My son has a smattering of words. It's a strictly curated, though steadily increasing, collection; he amasses and disburses his words carefully, like currency. His vocabulary takes him places (up, down); it describes his desires (mommy, wawa) or sparksa smile (hi, bye).
To an even greater extent, his words limn what looms large in his world -a glimpse into the otherwise opaque toddler brain. My son has 40 words, maybe more, maybe less- and because the set is circumscribed, each individual word takes on greater importance. Some speak to proximity- Mommy, Daddy, Kitty. Others to perceptual salience- Ambulance! Airplane! And some are unfathomable- Button, Elmo.
And coffee. "Coffee, coffee!" my toddler cries, jabbing at the burr grinder, the cups, the beans. He serves me pretend coffee in a plastic cup, and laughs when I slurp it down. "Coffee!" he screams, correctly, at church; "coffee" to the travel mug in the car.
I am charmed by this. I am also sobered. Our children are ever and irrevocably themselves. But sometimes, too, they are mirrors- small, slobbery, fractured reflections of our bean-stained days.