Only a Boy Named Amby
“Tell me an Amby story, Mommy,” he would say. At night, once books were read and the lights were off, once we’d settled under the warmth of covers, my toddler son asked me to tell him another story.
“A curious little boy named Amby played and played,” I’d start. “He was a happy boy, and he loved nothing more than experiencing as much of the world as he could.” If the light from the hallway spilled through the door just right, I was able to see the silhouette of his face as he listened. Sometimes I paused to listen to his breathing. Then I went on, because his patience didn't last.
“His mommy busied herself in household tasks, and so Amby explored anything he could open or climb. On this particular day, Amby made his play in his sisters’ room. They had jewelry and books and dolls. They had a dresser full of clothes, and those held no interest at all for Amby. But the dresser had two thin drawers at the top, and in these drawers were treasures untold.
Amby’s height surpassed the dresser’s height by only a little bit, which meant he could just reach the knobs to pull the treasure drawer open. He used both hands to pull himself up to his tippy toes and peered into the shadows extending to the back of the dresser.
Coins, rocks, pens, pencils, hair ties, headbands, and items he didn’t recognize. He spied a lipstick. Amby pulled out his pacifier, and tossed it on the floor. This needed his full attention.
His little boy fingers grasped the tube and pulled it out of the stash. He yanked the top off and eyed the bright color inside the container. He turned it over in his hands, twisted it back and forth, smooshed his finger into the waxy substance.
He sat down in front of the dresser and began making use of the lipstick. He marked his leg with it, as he learned it could work rather like a crayon. He used his fingers to put it on his cheeks and to rub it into his lips.
‘What else is in the drawer?’ Amby thought, and he laid the lipstick aside.
He found some lotion. He hoisted himself up as tall as he could to reach further back into the drawer. He managed to get the top off. Amby thought the lotion felt cool on his skin, and he rubbed it on both legs and his arms and his chest.
Just about this time, Amby’s mommy noticed how quiet he was, and she went to find him. He heard her walk into the room. He turned his head to face her, his eyes wide with wonder and satisfaction.
His mommy knew that he meant no harm, knew that he was a curious child. She did talk to Amby, encouraging him to not bother things that didn’t belong to him. She knew Amby would need to know that as he grew. She knew that her boy had an a keen mind, that he had lots of questions and wanted to find the answers himself. He had a desire to take things apart, so as to understand how the things in his world worked.
She and Amby's daddy loved Amby very much. Whenever he got into mischief, they knew that Amby simply wanted to learn. They remembered, after all, what it was like to be little. Because they loved him so much, Amby’s mommy and daddy helped to keep him safe by making sure he knew what was okay and what was not okay.”
I finished all my stories something like that, no matter which Amby tale I shared. I wondered if he knew, if my son recognized himself in the yarns I told. Because they were his explores, his adventures. Amby's name came from his initials, and I added a y. My fiery little boy wrote the narrative with his life, and I told it back to him.
I’m thinking a lot about those stories, about that little fella. It’s a useful approach, to step away from the microscope and away from the daily, to pan out and get some perspective. It taught me something, in those days, something I need to hold onto in these days.