Letter to my grandson (xxxv)

Dear Winton,

Today, you have had your first day back at “school” for 2017. You weren’t keen to get out of bed this morning, according to your mother.   You are beginning to get fairly attached to your sleep. This is a photo that your mum took when you were woken up early.


Teenage toddler not happy about sleep in being cut short by the cleaners

 You are emerging as a quite distinct and also quite charming personality. This is a photo that I took of you in the Fitzroy Gardens.


 And this is a picture of you rescuing part of the tree from a fire in the bushes in the backyard.


You have been developing your skills as a firefighter and two of us are often kept quite busy putting out fires all round the house.  This is a shot of you practising your skills on Millie who was, you thought, on fire at the time.


The most rapid changes at the moment, however, are in the way that you are using language.

Listening to you talk makes me realise the extent that our place in the world, and the way we are able to control it, is defined by the way we use language.

 Recently you were talking to Nana and she said to you, “You will be able to do that when you’re a big boy.”

 You replied, “I a big boy already.”

 It made me realise how you are growing in your grasp of the subtle uses of language.  The adverb “already” can only be used if you have a concept of passing and continuity of time and your place in it. Clearly, you see yourself as being a big boy now.

 Recently, you were out in your pusher with Nana and she was feeding you rice crackers coated in chocolate which were disappearing at a very impressive rate. She asked, “Where have all those bickies gone?”

 You had been licking the chocolate off and discarding the crackers.

You pointed down into your pusher and said, “They’re down here, somewhere.”

You’re using an indefinite pronoun and it has a couple of very subtle meanings in this case.  It means that just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean to say it doesn’t exist somewhere. There is also the sense that you needed Nana to suspended uncertainty about the state of the biscuits.

 Your mum tells a wonderful story of when she was reading you a book called “Dear Zoo”.


It’s a story of a boy who writes to the zoo and asks the zoo to send him a pet. Each pet arrives in its own crate and reader can open the crate to see the animal inside.  Throughout the book, the animals are rejected for various reasons: the monkey because it was too naughty, the snake because it was too scary. Your mum was getting you to provide the reasons for sending them back.

 You got the giraffe because it was too tall.  You have had a lot of experience with giraffes.



But when the camel arrived, you were a bit lost for words. You weren’t familiar with grumpy camels so your suggestion was “Too camely”.

You didn’t know exactly why the camel was unacceptable but it was clearly too much of something about a camel.

What a brilliant improvisation.

 And perhaps this is why you didn’t get that the snake was too scary.


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