C and the Turtle

A few months ago we did a workshop of Radio Mara Mara. It was a great chance to try out the words, the staging, the cast, the props, and the sound design. The play takes place in a radio station. The Archivist is transferring decades worth of old analog reel-to-reel tapes to digital, and she’s listening to the recordings as she does so.

One of the recordings is of a child, Sammy Mita. Sammy is three years old at the time of the interview, and since I was doing the sound design and coordinating the interviews, I had my son record the voice of Sammy Mita.

The interview goes like this:

How old are you Sammy?

I’m free!

That’s right, you’re three years old today.

I’m free years old!

Are you having fun at Mommy’s work today?

I saw a turtle hiding in his shell!

My son wasn’t yet three at the time of the interview, and we hadn’t totally related to him the idea of age, and how old a person is, so I thought these words I asked him to say were just part of the endless stream of information he would consume and release. I thought he was like a chalkboard that I could write these words onto, keep on my iPhone recorder, manipulate in garage band, and erase.

So I was wholly unprepared for what happened this weekend.

I said “How old are you C?”

Expecting him to say “I bon’t know.” But instead he said “I’m free years old! I saw a turtle hiding in his shell!”

But we were in the car, and there was no turtle. Later at a toy store I let him pick out a toy to get. He picked a ball, which isn’t surprising, but he very specifically wanted the ball with the turtle on it, not the frog, or the giraffe, the turtle. He said it was hiding in its shell; he said he was three years old.

He doesn’t know why he’s got this odd association between turtles and being three years old. He thinks it’s his own association, to the extent that he thinks about thinking about things.

I’ve been wondering since before C’s birth when his permanent memory engrams would be formed, when what happened last week or last year would have an impact on how he views today or tomorrow, or affects his thought process. It turns out it’s been happening all along. He hasn’t been a blank slate at all.

I feel guilty, like I poisoned him with something. I feel glad, like we had a secret communication, I’m the only one who knows why he associates three and turtle. I hope all the things I hope for him, and realize now it’s not just for the future, but that it’s happening already, and has been happening, even when I didn’t realize it, and wasn’t prepared for it at all.

20130603-091112.jpgthe reel-to-reel player

20130603-091551.jpgC and his chalkboard wall.

5 thoughts on “C and the Turtle

  1. Just found this from your post on The Busy Mockingbird’s site. We moved out of our house on Halloween when my daughter was 3, and she missed going out for the holiday. I was sure that I’d hear about that forever because Halloween has always been a big deal in our house, but she doesn’t remember missing it at all. It will be interesting to see how much C retains of his three-turtle association as he gets more experiences overlaid on it. Sweet, interesting story and a reminder of the impressions that we may leave without knowing it.

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