He is two. The world is beginning to look familiar and challenging. He wants to run. He wants to be swung. He wants to decide what he will eat and he will not. His latest love is Thomas the Tank Engine so his mother has made him a birthday cake in the shape of an engine bearing two candles. He blows them out and the engine gets sliced up.
Cake is one of his favourite words at the moment, but also car and cat. He doesn't yet realise that all these words begin with the same sound. That is not part of his concern. He will run to his grandfather, whom he calls Papa, or to his grandmother, whom he also calls Papa although he knows that she is really Nudgie, the phonetic version of the Hungarian nagyi, meaning granny. He will point out Nudgie but won't say her name. Papa must feel more appropriate for him.
Cars are good news. You can never have too many. They are, after all, not just in the house in a big box, but out in the street too, so this act of accumulation through the good will of others is a way of keeping a tab on the real world, especially those parts of it that move. Cars are good things.
So are cats. There is a ginger cat called Cosmo at home (another k sound) and here there are two more, though he only ever sees the stumpy one called Pearl. Naturally he chases her and want to stroke her. Pearl's ears flatten which is not a good sign but she remains patient for a while before finally scuttling off, miffed, through the cat flap.
It's exciting having a birthday but he is not quite sure what it is. He is coaxed to help unwrap presents and suspects the things inside are now his. Who knows what he thinks is his? He can claim anything he wants to but knows there are limits to claiming. His sister, who is only a year and a half older is, naturally, interested in his presents and has immediately absorbed them into her own realm of activity. She has a better understanding of the meum-tuum world but he's only little and his attention strays, so if the gift is genuinely interesting she can appropriate it for a while, he won't mind.
His biggest present is a small tent that is easy to set up, but it is sister who crawls into it first. He is absorbed in cars and cats but eventually enters the tent and points out the toy animals she has brought in. A toy gazelle is a goat. A hen is a chicken.
At one point he has an accident and bangs his jaw which is a shock - a moment of silence is followed by distressed bawling There is a little blood where he bit himself but a cuddle from father quickly fixes it. He is like a wind-up toy that comes to grief but is then righted, re-wound and soon sets off again.
We go for a walk. Having walked and run happily enough he suddenly decides he wants to run in the opposite direction and is cross when he has to turn round.
Because he calls Nudgie Papa he gets this poem from the Papa in question.
WHICH IS WHICH
for Lukas, aged 2
Which is Nudgie, which is Papa?
Daddy Rich, make us a cuppa
And let’s decide this if we can.
Papa is, we think, a man,
Nudgie’s status is less shady,
She is, decidedly, a lady.
In that case it can hardly be
that both are Papa as you see.
Ask Mummy H, ask Daddy Rich:
They will tell you which is which,
And if they don’t, you could just go
to Nudgie and Papa. They both know.
Both of them might be a blessing
Once you know who you’re addressing