My Nephew's Profound "Yeah" (formerly known as "dickle")
We had a great visit with my girlfriend Delia's family (that link is NOT work safe, FYI). My sister and brother-in-law loaned us Mr. Squishypants (their two year-old son/our nephew) which makes socializing so much easier; he's beautiful, charming and a joy to be around. We had dinner together then went to a big park in Seattle and played until it got dark and we could see the full moon between the trees.
At that point Delia's uncle, a slightly grizzled, mildly-boozy-from-dinner Iowa farmer, shook Mr. Squish's hand and solemnly looked him in they eye, saying he's a wonderful boy and hoped he'd see him again soon. Mr. Squishypants returned a firm chubby-fingered grip and nodded his own head in slow, somber agreement, his big blue eyes level as he said, "yeah". He says "yeah" a lot these days. He used to say "dick" or "dickle" when he meant "yes", but recently he replaced "dickle" with the standard "yeah". Anyway, it was moving seeing an expression on his little face that conveyed something like, "we served in the war together, buddy, and saw things we'll never speak of when we get home to our families, but I will never forget you. I'm glad I saved your life once, and you mine." It was like unexpectedly witnessing a secret handshake between two people you never would have guessed had met somewhere before or had a common bond.
It just fucking amazes me how kids learn to communicate, not just with words, but by mimicking our nonverbal language. Sometimes by removing the knowledge of the meaning behind the language a kind of universal human truth is spoken. Mr. Squishypants and Delia's uncle shared a solemn moment full of mutual respect and human connection that transcended what was spoken and understood. They made a connection and I witnessed it (because I was holding him in my arms at the time so they were face to face), the way his angelic little face dipped as he bowed his head slightly to say, "yeah" and he blinked his eyes for only a moment, the rest of the time maintaining eye contact -- it was so full of intuitive wisdom. On one hand it makes you think about how little substance there is to our interactions, that it's all a meaningless charade we teach each other and find compelling when someone does a good job of acting it out. On the other hand it makes you wonder how much meaning is created in a big and powerful way by the emotional response we have to witnessing and performing these interactions. Like when we smile out of obligation even when we don't mean it and somehow we feel better inside for doing it. Yes, we're machines whose behavior can be shaped, but why dwell on our mundane construction when our experiences FEEL so profound? I can intellectualize it and scoff at it as simpleminded copycatting barely more advanced than tricks you can teach a dog, but watching my nephew shake hands or raise a glass to his fellows and say, "cheers!" or high five people or DANCE is like cuddling with divinity, whether such a thing exists or not.
And have you ever noticed how much two year old bodies resemble monkeys? The way their legs and toes move. The way they bend at the waist. How can you avoid trusting, even if just for a moment, in both evolution and God when you see that? A little monkey with my grandma's face, my sister's face, his dad's face, even my face. Layers of the gift of immortality, or at least its illusion.