Obstacly, I’m infatated.

What does that mean? Whatever your three-year-old self wants it to mean.

Generally, if Jewel were saying it, that translates to, “Actually, I’m irritated.” But, you know, language is full of slippery characters that shift meaning rapidly and quickly. And if you’re a foreigner, trying to learn a new language, as every child is, you might as well make up a few words, so you can master at least a piece or two of your new tongue.

These days, 3B is building towers of words as stories that are non-fiction, fiction and fascinating. His memory for events is remarkable, including one story that was two pages long, written out between waking and coming down for breakfast. In it he recounted several days from over a month ago with no shortage of detail. As I read it, in the evening of the day he wrote it on, I struggled to remember what I had for breakfast.

Who knew that the grandchildren of Dad, a New Yorker subscriber…and not just for the cartoons, would turn out to be so literate, right?

But, sometimes all those words are misleading, and I forget that just because Jewel and 3B can throw down words like “obstacly,” “infiatated,” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” doesn’t mean that they understand what those words mean or can deal with their emotional content. OK, I admit that I can’t always do that either.

This weekend, Mama went to the hardware store for new shelves for our pantry, leaving me on the roof, cleaning liquidambar (sweetgum) balls out of our gutters, with the kids playing happily below. OK, who really knows if they were happy, but they didn’t come tearing out of the house, screaming my name, which counts as happy in my book.

In fact, 3B came out on the driveway to inspect my work while Jewel did the same from the comfort of her bedroom window, which looks out on our first-story roof. Both were carrying snacks of some sort, pilfered from the pantry contents, which Mama had unloaded onto kitchen counters to remove the old shelves. As I came down from the roof, Uncle MrJumbo called and the kids came out into the backyard.

At some point, communications broke down. I had to hang up with MrJumbo–he heard the whole thing, so perhaps he can tell me what we all said–and the kids retreated back inside.

I admit that I was discouraged by this. Crap, why can’t I manage a short conversation with my brother while the kids play? How often does he call? How often do I have the time to answer? Argh. I shared some of this frustration with the kids–calmly, not yelling, but still not my best move, in hindsight. That’s too heavy a weight, and it’s not theirs to bear.

Later, when my grandkids keep them from talking to each other on the phone, that will be their weight to bear. But that’s later. This is now.

And I realized that if I let it get to me, if I got down, if I couldn’t recover from that disappointment and frustration, none of us would. I wish I could explain what I did, but my memory and my words fail me here. All I know is that we somehow ended up back in the backyard again. I was cleaning up debris from our trees from the recent storms in the area where we hope to put our garden in the spring while the kids worked together on a hole to nowhere–thanks, Minecraft.

Although both were armed with sharp steel tools, and every tool is a weapon, if you hold it right, nobody even threatened harm. They spent an hour toiling in the wet clay to pull out chunks of quartz–so our garden will be in raised beds–inspecting tree roots, and talking. And talking, because once you can talk, you must talk. All. The. Time.

Amazing that my kids would turn out to talk so much, right?

Once they got going, I tried to learn my lesson and just let them be. Every once in awhile I would point out how I appreciated that they were working so well together and leave it at that.

And I realized that even though I’m decades away from learning to talk, I’m as guilty as they are of filling the air with words because I can. It’s fun, like when you realize you can throw things and find a beach full of stones. But, although they’re made of mere shivering air, each word has weight, and when they’re coming at you all the time, it’s a storm of stones, overflowing pockets and buckets, and they can bury and burden you.

However, what I heard from Jewel and 3B was beautiful. They cooperated, created and collaborated. Each word wasn’t a stone, but a beat in a melody, and they were singing a song.

As I filled my bags with tree debris for the trash man, I thought to myself, “Obstacly, I’m infatated.”

By which I meant, “Actually, I’m amazed. But I’m not amazed. I mean, you’re such good friends, and you work so well together, but of course you are and you do. That’s what you get for spending most of your time with Mama. I’m so glad to see it, and so glad you’re my kids…and that you haven’t run off and done a tell-all interview with Dr. Phil.”

And what I said was nothing. I knew the kids could hear my silence, and I let it mean whatever they wanted it to mean.