The scene is Googie's kitchen nearly three years ago. Pa-pa is just finishing a little plastic cup of yogurt, when the following exchange takes place:
Sooby: (eyeing the yogurt) Peez?
Pa-pa: (regretfully showing her the empty cup) All gone.
Sooby: All gone?
Pa-pa: Yep. All gone.
Not a lot of content here, granted, but the dialogue is nevertheless significant: it was Sooby's first actual conversation, and she was just a couple weeks away from her first birthday.
One of my favorite things about the grandparenting experience has been watching the kids learn to talk. Even when I took linguistics in college, I was always fascinated by studies of how children acquire the vocabulary, semantics, and syntax of language despite its idiomatic expressions and contextual complexities. As you may be starting to suspect, I have sometimes been guilty of overanalyzing my grandkids' language patterns.
Sooby says, "Give me a cookie." I say, "Did you hear that? She used imperative mood with both a direct and indirect object!" She says, "Give me a cookie now," and I marvel at the judicious placement of a well-chosen adverb for emphasis. I also give her a cookie.
Pooh says something as simple as "That was funny!" and I make a mental check mark in the columns under demonstrative pronoun, past tense, linking verb, and predicate adjective. Having just turned two, Pooh has been busy sorting out his personal pronouns. But last weekend, I heard him correctly use the second-person you. I gave him a cookie too.
I love best the cute things kids say that catch you offguard and overwhelm you with their simple, heartfelt sincerity. A couple days ago, Pooh looks up at me with those big blue eyes. "Googie," he says, "you are my boy." Noun of direct address, second-person pronoun, linking--oh heck, never mind all that.
I am Pooh's boy. For now, let me just grab a kleenex. I will try to straighten him out on the subject of gender some other time.