Four days later, Ev starts to talk. His sounds have been buffering at meaning for weeks, but now they emerge as his own handiwork and he sets them gently one beside another in lines. […]
Children are born into language. They understand the nuances of speech at birth and Ev has been listening to our ceaseless chatter for months in the womb. He has been read to and sung to and laughed at. He knows the pattern of our voices and by its cadence he knows too that something is happening. My face signals it, and the sudden sparks of urgent conversation, the gaps that follow.
Ev’s vocabulary as he presents it to us is superlatively normal. He has no words for fear. He says Daddy to mean either of us, kee for monkey and Oh no! at all upsets. Ssss serves for snake, the letter S, and any linear thing like a belt or bit of his railway track. He says click for light and sta for monster, gakator for tractor and soon has a small handy clip of words like digger, apple, spoon, butter, cardi, eye, toast, brush. Seem means machine. He can do two, three and four. And in a way that is entirely normal too, we poke him and spur him on. This is what you do with children, goad them for your own enjoyment. Make a noise like a volcano, we say. Make a noise like a firework. Make a noise like a dinosaur. His eyes are merry. A small, sweet, plosive sound comes from his lips, after each entreaty the same noise, a breath out and a consonant mixed with spit. […]
He is the size of a cat; a thing of gold fur and whitened sunshine. His hands paw and pat the textures of the food as he draws each substance one by one into his mouth: sour, sweet, char, salt, pulp, oil and leaf. […]
He goes at food with intellectual interest and straight joy in taste. It is bonny. If I had known how much pleasure I would get from watching my baby eat I would have thought it an argument for more babies. It is such a treat I can’t take my eyes off him and I mask my keenness in case it makes him suspicious that there is something more at stake. So I eat with him, or look out the window or pretend to read the paper. He spoons up lentils, snuffles through tomato sauce with basil and surges his pasta round in it, he dips bread in spinach soup till soup and bread are one and sucks it. He holds broccoli like a cudgel and stuffs one, then two, three, four trees into his mouth. He eats liver! He eats bananas and garlic and stir-fry! We goggle at him. We win and he wins. We all triumph together.
~ Marion Coutts, The Iceberg: A Memoir
Baby Drawing: Ben Connell