First there was "car." Then "mama." Followed not long after by "moon" and "cat."
But today my 18 month old son looked up at me, apropos of nothing in particular and declared, "happy."
I do not remember him ever hearing this word, specifically, anyway. I didn't teach it to him any more than I did "angst" or "depressed." But he learned it somehow, somewhere, and it seems to delight him to use it.
I'm not sure he knows precisely what it means, either. He likes the sound of it. Or maybe he is happy and knows it and wants to show it, without clapping his hands or stomping his feet or shouting "hooray!" (I never liked that song.)
I think, I'm happy that he is happy, and I hope he stays happy, through the rigors of pre-school, the demands of first grade, his first kiss, graduation (or not), his choice of college (or not), a mate (or not) and a career....and I wonder if he will remember when he first learned that word and how it made him feel to say it, with a smile of benign innocence on his little face, over and over again, just because it seemed to amuse other people.
When he discovered that saying "happy" pleased the people around him, he said it more and more. He laughs when I repeat the word, put a question to it. "Are you happy?" He just looks at me, smiles, and says, "happy."
How many other people will ask him that question, and in what context? His high school guidance counselor? His girlfriend at twenty-one? His ex-wife at forty? His Human Resources director at thirty-seven? His shrink at sixty? His best friend at eighty?
I want to record his voice, not just for the word but for the quality of the sound. Not quite developed, a hatchling of a voice, obscenely cute, the aural equivalent of a baby bunny. I know this is a mother's interpretation but I can't quite believe how this voice brings me to my knees. I would step in front of a freight train for that sound.
I know this voice, this tone, the way he declares things, will not last. His sweet willingness to please will not last (that actually may not last the day, come to think of it). So I want to preserve it, not just for me but for him. To remember the sound of "happy," the feel of it, in its purest version. I have an old Fisher Price recorder, which, despite a lack of slick and updated technology (it's yellow plastic and records on a cassette) works just fine.
We say things together, my happy son and me, and we leave ourselves and this moment in its history on a piece of plastic tape. I'll store it somewhere, knowing that some day, one of us may need it.