes 'em tick. Later he noted that one thing he really enjoyed about meeting so many people on the job was linking up people with complimentary needs and interests. He got a musician friend a job with a well-established band that way.

I have two daughters, Eleanor and Audrey. Today is Eleanor’s fourth birthday. Mike was taken with Eleanor, as most people are. Audrey is full of charm too, happy and outgoing and a natural born comedienne, but since Eleanor is older her appeal and talents are more apparent.

Mike said several times, “she’s so sweet.” But hey, aren’t all kids, when they’re behaving? I have to say, Eleanor is different. Mike, with his love of people, sensed it. It’s the combination of intellect and heart. After we’d put the kids to bed, Mike said, “she’s quiet, but you can tell she’s taking everything in. She’s always crunching.”

We read her stories everyday, she gets to watch one hour of PBS cartoons everyday; she listens to Winnie the Pooh on tape while falling asleep. I don’t want her to be so media saturated, but I don’t want her to think there’s anything wrong with enjoying these things, so I explained one night before bedtime why I thought she should try going to sleep with silence: “You hear lots of stories, in books, on TV on these tapes. That’s a lot of stories that others have written. I want you to have your own stories.” Of course it was like, ok Daddy, can you put on the Pooh tape now?

A few days later, Eleanor had “written” her first story. She wrote it with washable markers in squiggly lines across a page. She recited it to Leigh in the car twice, exactly the same. When they got home, Leigh asked her for her story again, and she told it once more exactly the same, and Leigh transcribed it, although she left out part of it this last time. It was about 150 words, and concerned an evening when her Granny and one of her uncles were over for dinner.

Today’s a big day in another way too, the first day of preschool for her and Audrey. Her teachers have often remarked on Eleanor’s smarts. At orientation, we told the Twos teachers, who have Audrey now and had Eleanor previously, that if they need to know anything about Audrey just ask Eleanor. “If we need to know anything, we’ll just ask Eleanor,” they joked.

Leigh jokes with the teachers that we no doubt have no secrets from them, but that it goes both ways. Last year, when Leigh would walk Eleanor out to the car after school, Eleanor would often remark to a Mommy heading inside for her child, “Buck (etc.) had a good day today.”

I could go on and on, like the guy at the office who has no life so he’s always whipping out pictures of his kids. But it’s her birthday, so I feel justified. She cracked us up at the dinner table the other night. She was speaking some kid gibberish, what we sometimes call Ellanese. It was unintelligible "words" followed by a clear “school.” She said it several times and it seemed to be directed at me, so I said “I don’t understand what you’re saying, You seem to be speaking Ellanese.” She said, “ I was, but I believe you understand the word “school.”



“What? What did I say? What’s so funny”

Nothing. It’s just who you are, my precocious four-year-old. One of the smartest, sweetest, most unusual kids you’ll ever meet.

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