I could tell by the look on the tiny man’s face that something was wrong. His eyes darted in every direction as I pushed the necessary buttons and pulled his arms free from the straps, lifting him out of the car seat and lowering him down to stand in the parking lot. He wanted to communicate something important, but he couldn’t think of the words.
I knew how he felt. I’ve been in this situation many times myself. Lost in a foreign country, trying to communicate with the natives, suddenly coming up against a word that you just could not remember. You become frantic. Your mind tumbles around like a clothes dryer as you look for a word like an elusive blue sock. You reach in randomly and pull out pajamas and overalls and other socks that are just not quite the right color.
Gideon was fumbling for a word. As I placed him on the ground he flailed his arms, a frustrated bird fighting to keep his balance, and then pointed down at the ground. In desperation he grabbed the closest word he could find.
“Fish!” he said suddenly, stomping his foot.
We stared at each other for a moment. I looked down at the ground and then back up at him. Did this strange little man just say Fish to me?
“Fish?” I asked.
“Fish!” he announced once more. He was confident now. This was the word he had been looking for. There is nothing wrong with the word I’m saying, so why doesn’t this idiot understand the point I’m trying to make? That was the look on his face. I have been there. I have worn that face a million times. I was always the strange foreign gentleman at the Ukrainian super market that was jumping up and down and leaning over the counter yelling the word “Noodles!” over and over while clearly pointing at a row of breakfast cereal. “Which cereal would you like?” the kind woman would say. To which I would roll my eyes and sigh, “No! No no no no. Right there. Nooodllleees!”
Now, here was my son doing the same exact thing with me. In one simple word he was communicating, “Look, Doofus, I need you to look at this fish. Why isn’t this obvious to you?”
I knelt down and looked at the ground. There wasn’t anything like a fish there. I grabbed his knee and shook it. No fish fell out of his pants. I shook his ankle. Finally, something happened. His shoe fell off. It had come loose from his foot and slid off of his heel.
I held it up between us. “Fish?” I questioned.
He nodded excitedly. “Fiisssssssh.” As if he were informing me what this object was called. I had apparently not advanced to this level of vocabulary yet.
I struggled to strap the fish back onto the end of his leg, and he smiled wide with his victory in communication.
The two of us ran to catch up with Andrea and the girls. “What happened?” Andrea asked.
“Oh nothing.” I told her. “One of Gideon’s fish fell off.”
She nodded understandingly. “That happens sometimes.”