T mumbles quietly and quickly to the endless frustration of most adults. And I love it. Our conversations are an exercise in mental gymnastics and detective work that I find very enjoyable. I happen to be fluent in mumble. I’ve spoken it my entire life, and I pride myself on being able to understand kids who speak it, too.
I regularly piece together his words and stick them into the appropriate parts of his day-to-day life to understand what he’s saying. I usually don’t need much backstory to figure out what he’s trying to communicate, but a few months ago, I got totally lost in a maze of his words, so I spent an entire car ride explaining context.
“Dude. You can’t just dive into the middle of a story. You need to give me context so I understand what you’re talking about.”
“Amy! I told you! Robin’s the same. I just know it.”
“T. Who is Robin?”
“Like, from Batman?”
“Amy! I told you. He’s the same. All the Titans act that way.”
“What are Titans, exactly, in this scenario?”
“What’s a scenario?”
“T! Focus! Who is Robin?”
“Thhhhheeee Robin! Amy! How many times do I have to tell you?”
I tried to explain context again, reminding him about the clues he uses while he’s reading to try to figure out tough words and ideas.
“Oh, so I have to tell you the parts around my point?”
“Yeah, buddy. Yes. Exactly. Knowing those parts would help me a lot.”
“Got it. I watched Teen Titans Go at Cheryl’s house. Thhheeeee Titians.”
“Okay. And in Teen Titans Go there’s a guy named Robin?”
“Yes. And the whole time I was just thinking: that must be the same as the Robin from the movie.”
“The Batman Movie?”
“I think they’re different.”
“Are you sure, Amy?”
“Absolutely not. But I’m glad I know what you’re saying now.”
These conversations happen a lot. Part of this gig has been to act as an interpreter for T. Like at one of the taco places we frequent. T is great about ordering his own food. And he made sure to ask the server for extra pickled veggies on his tacos.
“No problem,” the guy assured him. “We can leave those veggies off for you.”
“Uh,” I interjected. “He actually wants extra. Right, T? Extra picked veggies.”
“Of course, Amy! That’s what I said!”
The server looked at me quizzically, and all I could do was shrug and nod. Three tacos in, T was a legend. On our next visit, the same server stopped by our table to let T know he remembered how much he loved the pickled veggies.
Translator is one of the roles I gladly take on; I get a lot of joy from our conversations. Like when we were driving home the other night.
“Amy, you know the face on the space?”
“Um. No? What are you talking about?”
“The face on the space. I think it’s funny.”
“Can you give me context, dude?”
“Don’t you think the face on the space is a good idea?”
“T. I don’t know what you’re talking about. What space? Whose face?”
“The notes. The space by the notes. I just love the face on the space. I think it’s funny. And a good idea. Don’t you?”
“Bud. Context. Please.”
“I learned about it. At school.”
“That’s not quite enough context for me. What else can you give me to work with?”
“The face on the space.”
“Yeah. I got that part.”
“And that’s how I know about the clef and the notes. Like half notes and stuff. Because of the face on the space.”
“Oh. You’re talking about the fact that the word ‘face’ helps you remember the notes on the treble clef?”
“Yeah, Amy. That’s what I said. The face on the space. And did you know that every good burger deserves fries?”
“I did know that, T. I love that you know that, too.”