Oooooooooh Laz-O. I say that a lot. When he falls in the potty (it’s happened twice.) When he dumps all his milk out on his plate. When he throws open the lid of the diaper pail and sticks his head in there. When he falls head-first off the second step (as high as he can go before the gate stops him.) When he grabs a handful of French toast, looks me in the eye and flings it across the room. When he sticks his finger up his nose to the second knuckle and holds it there so we can all see. When he bursts into tears in the middle of the night because it’s me who’s come to get him, not momma, and points down to the bedroom where he knows she is, throws his head back and wails, looking “wretched” as Ash calls it, and then gives up and falls asleep on my chest. Oooooooooooh Laz-O.
Oooooooooooh Laz-O when I stroke his forehead and feel the layer of fat that sits between his skin and skull, soft as puffed pig leather. Ooooooooooooh Laz-O when he walks around the house holding his penis and saying “penispenispenispenispenispenis!”
Laz’s go-to words are “unh” and “ehzat?” Unh is an exclamation of interest accompanied by a pointing finger. Ehzat is a question, often directed at new things. For example, a bag on the floor that wasn’t there yesterday. “Ehzat?” A new plant. “Ehzat?” When something is particularly intriguing but mom and dad aren’t listening, the ehzats increase in tempo and intensity:
Me: “Hey Ash, I got a new computer. Check it out. (I set it on the countertop.)
Ash: “Wow – is that for the new database work?”
Me: “Yeah, I just couldn’t work fast enough on the…”
Laz: “Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat? Ehzat?
Me: It’s a new computer, Laz.
Me: “…So this way I can work with the database without waiting so long for things to update.”
Laz: (Pointing at the computer again.) “Ehzat?”
The other day as we all sat on the front stoop Laz found a bucket of coloring chalk. He reached in and got his little chubby hands full, stood, and surveyed the front yard. Then, with a scream like an East German weight lifter, he flung both handfuls into the periwinkle, stood there with his arms outstretched, fingers splayed, and flexed, his out-breath a low rumble (such as a toddler can do.)
Last night at dinner he told us he was “all done,” using his little twisty hand sign language. I lifted him from his seat and set him on the deck. He walked to the steps and looked down toward the driveway. “DADA!” He screamed. (He screams “dada” a lot; no apparent reference to me.) Then louder: “DADA!!!!” Then he just screamed into the yard, “AHHHHHHHHHGHGHHGH!!!!!!!!” until we were all laughing and he knew his job was done. He speed walked back from the steps to Woods’s chair and climbed the back, gently bit Woods on the shoulder like a wild beast, climbed back down and ran around the table to hide. Or really to be chased, since that’s what he wants from Woods.
Laz approaches life with a particular kind of gusto that makes it easy to miss how sensitive he is. On our road trips this summer he wore little woolen knit shoes shaped like bees, with wings and all. I mockingly referred to them in a funny voice as his “bee shoes” when I tugged them onto his little feet. Soon enough he began bringing his big boy shoes over so I could put them on for him. No more bee shoes.
When Woods isn’t ready to play and Laz flirts with him – maybe just a look or a touch, which he does purely out of love for his older bro -- Woods will sometimes yell, “NO LAZ!” And I see Laz’s little face fall, his lower lip tremble, and he bursts into tears.
Every night I put him to sleep. It’s my chance to be with him, to understand him a little more. Because most of the time he wants momma, and her bo’s. He puts up with me at bedtime. Maybe even likes the time himself. After I’ve gotten him into his PJs and little sleeping bag we walk out onto his balcony to watch the eastern sunset. The fading sky tinged nailbed pink, night rising on the horizon beyond the first Flatiron. Birds light in the tallest branches of the fir and spruce, turned west to watch the sky behind us.
I hold him tight and we slip around the edge of the roof to look west with them. He loves the novelty of it, the strange perspective – the rough texture of the asphalt shingles, which he can touch, the kitchen deck below, the chimney, the weather station on it pole, the bathroom dormers, the sides of windows.
Then it’s time for bed. Sometimes we read, though he could care less about the narrative in his books. They’re a physical endeavor, a chance to slap pages around, separate them, or a check-in with familiar things: the pigeons and doggy on the second page of Little Dump Truck, Hard Hat Pete’s cup of coffee, the animals in Dear Zoo, the babies hiding behind their flip-pages in whatever book that is.
I tell him I love him and he curls into my chest, tucks his little hands in and snuggles like a baby squirrel, his round body so dense and solid. It’s my favorite part. I rock in the chair, sing songs I don’t know if he likes or understands – Space Wrangler, Seven Bridges Road, Old Man, Black River – until his breathing slows. I lie next to him once he’s in the crib and give him my hand, which he holds, until he falls asleep.