Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Another very early memory: patty-cake

The girl my mother called my godmother, J., was still in high school when I was born.  I learned later that she was the daughter of my grandfather's Scottish-American friend (and I think fellow church-elder).
One day in the rented house near my grandparents' she and another lady and my mother were with me in its kitchen.  I was wearing my bunny slippers; I loved looking down at their rabbit heads and hated outgrowing them.  (When my sister had babies, years later, I searched for bunny slippers to give them but found none).
I was the center of attention, being passed around (though I could walk by then).  Suddenly my mother told me "Play patty-cake, Teegee".  I must have looked blank.  More than once.  My mother protested that I knew how.  I remember wishing that I knew what was desired.  When J. held up her hands, I put mine to hers but no more.  My mother said that I always knew it.
What do you think?
First, I was of an age where my comprehension of speech far outstripped my vocabulary and syntax—and maybe I was sleepy.
Second, if someone had started chanting and going through the motions, any child in her second year would have started participating in the rhythm and gestures, though she may not have known a name for the activity.
It was very embarrassing, and I describe it here being confident that every former child has experienced the same kind of helpless feeling.  How many times in school (especially in recess-period games or those required in Physical Education) has it not been recalled?  And later: what about in early dating?  In making introductions?