it must be nice

My son’s imagination bears mentioning here. I suddenly noticed this morning that unlike Sophie’s typically external mechanisms of inspiration, Nels seems to keep a mental landscape all his own. Examples: yesterday, in a lovely mid-morning bath for the two of us. He insists I draw pictures with my fingers, in the condensation on the side of the bathtub. “Draw a triangle,” he asks, and I trace a shape in a barely-visible dilineation on the off-white wall. He instructs “circle”, “square”, and “Christmas tree with a star”, seeming to have great satisfaction in shapes I cannot see; he knows they are there and that’s enough. I get out of the tub to dry off and he’s still discussing the matter with his phantom geometrical friends.

This morning; I stand him on the table and brush his hair before playschool. I give him the brush so he can return the favor. He starts brushing my hair and (mysteriously) with each stroke naming a different part of my body. At first the anatomical references are at least on my head – “eyes”, “eyebrow”, “ear… other ear”. Then soon he is discussing my elbows, shins, knees… all, with each word, indicated by a stroke of the brush in a precise location. This is the moment it hits that my son inhabits some sort of weird Nelsland. I immediately feel a rush of warmth at recognizing my son in this; I also feel a sense as to how to connect with him more.

His inner world also explains why he can often be quite “head in the clouds”; he will be on the phone pretending a conversation; I tell him dinner is ready (his favorite thing) and he still has a look of faraway pretend. Those who know my son know he is very social – he makes lots of eye contact and engages child and adult alike. But it seems that even when he’s by himself he finds good company.

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