“Thanni” she says as she points to her water bottle. “Pencen” she says as she holds her chubby hand for a pencil. “Cheese” she says as she takes a bowl from the cabinet and walks purposefully to her high chair. She notices me taking a picture, angles her head and says “Cheese”.
Her vocabulary is growing. She is eager to help me unload the dishwasher. She throws a fit if I refuse to let her eat by herself. She walks into the pantry and points to the bag of dates when she wants a snack. She clambers onto the sofa and asks for “TV”. She is in the middle of the living room, her arms stuck out, her bottom swaying as she dances along to Mother Goose nursery rhymes. “One, Two, Five” she says as she stacks Okra for her dad to cut.
Each day is like a surprise, revealing things about Laddu I do not know. I watch with amazement as pint sized individual comes into her own; talking, demanding and occupying her space amidst us all. She grabs the bag of crayons from her sister and holds onto it, browbeating both sisters into submission. She points to her sister’s hairbrush indicating she wants a “jutta” just like “Akka”. She runs to the window pressing her nose against the cold glass waiting for the school bus to come into view. She walks to the door, presses the handle down and pulls to open it so she can stand on the stoop and watch her sisters walk home.
She wants her milk in a glass tumbler, with a straw just like her sisters. She sits at her chair, alongside both of them and scribbles on a piece of paper as long as it takes for them to finish their homework. “Tata” I say and she rushes up the stairs, to her room and stands by the crib waiting for me to catch up. I lay out her clothes and she points to the cabinet and says “socks”. I smile as I dress her up and shove diapers into my bag. Just as we leave, she clutches her bottom and says; “Hot pee pee” and gurgles with laughter knowing she made me smile.
We wander the aisles of Target and I hand over a baby doll and ask “Venuma?”. She ponders my question and with unmistakeable clarity says “Vendaam”. I stare at her in wonder and put the doll back. We pay for our purchases and walk back to the car. Knowing the outing is over, she wails and kicks and screams as I wrestle her back into the car seat. I turn the radio on and she falls silent. We drive home, listening to music.
“Paata” she asks, pointing to my phone. I play her favorite song and she wiggles her butt, stretches one hand and turns around entranced. I sit on the floor, mesmerized, watching her move. The song ends and the next begins. “Huggie?” I ask and she runs over, wraps her being around my neck and rushes back.
I set the steel pot on the stove and cover it. She is by my leg “Paasta”, she chants and doesn’t let go until I seat her next to me. She watches the water boil, the sauce simmer and waits with a contentment that is rare. She opens “Good Night Moon”, turns each page drinking in the pictures. Her stubby finger is on the red balloon and she goes “Banoon”. I nod, she turns the page and goes “Moon!”. We learn about kittens and mittens and mush.
In a few months, she will turn two. Two! I gather her to my bosom and we sway together, lost to the world.