“Come on, Brendan, say it. You know Mommy loves you. Say it, ‘Mama.’”
Propped in his chair Brendan just stared straight ahead, unaffected by the encouraging words dancing around him. Flinging the remains of his breakfast, he laughed, banged his tray, and said, “Wigglewort!”
Brendan had been saying this word for several days. Although technically his first spoken word, it was discounted by those around him, perhaps for its nonsensical nature, but more likely because they hoped for another, more personal utterance.
“No Brendan, not ‘wigglewort,’ ‘Mama.’ I know you can do it. Be a big boy, say ‘Mama.’”
Brendan’s father entered from the backyard where, evident by the fresh green stains on his shoes and the beaded sweat on his forehead, he had just finished mowing the lawn. “No luck, huh? I wish I knew where he picked up that word. Wherever it was, he sure enjoys saying it, doesn’t he? Maybe I’ll give him a try. You want to come sit outside with Daddy, Brendan?”
He wiped Brendan’s hands and face and released him from the high chair with a swift tug. With a series of squeals and giggles Brendan offered approval for his newly found freedom and for the elevated view provided by his father. The world always appeared less intimidating when seen from the vantage point of an adult.
Outside they sat on the patio to admire the fresh-cut grass, away from any distractions. He perched Brendan on his knee and gently bounced him up and down. But despite Brendan’s enjoyment, his father paused, turning him around. “Okay, Brendan, it’s time. All you have to do is say, ‘Daddy.’ Come, on boy. It’s your old dad. Say it, ‘Daddy.’”
Instead of the anticipated response, Brendan let loose with a hearty belly laugh and said, “Wigglewort!”
“No, not ‘wigglewort,’ ‘Daddy.’ Be a sport. ‘Daddy.’”
“Wigglewort, wigglewort,” Brendan said.
From inside, a familiar voice flowed, “Where’s Grandma’s little baby?”
His father said, “Look Brendan, Grandma and Grandpa are here.”
“Has he said anything yet?” Grandma asked.
“Only that word ‘wigglewort’ or whatever he’s saying. I can’t make much out of it.”
“Let’s see if Grandma can get her baby to talk. Hi, Brendan. My, look how cute you are. Yes, you are. Come on, how about a smile for Grandma?”
Grandma liked to take Brendan into the living room and coax him from the couch. Everyone had his or her favorite place to play with Brendan. Each claimed it was Brendan’s favorite also, but then again, he wasn’t given a say in the matter.
“My, you’re getting so big and how you like to squirm. Sit still, Grandma can hardly hold onto you. Can you say Grandma? Who’s got you? Grandma does, right? Gamma, Gamma.”
Brendan took a deep breath and gave his usual reply, “Wigglewort! Wigglewort!”
With those two little words, he deflated Grandma’s ambition, which had been building since the last time she attempted to coach him.
Grandpa swooped in. “I think it’s time Brendan and Grandpa sit on the porch and have a nice talk.”
Grandpa enjoyed sitting with Brendan on the porch in the rocking chair he had bought the family for Christmas. From there, he was able to showcase his grandson to the entire neighborhood. “Don’t let the others bother you,” he said. “You’ll talk when you’re ready to. Just sit here with Grandpa and enjoy the weather. We’ll watch the cars go by. Grandpa won’t put any pressure on you. No, not Grandpa. Grandpa just likes to rock with his little man. Grandpa and Brendan. Brendan and Grandpa.”
These subtle suggestions weren’t going to work on Brendan either. When the next car passed and Grandpa displayed a wide grin and offered a friendly nod, Brendan giggled and said, “Wigglewort!”
Grandpa sighed. “Well, it was worth a try. Maybe lunch is ready.”
“Any luck?” Grandma asked.
“No, we were just watching cars go by anyway. You’re putting put too much pressure on the boy. He’ll speak when he’s ready. How’s lunch coming along?”
Brendan’s mom said, “Food is on the table. Put Brendan in his playpen while we eat.”
Grandpa did as told, and then the four adults sat down for lunch while Brendan’s dog Hawthorne took his usual position next to him. If Brendan was ever in the playpen, Hawthorne was close by, watching over him. There had been some concern as to how the dog would respond to Brendan being the center of attention. But from Brendan’s first days at home, Hawthorne had not shown a single green hair on his hide. Instead, he was perhaps the most protective.
As the adults ate, they became engrossed in their own conversation, forgetting the frustrating events of the morning. “Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah,” was all Brendan could understand, which wasn’t too far from the actual content.
Bored with the adults, Brendan rolled over and there was Hawthorne, right where he always was, staring back at Brendan, ready for anything.
As most actions Brendan performed, there was no warning sign for what took place next – the words just bubbled out, “Hawthawn! Hawthawn!”
Brendan’s mother said, “Did you hear that?”
Brendan’s father looked at the other three for confirmation. “Did he just say what I thought he said?”
Grandma dropped her fork. “If that don’t beat all. He said ‘Hawthorne.’ He said the dog’s name.”
Grandpa said, “I told you that you were putting too much pressure on him.”
Brendan repeated himself, “Hawthawn! Hawthawn!”
Throughout it all, Hawthorne never moved. He just sat there staring at Brendan, watching over him.