Riding in the car the other day, Andy and Renee, in their post-Olympic fervor, were pointing out all the American flags. "There's a U.S.A. flag! There's a U.S.A. flag!" they excitedly reported over and over again. When we came to a stretch of a dozen or more flags in a row hanging on the fencing on an overpass, they couldn't call them out fast enough. I asked them if they knew what U.S.A. stands for; they didn't. I said, "U.S.A. stands for United States of America." Before I could say more, Renee contemplated this and wistfully added in an adorable 4-year-old voice, "Hmmm? That sounds far away!" I could only laugh, but couldn't bring myself to tell her why it was funny when she asked.
Right there in the car I was taken back to a day when I was 4 , maybe 5 years-old. I was playing in the room I shared with my sister, Martha, who was probably 3 years-old. We were standing facing each other pretending to be a neighbors knocking on the other's door. She would answer and we would start a conversation in the language of gibberish. We must have been playing that game for weeks as we were getting really good at communicating in our nonsensical language. We thought we were speaking in a foreign language called English. I decided to find out. So I went to ask my mom, who was making our lunch in the kitchen. I remember looking up at her (funny in itself, because now I'm a good 6 inches taller than her) and asking her in my presumably adorable 4 year-old voice, "Mama, what language is English?". While continuing with her work, she answered, "It's the language you are speaking now." I went back to my room and told my sister. I don't think we played that game ever again.
My mom couldn't have known that by simply answering a question a game that gave us so much pleasure would be ruined. She couldn't have known that by answering that question, I would grow up a little bit. If she had, I have no doubt she would have found another way to answer. I'm glad I have that memory. I'm glad I remembered and recognized the similarity when I did. As parents we carry the burden of knowledge, in ways big and small. It's a burden I will carry happily for my children as long as I possibly can.