Sometimes, Kina will walk up to me and yell “Say what I say!” and I have to pay extremely close attention and stop whatever I’m doing, because what follows is that I need to say exactly what she says at exactly the same time she’s saying it, regardless of what it is she is saying. This is hard, because she is not speaking from a script, and I am not—regrettably—linked directly to her brain (which is often a problem for other reasons, if you ask Kina).
What I have to do instead is read Kina’s lips, which I sort of know how to do, because my mother is hard of hearing, and I’ve had to think a lot over the years about how my mouth looks when I talk. The easy part is that her speech always starts with four slowly enunciated words: “SAY… WHAT… IIIIII… SAAAAY”, which gives me a few seconds to get into the right frame of mind. The next sentence almost always starts with the word “MOMMY”, and then everything from there goes wild—a barrage of phonemes and mouth shapes that I copy like a tourist in a foreign country, with every strange Kina-esque mispronunciation emerging dutifully from my mouth. Eventually, her monologue descends into chaos, pure onomatopoeic1 nonsense spilling from our lips.
All of this is very much like the Mirror Game that you learn in high school acting class, except instead of goofy stoned arm movements, it’s full-on sentences and loud noises. Also, you can’t mess up without making the mirror angry and needing to console it at the foot of your bed. Thank you, Mom, for teaching me to lip-read; it saves me a lot of consoling.
I spent a little extra time on the logo today, in memory of one of my top three authors of children’s books, Eric Carle, who passed away yesterday at the age of 91. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is probably the first book I remember reading as a child, though it was presumably not the actual first book, because I have a distinct memory of looking at the holes die-cut in each page and thinking, “How cool it is that the caterpillar made all these holes.” Eric Carle was a genius and one of the best guests on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and apparently a very nice guy, to boot. Rest in peace, ladybug. We’ll save you some aphids.
I want you all to know that I spelled this right without looking it up, and it was the greatest success of my entire day.