Dear Sam,

Do you have anything in your life that you’re (almost) always glad that you’ve done, you usually enjoy doing, but you dislike (or just have a hard time) starting? I have several of these. Working out is one of them. I have a hard time getting from the house to the front door of the gym. Once I’m through the doors, I usually enjoy myself, and when I’m done a workout, I rarely regret having been. I call this phenomena after the first time I became aware of it in myself — “like going to the Shack.” I hope “the Shack” will be a part of your childhood and life, though based on our current life and location, it is unlikely to have the impact on your life that it had on mine. It is a remote place, but was even more remote when I was young. Every other weekend or so, my parents would drag me up there. I hated the transition — it meant a long car ride. It meant leaving my friends (and toys) with whom (and which) I’d so recently been playing. However, once we were there, I fell easily into the groove. The shack is a simple place. Beautiful. Quiet. Natural. I’m afraid that writing your newsletter is “like going to the Shack.”

So here I am, and I’ve started now. Let’s get into the groove. Probably the biggest single event this month was your visit from Grand-mère. Grand-mère’s husband, Tom, had just died from a difficult struggle with cancer. She loved Tom like I hadn’t seen her love before, and so his death was a terrible loss for her. This cloud was not without a silver lining though as she was freed up to travel again — and with more variety available to her than just the recreational vehicle that they owned together. If we learned anything from the burial of Grand-mère’s mother, it was that new life helps heal the wounds of old lives passing, and were pleased to welcome Grand-mère into our house where you could be part of her healing process.

I can’t say for sure how much you really were. I think that Grand-mère is afraid that she won’t manage to be part of your life in much the same way that her mother was not much part of mine. You were shy and tentative around her which maybe caused her to withdraw some, and this set up a viscous cycle. To be fair though, I didn’t see much of either of you during this time. I was involved in a long and difficult period at work that took even more of my time and attention than usual. And you yourself weren’t on your best behavior either. You took her visit to be a good time to give a trial runs to this concept we call tantrums. Twice, you started to cry for little or no reason and were simply inconsolable. Curiously, you’ve not picked it up since Grand-mère left. At about the same time, we heard of an older child in the neighborhood who had a grandmother come visit while the dad was traveling on business. The child thought that the grandmother was there replacing the dad, and was very unhappy with this. I don’t know if a similar thought process was going on for you, but something sure seemed to be.

That said, you still talk about Grand-mère now — over a month after her departure. You combine (sometimes with help) Grand-mère (Gom), Bye Bye and Airplane (Ah Pah) since when you ask after her (Gom? — with your hand to your chin — a gesture you use for almost all of your acquaintances) we confirm for you that Gom went bye bye in an airplane. You often check up on your friend baby Katrina at the same time. She went bye bye in a car. These are typical of your “proto-sentences”. You developed several this month. Things like “Daddy took the car to work today.” which is said as Daddy(Dae) City (Ess) Our (Arr) Car (Car). You ask about other things that you remember. Mainly cats, but that’s OK. You know about the black cat (bah kee ka), the grey cat (guh kee ka), Meri’s cat (Meri kee ka) and, of course, Camus (Arr kee ka). You’ve picked up the sign for “change” as in when we change your diaper. You’ve requested diaper changes, but usually when we confirm that’s what you want, you say “No” which doesn’t come as a surprise because while you can be distracted during changes, they tend not to be your favorite activity.

This month we traveled (with Gom) down to LA for the wedding of a friend of mine. The wedding was timed such that there was some interference with your nap. Fortunately, after some fussing, you did fall asleep in my arms. I held you for maybe half an hour, and then tried to transition you down to a blanket on the ground, but you would have nothing of the transfer, and woke again. You were awake for the ceremony itself, and some of the reception, and we did get some pretty cute pictures out of the deal. You also went into San Francisco to see your great aunt Ann and her friend Eddie who were vacationing out here. To say you were a hit with them is, I think, something of an understatement.

Outside, you like to play with the “big ball” (bee bah). Inside, if a parent is using a computer, you desperately want to type (teep). One of the indoor surprises for me was to find you climbing up onto the couch all on your own. It’s still a sight to see, as the couch comes up above your torso. You pretty much throw as much of your upper body onto the couch as you can and then try to get a knee up. Even getting one knee up isn’t an assurance of success though, as it doesn’t always get traction. Still, you persist and eventually succeed. Outside by yourself, you’ve started sliding down slides all on your own (and mostly holding your head up while you do so). You don’t insist on doing them by yourself like other things though, and you do seem to have a better sliding experience when you hold onto my hands or Mom’s. Some slides are still steep enough for you that you’re loathe to let go of the side which causes an inferior sliding experience. Back inside another surprise is that you are back to crawling on occasion. I think you do it just for our response. We announce in surprised tones “Crawling?!?” Another thing you do just for the response is describe any pants we put on you as overalls (Ahw Wrah). I say “No, no no! Blue Jeans!”. You giggle and repeat (Ahw Wrah!).

You like announcing “up” (uh) and “down” (dow) when we’re driving along in hilly neighborhoods. And whether you actually see the skyline, and know to announce it, or you just know places we talk about it, you say “city” (ess) at certain points of our drive when the view of the San Francisco skyline is prominent.

Some other random bits of your 18th month. You’ve had what your mom describes as your first successful playdate. You actually interacted with the other kids, rolling a ball to Meri, or handing a toy to Dante. You have enjoyed putting on extra clothes including pulling on track pants over top of blue jeans, and wearing a rain coat over your pink jacket. Indoors! You now refuse help climbing up the front steps, doing it on your own holding onto the railing and sometime the steps themselves. You seem to have a sense of plurality as you know that none of something is “all gone” (aw gaw), and that more than one of something is “two” (tu). I tell you that, in fact, there are three other baby swings (bay bay wheesh). But you seem largely unfazed by my contradiction.

So here’s to many more years of independent thought, though I do hope you’ll take my advice every now and again. I’ve lived for quite some time now, and getting older every year (as evidenced earlier this week!) and think that I still have some insight to pass along should you care to hear it.

Love,

Dad