We sometimes play a game around the lunch table, my girls and I. It goes like this. A child is eating a piece of cheese and takes a bite (or three) and holds up what’s left. (This is where the game part happens.) The question is put to whomever is in the room — “What’s this?” And we have to identify what shape we see in the remaining piece of cheese. This can go on, the back-and-forth, asking and guessing/asking and mis-identifying, sometimes for longer than you’d expect, quite honestly. More often than not it turns out to be something like A Mountain, or A Staircase, because, not surprisingly, it’s tough to make a more detailed replica of much else with cheese and incisors.
Well today it was just me and Kate. Which typically makes for a shorter game. And she was excited by what she had created. After I had guessed at least three things (I think I guessed Stairs, a Tidal Wave, and Wisconsin), she must have given up on mom and decided to go ask Allyson. (She was in the basement.) But she explained it to me, as she was leaving me in the dust, which, when you think about it, was quite thoughtful of her. “This looks like a person singing, going ‘Whooooooooo!’ Here’s the hat and here’s the mouth, going ‘Whooooooooooo!’ See?” I didn’t really, but I didn’t say that flat-out. “Oh … Huh! … Neat!” was all I could come up with just then. And I asked her to tell Allyson that her lunch was ready and that she needed to come upstairs. After agreeing, she went downstairs. Very shortly thereafter Katey came back upstairs. “Did you give her the message?” I asked, pretty sure there hadn’t been time for the transmission of both messages. “Yup!” was the happy response. “Just … what message are you talking about?” — my skepticism, unassuaged. She said,”I told her “This looks like a person going, ‘Whoooooooo!’” (The sub-text here was: What other message could there be? What could compete with cheese shaped like a person going ‘whoooooo’?)
And this is why Allyson’s lunch was just a little colder than it would otherwise have been on this early spring day. This is also why I ask questions such as, “Did you actually know that there were words coming out of my mouth? And they were English, your mother-tongue!” It makes communicating that much more … communicative. Effective, even.