Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Child's Growing Vocabulary

Ben was very young. He was still at the Elementary school, and Tighe, eight years older, had a basketball game in Oxnard at an outdoor court. It was a pre-season game, if I remember correctly, and the team was going by bus. I picked Ben up at school, and he and I were rushing to get there before the game started.

I ran into the house and got a baggy I had been filling with colorful holes made from our hole puncher. They would make great confetti to throw if our team was doing great and the game got exciting. I thought it would be fun for Ben, and not a problem, since it was an outside game. I hurried back to the van, and off we went. He, of course, wanted to know what was in the bag (Confetti), where it came from (the hole punch machine) and what it was used for (throwing if our team does something good or the other team does something bad and we want to celebrate). He was happy with this explanation, and we continued on the road.

As we hit the bottom of the grade into Oxnard, we were assailed by the sudden pungent odor of freshly fertilized fields. Benjamin held his nose, and demanded to know what that stinky smell was. I told him it was "manure." He wanted to know where that came from also, and what it was for. I explained that word, as well. He was pretty shocked. He couldn't imagine that animal by-products or chemicals would be put on plants to make them grow better. I explained that it was for this reason that we were so careful to wash fruits and vegetables before we ate them. He seemed satisfied by my answers.

Now Benjamin at that time had never seen a stranger he didn't like. He'd talk to anyone. I sometimes wondered if I'd go into a restroom some day and find his name on a wall, not in a lewd sense, but just in the "Call Ben for a fun time" sort of thing. That's always scary for a Mom. I kept a close eye out because of that. As we got to the field the only other person sitting in the visitor bleachers was an older gentleman who appeared to be somebody's grandfather. After about five minutes of sitting with his mother, Ben started scooting slowly closer to the older gentleman and speaking with him. Pretty soon he was sitting next to him instead of me.

Then there was a lull in the conversation. I knew Ben would find something to fill it, but I would never have guessed what would come out. "Guess what my Mama has in her purse?" he asked. The older man smiled at me and shook his head in confusion. "I don't know, what?" he asked. "Manure to throw at the other team!" Ben proudly announced.

At that point, with the man looking at me in horror, I whipped out my bag of confetti and told the man that Ben had learned two new vocabulary words on the way to the basketball court that day. "One was manure. Can you guess what the other word was?" He looked at me and said, "I sure hope it was confetti."

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