This here is a short piece about how children say what they say and it sticks. “Short” because of the number of words. Short so short it might also be called “flash” because this piece happened in one sitting and didn’t take much time. Very little rethinking. Very little editing. “Piece” because that’s a way of saying unit of writing that’s not essay or article or blog or tweet or chapter or status update. What is it to always run away from the stale names for units of discourse (units big enough to be called genres and not small enough to be waysided as low order minutiae).
🔝 That is a slow wind-up. But I’m gonna let it stand, “short piece” or “flash” being a writerly hit of Fuckitol.
When Is. was a wee and knee-high–age 2 or so–having begun to compare sizes of things, she recognized I was taller than many other fully grown adults, and putting height+BMI descriptors to work, came up with the name for me, Daddy Biggie. Some days, maybe it was Biggie Daddy. It was cute and descriptive and earnest. Fine by me. And delightful, a source of joy.
Some years later, now that T. has so swiftly grew to be wee and knee-high–age 2 or so–upwelled the question, what’ll be the names she’ll use for grandparents. She has awesome grandparents. The local ones, incredibly giving and loving. I just so happen to be T.’s least-known grandparent, also the grandparent who lives farthest away, who is most tattooed, most Virginian, and so on. Tallest. Because I am at a distance of approximately 500 miles removed, living the farthest away from where the everyday action is there in SE Michigan, time and proximity are precious. Profound are the lessons in time’s passage and in missing.
To the question: What’ll be the names? To be fair, I was consulted, but I credit her aunt Is., now 15, with cementing the reference and supporting, developmentally, T.’s referring to me as Pawpaw Biggie. Pawpaw is a name for a yellowfruit, it’s true, but it’s also afoot and circulating as a southern-regional variation on grandpa. Heckuva lot better than “peepaw,” another variation. And “Biggie,” well, that also stands up to time, descriptive, earnest, delightful, a source of joy.
I really do think T. gave the name a good faith try. And yet morphemes morph. Pawpaw Biggie next Pawpaw Piggy. When in May I picked up Is. from her house, T. in the doorway expressing sendaway wishes said, “Bye, Is.! Bye, Pig!” And then in a recent text message, Is. wrote so share with me that when T. was going to sleep, lulled by a who’s who tiredness litany, “x is going to bed; y is exhausted, too,” she asked, “Is Pawpaw Piggy sleepy?” Sure is sleepy, child. And smiling. Who on this earth gets to be called Pig?
A serendipitous enunciative event is pig’s alliterative click–Varaha snorted!–and it is there, penned up top among the finest mudrolls of 2021. With it have been unexpected echoes, too, for one a reminder that my mom had a pigculiar interest in swine–more a collector’s persistent return and accumulation of tchotchkes than a researcher’s study, but valid all the same: a hand-made rocking pig, piggy banks, and for some years a real interest in getting+keeping a pig as a pet. Dream what you will, now as then. I don’t really want or need anything more from this Pawpaw Piggy moment than to note it, as if at a trough well stocked with discarded cabbages and other random table scraps and memories, weird fuel sourcing smiles every time after all. 🐖