Last week I was driving Hanley home from swimming class while it was raining and she said, “Timothy?”
“Yes, ma’am?” When she’s being particularly bossy and treating me like The Help I tend to refer to her as “ma’am” or “Miss Hanley.” This not only fulfills my desire to give a bitchy response, but I like to think it also reinforces her parents’ desire for her to respond to her teachers and other authority figures as Sir, Ma’am, or Mister and Miss Whozamawhatsit.
“What are those black things?”
Black things? Uh, oh. With my mind still stuck on The Help, I began to worry.
“Uh, black things? What are you talking about, Hanley?”
Her frequent use of the word thing is also a new development. Within the last week someone taught her the word “thing” and that it can be used as a substitute for other words, and I’d like to smack that person upside the head, because now I spend at least five to ten minutes during every conversation I have with Hanley trying to figure out her definition of thing at that moment. Usually, it’s a word she knows and uses every day, like door, drawer, or verisimilitude. Just kidding on that last one. She usually says plausibility.
“Those black things.”
“I can’t look where you’re pointing, Hanley, because I’m driving in the rain and I’m not about to get in another car accident with you in the car. You’ll have to describe the black things to me.”
Long pause. Then, “What is describe?”
Nothing makes me happier than when Hanley asks me what a word means and she knows it. “I’m glad you asked. When you go into detail about a particular object, what it looks like, smells like, what color it is, that’s describing it, or providing a description of the object. For example, your dress is pink, frilly, and sleeveless. Or, your brother is smart, funny, and smells like Triscuits. Now, can you describe the black things for me?”
“Oh! Okay. They’re black.”
“Uh, right. I gathered that. Can you be a little more specific. I mean, give me a few more details?”
“The black things there on the car that make noise and move and–there they go!”
“Oh! The wind–” I stopped. Should I say windshield or windscreen? It would be kind of cool to teach her British terms for American things. But then she’d sound like Madonna. No, not good. “Those are windshield wipers.”
“Fish field swipers.”
Now she sounded like Courtney Love. “Very good, Hanley.”