Tony Woodlief | Author


You can often discern what Isaac is thinking, even if he doesn’t tell you. When he wants to make trouble, his lips are pulled thin and the tip of his tongue shows through his teeth. When he is irritated, his eyebrows push together and he squints like a little cross-eyed thug. Plus there’s usually some hitting involved. When he’s happy, he grabs hold of the closest person and squeezes tight, making an MMM MMM MMMNNHH sound.

Sometimes what’s on his mind seeps out in subtler ways. Saturday he asked me if I like vegetables. “Yes,” I said, with more exuberance than is perhaps warranted. “Me too,” he said. “What’s a vegetable?”

“Well,” I said, “there’s green beans, and peas, and carrots, and . . .”

“And hot dogs,” he chimed in. “Mmmmm, I like hot dogs. They are yummy for me.”

Later we were all in the minivan, on our way to do an errand. Caleb sat in the back, working a crossword puzzle. “Mom,” he asked, “what was Abraham’s wife’s name?” Notice how he asked his mother. If you think you’re smart, or that you’re in charge, just observe to whom your children direct their questions. It might be illuminating. And humbling.

“Sarah,” the Wife said, after a series of clues proved fruitless.

“Mmmm,” Isaac said, “I like cereal.” Sarah. Cereal. I suppose they have a similar sound.

The conversation turned to Eli’s violin practice. One of his exercises is something his teacher calls a “tucka tucka stop stop,” which is four half notes followed by two quarter notes. “Do da taco taco stop stop Eli,” Isaac directed him.

That evening we had hot dogs and French fries and baked beans for dinner. When he saw the spread, Isaac’s face took on the same look he wore on Christmas Day. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us were so easily satisfied?

On Key

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