Help! My Three Year-Old Has ESP

                    image via

That is what I’ve thought, several times in the past few months, when Mbot says something that I thought I’d only thought. “Maybe I was talking on the phone when he was in the back seat,” I’d explain to myself, knowing I hadn’t had my phone with me. “Maybe I talk to myself,” I concluded, after the fourth or fifth time Mbot mentioned something that I’d seen or heard or thought.

The first time he did it was about a year ago, when one day I was working on a rewrite of the novel, and he announced that his stuffed animals had shot a potato gun and an avalanche had come down.

But how do you know that’s how the novel starts? I wanted to ask my then 2 1/2 year-old. I had not read it aloud. I had not even talked about it to anyone over the phone. It was old news to Husbot. So where did he get the idea?

Not that I don’t believe in ESP. But I also believe in more mundane explanations.

Tonight, I got a flash of understanding about Mbot’s superpowers.

We were driving home from Grandma’s after a very long day of zoo-going, playing with the new rubber snake, William (a nice snake), and the new wolf grabber toy, Edgar Hochenwaller (their uncle bought them, do not ask me where the names came from), and running after Charlotte, another uncle’s Boston terrier. I had acquiesced to requests to watch Max and Ruby which is on, unfortunately, at 7:30. 7:30 is traditionally bedtime. I knew better.

Past 7:30, Mbot gets upset at anything remotely upsetting, and many things not even remotely upsetting. Tonight, he was upset because Husbot put him in Gbot’s car seat. After the switch, he was upset because Gbot had a stuffie and he only had a plastic cat (William was long forgotten in Grandma’s backyard, and wouldn’t have done anyway, because William isn’t fluffy).There was lots of wailing regarding the plastic cat’s lack of fluffiness. So I did what usually helps me feel better when I’m feeling tired and whiny: I turned up the music. I was all classicalled out for the day, so I had on the beat music.

“Is this Lady Gaga?” Mbot asked, his quavering voice calmer than I’d heard it in twenty minutes.

“It is,” I replied.

“I love this song,” he said. “What’s a pokah face?”

I explained. I attempted to demonstrate to the backseat without endangering our lives. We were going forty-five between stop lights. We were going the long way home. Gbot was already asleep. It was my fervent hope that Mbot would be, too, by the time we pulled up to his bed.

“But I still don’t know what Lady Gaga looks like,” said Mbot.

“We’ll look at a picture on the internet tomorrow,” I promised. “She wears lots of crazy costumes, like superhero costumes.”

There was a thoughtful pause from the back seat.

“Does she wear a net over her face? I think she wears a net over her face.”

Step back. Now how in the name of all the Grammy winners in history did he know that?

Because that’s just what I was thinking at that very moment. That was the picture in my head: Lady Gaga with a black net over her face. Why? The split-second image flashed on screen last Sunday during the Grammy’s after Adele’s win. The announcer had pointed her out to us.

We’d been over at Grandma’s that night, too, for our traditional Sunday night dinner. The owners of the Charlotte the Boston terrier had turned on the Grammy’s. Everyone, including Charlotte, had plopped down in front of the TV. But the Bots were playing–they were horsing around with their uncles, they were patting Charlotte, they were struggling while their pajamas were applied, they were asking for juice and more crackers, neither of which they were given. We went home forty minutes into it.

But Mbot must have seen that image, and heard the name, and put the two together. And then remembered them.

So this is the key to my three year-old’s ESP: Although he appears deaf when I am asking him to put on his socks, he’s taking in gigabytes more than I have given him credit for.

it is a good lesson for me and for all of us: Paying attention actually makes a person appear to have superpowers.

Are you paying close enough attention?

Sky on the Ground

We do not often have reflections on the ground, here in Phoenix. Not like where I grew up, in Southeast Alaska, where the ocean and the low clouds were Siamese twins, connected at the horizon, reflecting one another. There, because they were a feature of daily life, we avoided puddles. Here, because they are an exception to the arid desert rule, we put on our boots and celebrate them.

My body still has not acclimatized to the desert. The year Mbot was born, there was little rain. It was too hot to venture outside with an infant until November. A year almost to the day after Mbot was born, the monsoons came. In an essay titled “Coyote Carrying Rabbit,” I wrote, “One night in early July, the temperature dropped thirty degrees in two hours, from 112 to 82. Just before dawn, a clatter of raindrops awoke me to an eerie yellow light. The rain had not come for months and months and months. I rolled the stroller through a bright lake of sky, reaching to pull on wet leaves along the way, unleashing miniature rainstorms, and making up poems: ‘Pretty trees/Dripping leaves/Pine needles tipped with silver beads/Smooth bright puddles on the ground/Like pieces of sky have fallen down.’

“As we walked, I felt as if a forgotten part of myself was stirring to life. The process of becoming ossified in the suburban heat, which attacks from the flat close surfaces of apartment buildings; supermarket facades so similar one to another that you cease to see them; the forgettable faces of strip malls; the endless black macadam—occurs so slowly that you don’t even know it has happened until you are broken open by the monsoon.

“It makes me think of the idea of ghosts, and the idea that they haunt the streets lamenting the loss of their earthly selves. For if, in geographic transport—in moving to the suburbs—I can so completely lose a part of myself, so that I cannot even remember exactly what is missing, how can ghosts, who have certainly undergone a more dramatic transformation, remember that they had ever been living at all? Even for those who do not believe in ghosts, per se, the western word has been traced back as far as five thousand years, to the word gheis, which is linked to the idea “to wound, tear, pull to pieces.” Maybe the ghost myth gives voice to the different parts of ourselves that can only be conjured into being by our environment.

“The monsoon reminds me that in this place, I have lost some of what I am—or at least lost access to it—and even the memory that that missing part ever existed. But the monsoon also reminds me that my phantom self slumbers under my dry, hot skin, waiting out the drought.”

Where are you? Are there parts of you  that aren’t there?