Lucia’s stuffed animals have become more animated than usual lately. We’ve grown accustomed to Lucia talking for her animals—“Cat’s tired.” “Piggy wants some water.” “Lambie wants to go, too”—and we’re used to conversing with her about the animals’ various wants, thoughts, and feelings. But about two weeks ago, Lucia thrust her beloved new Lambie into my face and announced, “I want oatmeal.” Lucia had just eaten oatmeal. “You want more oatmeal, sweetie?” I said. “No,” Lucia said, wiggling Lambie. “I want oatmeal.” I realized that it was Lambie, not Lucia, who was talking to me.
Andrew and I now find ourselves regularly engaged in conversation with Lucia’s animals. “I want some, too,” Lambie will say. And we’ll have to offer the outstretched Lambie a bite or a sip of whatever he wants. “I want to lie down,” Lambie will say. When I’m addressed by one of these animals, Lucia holds him/her right up to me, and I’m forced to peer down at them, Lucia’s little face right there behind, a tiny ventriloquist.
There is something truly absurd about this new realm of pretend, mostly because it happens so suddenly; one minute Lucia will be talking, and the next, we realize, we’re being addressed by something else. It’s particularly absurd in the early morning, pre-coffee, when we have to negotiate this tiny other being’s complicated wants. “I want raisins.” (I hold out raisins to Lucia.) “No, I want raisins.” Wiggling Lambie.