I placed a new picture on my desk at work; it is one that Bee made for me last night, and I can’t stop looking at it. It is abstract; she used her big, fat paint pens, and the bright colours somehow melded together to emulate, almost perfectly, a pattern I recognize from a tie-dyed sarong I wore on the beach in Dahab. It’s beautiful, but what I am having trouble taking my eyes off of, is her name printed at the bottom of the page.
Utterly recognizable, this is not the signature of my former shaky-handed toddler scribe; the letters that make up her name are evenly sized and evenly spaced, barely overlapping. Unlike writing attempts of the immediate past where the letters of her name were, although printed in correct succession, dotted across the page like so many artistic embellishments, the name printed on this picture is, for I believe the first time, laid out in a line.
The letters themselves look animated, exaggerated; unintentionally serif at the hand of their serious, intent author. In the middle of her name, I can hear a conversation – the one where my daughter asks my husband to write the S, which she will then copy. I can see my husband putting his hand over my daughter’s, guiding the pen through the smooth curves, teaching her the motion of this trickiest of letters. And then the evidence of Bee’s determination, her own attempt indelled next to their shared example.
It looks like all of Bee’s printed tries at the letter S – like a long, thin number 3.
Bee used to pronounce her name wrong. She called herself Sha-ha, which is like a weird pig-Latin hybrid of the moniker I bestowed upon her. I never corrected Sha-ha on her pronunciation, and loved it when she would push away my attempts to help her do something, looking me squarely in the eye and proclaiming, ‘Sha-ha do it!’
I can feel Bee’s resolve to print a proper S, and I know she will practice until the motion is instinctual, the symbol, correct. But I will miss seeing her little 3 where an S should be, and as I look at her name printed on the picture she made just for me, the rotund, undeniably legible S dwarfing the thin, unbalanced 3, I can see that a child’s natural, confident expertise will soon overshadow a toddler’s early, unsure venture. It is inevitable, of course: my child will soon emerge, the toddler remaining only in painted pictures and swooping signatures, and I will marvel and shed my share of quiet tears, and wonder how this happens so damn quickly, knowing that it is happening, so damn quickly.
The writing, undoubtedly, is on the wall.