Thursday, August 18, 2005

Small Talk.

This entry is dedicated to my friends to whom I owe phone calls. Also, my friends who have invited me to dinner, and I have yet to set up a time. Mostly, though, this is dedicated to M-, who told me recently how much she liked reading these, as it was kind of like seeing me, which I think is a really polite way of saying “The Witness Protection Program couldn’t do any better a job of hiding you, Quinn”.

To all of these people I say, I am not angry at you. I am not lying on the couch with a sizeable glass of wine and the remote. I am just used up, conversationally.

This last weekend, my family bundled up nearly all of our earthly possessions into the back of the car, picked up my mother, and headed off for a three-day weekend at the beach. Mid day- 2, my mother and I were sitting by the pool at the hotel, reapplying sunblock and watching Daughter hop in and out of the water, nimble as a seal. A seal, that is, who had been talking to us non-stop since she woke up six hours before.

“….And then the princess would come into our house and-wait, Mommy, watch this. Did you see it; did you see me jump in? Now, Nana, watch me, I’m going to talk underwater…I was just talking underwater, but I wasn’t me, I was a cat. I was a Maine Coon cat. Did you know that Maine Coon cats can swim? Also, Turkish Vans. I’m going to buy a Turkish Van, and I’m going to name it Vanna. Are you two listening...?”

We both nodded. Our vocal chords might have atrophied, but our nodding muscles were getting a nice workout. Daughter started listing the breeds of cats she liked, in order of cuddliness. My mother leaned over to me. She started to talk, and a small squeak came out. She took a sip of water and began again.

“So, this goes on all the time?”

I whispered, “Pretty much.”

My mother and daughter spend every Sunday together, so it’s not as if she didn’t know how adept Daughter is at talking without breathing. But, I think my mother always assumed that Daughter’s verbosity had something to do with the excitement of seeing her Nana, and was a temporary situation. Until you see it in action, it’s hard to imagine someone could talk that long without their tongue staging some sort of strike.

Now, I can hear those people reading this who know Consort and me saying something sympathetic like “Quinn, you will be finishing a thought two weeks after you’re dead and Consort likes talking so much, he talks in his sleep. What made you think you were going to get a mime for a child?” Frankly, air space: we speculated that any child of ours would be reduced to using semaphore flags at the dinner table just to convey “Please pass the salt.” How could any small child possibly carve out a conversational corner between two people who were used to staging a domestic filibuster?

Not only did she carve out a corner, she took over the whole conversational house. I have gone from someone who could have a phone conversation with a friend until my ear went numb to someone who, every time the phone rings, says a quick silent “Oh, please be a wrong number.” When Daughter finally falls asleep, after reciting the names and identifying characteristics of each mammal she is going to own when she’s grown, singing me the Veggie Tales theme song, and verbally walking me through the castle she will own when she is made Princess of the World, I have to apply aloe vera lotion to my eardrums.

Asking her for some peace and quiet is not a solution, as Daughter just stomps out of the room, and then comes back in a few minutes later to discuss why asking her to be quiet was both unfair and possibly criminal. I have come to suspect Daughter believes she is billing by the hour.

Of course, the real challenge is not her, but me. I cannot tune her out. Certainly, I don’t want to miss important parts of her development, funny things she says, or statements like “Mommy, the kitchen is on fire”. But other people seem to be able to talk to other adults as their child stands right below them talking about nothing.

Consort, for example.

CONSORT: …the bottom line was that-
DAUGHTER: Daddy, I have to tell you-
CONSORT: …we’re going to have to redo the revenue projections-
DAUGHTER: …something. Today, Eamon didn’t get to sit-
CONSORT: …but it’s still good news. This means, though-
DAUGHTER: …at the good manners table and you know why? Because-
CONSORT: …that I’m going to be under the ice for a few days-
DAUGHTER: …he had pasta for lunch and he started putting it in his nose…
CONSORT: …writing this and getting it done before the next meeting up north-
DAUGHTER: …We all cracked up, and then he had to leave the good manners table and think about things for a while.
CONSORT: …so you’re going to be okay without any help from me?

I come away from this grumpy and confused as to why a five year-old who still plays with food is pitching in to rewrite a business model.

We’re working on conversational manners (frankly, around here, we’re all working on our conversational manners) and, as friends with older children keep reminding me, there will come a time when I’ll be lucky to get a grunt a day, usually while poking me in the region of my credit cards. And, really, what this conversational hurricane is predicated on is a person who is endlessly fascinated by what is going on in the world, someone who is inspired to show the people she loves what she’s thinking about. The informational avalanche will subside (uh, won’t it?), but I certainly hope the passion for participation in the world never does.

Now, I am going to hide in the garage and read brochures about solo bike treks through Vermont and Buddhist meditative retreats. No talking allowed.


Blogger Jan said...

Oh, Quinn! Can I go? I won't utter a word!!!!

My husband, occassionally witnessing my eyes glazing over, will suggest I go out with some friends. At that, I usually leave the house and sneak over to the lake where I sit on a rock all by myself. THAT is the perfect break for me!

6:48 PM  

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