It was a brisk Fall evening in Toronto, when we all came home to my aunt’s house on Edenvalley Drive. We had been staying with her and my uncle while our home was being renovated a few blocks down the road. They were empty nesters, their kids in college or out conquering the world. There we were, five adults and a busy three-year old in tow. We were getting ready to sit down for dinner.
While waiting for the table to be set, my daughter used to “play house” with my uncle in their bedroom. The two of them would stack cushions and pillows along with some scarves and shawls from my aunt’s dressing room. They would camp out there for the next few minutes while the TV blared out the evening news.
When the call for dinner would come, she would jump out of the make shift house and pull on my uncle’s shirt sleeve to go down the stairs for dinner.
“It’s comfortable here. Let’s stay a little longer,” he would tease her as he lay comfortably among the pillows.
To this, she would promptly shut off the TV, stand with her back to the screen, arms on her waist, and with as much conviction as any three year old could muster, “It’s dinner time. We can’t be late!”
Over at the kitchen, we gathered, said grace (our daughter’s version to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, of course), and dinner started. We would all share some highlights of our day, a few anecdotes, or just the news. We were four doctors, each coming home from a long day in our clinics or the hospital. During a lull in our conversation, our daughter brightly shared her day:
“Jennifer and I played inside today. It was too cold.” Jennifer was her best friend. She had spent the afternoon after school at the Kucharczyks.
Then she blurted, “Jennifer said the thing where the pee-pee comes out in the boys is called a penis.” My aunt smiled and looked at her, amused. My uncle gave a semi involuntary gasp. His eyes twinkled and he grinned. My hubby and I looked at each other, amused and a little embarrassed.
She looked at each of our faces. It was a new addition to her exponentially expanding vocabulary. Then slowly, a sly smile formed on her face. Uh-oh, I thought. Not that smile!
“It’s nothing but a penis. A penis. A penis. Nothing at all. It’s just a penis.” She kept repeating, with marked emphasis on the “p” sound.
“Lara, why don’t you finish your food,” I said pointing to her plate, hoping to distract her.
“I’m not hungry anymore. It’s just a penis, a penis, a penis,” she kept on repeating in a sing-song. She was still looking at each of us, trying to gauge our reactions.
My husband wiped his mouth with his napkin and slowly stood up. He took his plate to the sink and came back to the table. He gently lifted his daughter out of her chair. “Let’s have a talk, anak*, okay? Just you and me.” They both walked away, his back to us with her face just above his shoulder facing us.
“But it’s just a penis, Daddy.” We could hear her voice starting to break. She thought she did something bad. Her father was speaking softly to her, their voices and footsteps getting softer as they disappeared from view.
For the rest of us at the table, we burst out laughing and shook our heads knowingly. She has discovered a new word and was trying it on us.
Well, we did say that it’s a good idea to use a new word a few times to get used to it. Sigh!
P.S. Even as we were tucking her to bed later in the evening, the last few words were still, “But it was just a penis.”
*Anak means “my child” in Tagalog.