For most of the time I've known Jarrah, she has made use of a single sobriquet to designate all those in her inner circle, as well as the general population:
This meant that while I was Mama, her Daddy was also Mama. Paul and Mary were both Mama, as well as all other friendly adults. Further, total strangers in the mall or at the zoo, of both sexes, could become Mama at a moment's notice if they happened to be holding snacks. All people whose attention was not currently fixed on Our Lady of Myriad Desires were Mama. When someone was annoying her, any less annoying personage in her immediate vicinity was Mama. No doubt about it: Mama not only ruled the world, she was all-seeing and all-knowing.
While this irked me occasionally, I had long since stopped thinking about it except as an endearing eccentricity of my fascinating little girl. It amused me that her little friends would call her Jarrah while she stared them down, suspicious: How does this person know my name?
So you can imagine my surprise when the whole world turned upside-down last week, and in the process Mama fell right off. Well, I mean, I'm over here--see me waving?--but the vast Army of Mamas has beat a final retreat.
I picked Jarrah up from school as usual on Tuesday afternoon and once buckled into the car, we began our ritual of taking leave from the salient features of the morning: "Buh-bye pizza!" "Buh-bye paint!" "Buh-bye slide!" It was all very familiar until:
"Buh-bye Joshua!" Plain as day, her first totally intelligible three-syllable word, and a name!
"Yeh. Buh-bye Joshua!"
(A moment while I collected myself from my "Oy, she's growing up" swoon.)
"Is Joshua in your class?"
"Yeh. Class. Buh-bye Joshua!"
On Thursday, I was in Jarrah's classroom gathering up the uneaten lunch, soiled clothing and glitter-covered toilet-paper rolls when I had a thought:
"Barbara?" (That's Jarrah's teacher.) "Is there a Joshua in this class?"
"He's right there." Barbara pointed to a very tall, very blond boy who was currently sobbing into his mother's shoulder. Humph. Not what I expected for Jarrah's first beau. Right then out of the corner of my eye I saw a pixie-haired girl give Jarrah a more-than-casual shove.
"UH!" said Jarrah. "CHEE-yuh PUSH!"
"I am sick of telling you!" the little girl shouted. "My name is not CHEE-yuh! It's Julia!"
I bent down to rub Jarrah's back, thrilled but trying to hide it. "Sorry, Julia. I think she's saying Julia but it's a little hard for her to pronounce."
"CHEE-yuh!" Jarrah whined. "Push."
"Stop it, stop it, stop it!" said Julia. "My name is not Chee-yuh!"
Well, there wasn't much to be done about the pushing thing. Chee-yuh's mom was facing the other way, and Chee-yuh herself was too riled up about her name to pursue the subject. But for once I really didn't care because...JARRAH HAS FIGURED OUT THAT PEOPLE HAVE NAMES! READERS, THIS IS SO EXCITING!
I'm sure if I thought about it long and hard I could come up with something poetic about the act of naming, and how it distinguishes the beautiful things of this world from one another, and individuals begin to blossom like springtime hyacinths, and and and and and. But mostly I was just proud of Jarrah, who since Thursday has been calling everybody she's ever met and continues to meet by name, and even pronouncing most of them correctly, like she's been doing it since the day she was born, easy peasy.
Now if only she'd stop calling me Sam.