Walking Nicholas in the spitting rain. He does a little prancing pony walk, lifting paws over the wet, fast along the edge of the apartment building. He prances from the front door to the side door - hasn't peed yet - and wants to go in, but I pull him along toward the closest available bushes. As we go, I do what people do when they love someone enough to be annoying. I give Nicholas a voice.
"I just don't like it!" I say for him. And I realize, as I often do when giving Nicholas a voice, which I basically only do when I want him to declare that "I just don't like it" about the rain - which means I do it a lot because I live in Portland - the voice I'm giving him belongs to Maxx. My nephew. Not his voice but his inflections, and not his current voice but the very particular one he had when he was a little boy. He had this beautiful way of rolling his sounds up in his mouth and then clipping them off at the end of each word.
years ago: me and maxx and josé
I stole Maxx' I just don't like it from a particular day when I was visiting them in California. I don't remember the crisis of the moment, but Maxx was not happy. It was some sort of kid stand-off between Maxx and my Mom and in the heat of the moment, he shouted, "I just don't like dis!"
[I've come over the years to substitute an it for the this/dis, for no real reason - just happened - but when I remember I'm doing Maxx when I do Nicholas, sometimes I try to retrain myself to get the dis in there to make it more authentic...]
I like to remember that day because it seemed to say so much about Maxx. Where lots of kids, in the heat of a moment like that, would have yelled, "I hate you!" Maxx had gone for "this." I remember I felt right then and there that this kid was going to grow up to be a good guy.