While we were vacationing, Noel and I frequently spoke to each other in the voices of our children -- what we imagined they would say if they were there.
But upon our return, I've realized just how impoverished are the versions of the kids that we carry around in our heads. There's simply no way for us to come up with the ideas and utterances they generate seemingly on a whim.
With Archer it's easier -- he has his stock phrases and his predictable reactions. His autism means that he needs the stimuli around him to be familiar and categorizable, and he's developed regular ways of responding to them, ways that work and give him pleasure and comfort. When planning our days or suggesting a spontaneous deviation, we often said Archer's "Oh-kay," his drawled answer to any change of plan, the time it takes to get it out seemingly encompassing the time it takes for him to reconfigure his expectations.
But Cady Gray is bursting with imagination, going through ten private games in the space of a walk around the neighborhood. Most three-year-olds are like that, no doubt, but it's the first time we've encountered it. Our efforts to impersonate her on our trip were so two-dimensional, compared to the bursts of creativity she exhibits during every waking moment.
Tonight it was a rock. She picked it up and announced the intention of throwing it in the next puddle we encountered. Then she started practicing her throws. Then she decided to kick it. Next thing we knew, she'd announced it was a "soccer rock" and we all needed to take turns kicking it down the street. If we're not paying close attention, we might suddenly realize that she stopped halfway down the block and is intently stirring the pollen-coated pool of runoff in a rain gutter with a stick, singing a little song to herself.
It amazes and saddens me that I'll never be able to capture her in a stereotypical phrase or mannerism, the way Archer's more simplified mode of interaction is capturable. As she grows, she's leaving behind every day a million momentary flashes of creativity, sparked and abandoned in an instant. The only consolation is that there will always be more to come.