My baby is very interested, these days, in what we’ve come to call “ding-dings.”
I’m not sure where the term started – maybe it was the windchimes that dangle from our front porch – but it’s come to mean anything that makes a small ting! of a sound. It turns out, though I’d never paid attention to such things, that they are everywhere. I even have two – two! just hanging there! – in my bedroom: a metal heart I bought in North Carolina in another lifetime, and a ceramic bird that my cousin gave me years ago.
The delight of the ding-ding is that it doesn’t necessarily have, as its primary purpose, a chime. It turns out it is possible to also bring out the inner ding-ding from a whole host of plain products: a glass, a planter. “Ding-ding!” my son will shout in the middle of a meal. “Ding-ding! Ding-ding!” He is delighted when I understand him; when I reach over and tap upon the thing he’s pointing out.
One that he loves – which I would argue is no ding-ding at all – is a straw basket that sits on the counter near his high chair. It holds our cloth napkins (which he also enjoys, though no napkin has yet climbed to ding-ding level) and he thinks it’s hilarious to ding-ding me into tapping upon it, or better yet, to ding-ding me into pulling it close enough for him to pat with his own soft baby hand.
Ding-ding! he sometimes says on our walks, and dutifully I pat the telephone pole or the stop sign. Ding-ding! he’ll occasionally announce as he pounds on my closed bedroom door before racing in and hollering it again as he taps the bedside lamp before trying to pick it up, which he knows he isn’t supposed to do.
I get it. We can all get carried away with a good ding-ding.
I’d long heard that motherhood would bring with it the ability to see the world with new eyes, and the ding-ding is a prime example of that. My little one is so delighted by the fact that everywhere we go, there are things that can make an interesting sound. He is thrilled when that sound turns out to be the traditional ding-ding he’s come to know and love, but he’s still fascinated when the sound falls short of that, when it is a dull thwack or a wooden staccato.
I have to admit that I’ve gotten into it, too, that I sometimes steer us on our walks to the downtown street where a store sets out a whole display of windchimes every morning. I have to admit that now, sometimes I’m the one who shouts out, “Ding-ding!” when I’ve realized there is something – inside our home or somewhere very much in public – that will give us a memorable sound.
It’s the same joy that makes me cry out “bus!” or “moon!” or “trash truck!” or “it’s raining!,” the same wonder that now imbibes a simple bug crawling across the ground. It reminds me of the summer camp where I once worked, decades ago, where – as a game – the campers sometimes set up elaborate weddings for invisible creatures, pulling together the petals of decapitated flowers and constructing tiny furniture out of sticks that normally wouldn’t garner a second glance. It is the ultimate mindfulness, to notice the world and its magic in such detail.
Having a child is, of course, not about me; it isn’t about what I learn from parenting that makes this so worthwhile. I am not here so that I can gain something; I am a mother in order to help a very specific person grow into themselves, to give the small boy in front of me a safe place from which to start. This process is about him.
But along the way, it turns out, he’s reminding me that the world is full of magic. It’s full of things that should stop me in my tracks, just as it stops him whenever he pauses to crouch down to look at something, or points to the sky with delight in his eyes from the sound of a passing bird or airplane. There is a whole different level of experience, waiting to be uncovered.
Even right now, early in the morning, sitting in my home: as I write, it’s raining, and I can hear ding-dings everywhere.