Abigail's stories are getting longer and longer. Sometimes she tells them with a book in her hand, just as if she's reading, and sometimes she tells them at the dinner table as if it's conversation, but they generally all sound the same: an assortment of what she's heard during the day, including television, nursery rhyme and grown-up speak. She's like a little tape recorder that turns itself on and off at random, and you never know when she will stop recording and hit play. You also never know when she is recording, and she has an unnerving habit of doing an exact impression of me saying something like, "Goodness gracious me, look at all the mess in here!" six weeks after I actually said it, or coming out with words like 'watermelon' after hearing them once two months ago.
She scampers into my room in the morning, once Daddy can't restrain her any longer from disturbing my 'lie in' at 7:30am, pokes me in the eye and exclaims happily, "You wake upped!" Then she clambers into bed and begins: "I'm Abi-gay-wuh. Hello Abigaywuh, wouldjoo like to play with me, the lady said. She play lots of toys, she say, and she want a cuddle up the stairs and down the slide and into the balls. I said atishoo atishoo I say, all flellover, in the balls, and we bounce on a trampoline and this is the way the baby say wah, wah, all day long, all fall OFF."
“Good morning, Abi” I respond. What else can I say? I have absolutely no idea what she's talking about. It's tricky, because she could actually be relating something that happened yesterday at a playgroup while I wasn't there: in which case, this would be the first evidence that she has an awareness of sequence or narrative. It's entirely possible that she played with a lady in the ball pit, that she was helped up and down the slide and that they went on to sing nursery rhymes about falling down while bouncing on the trampoline and jumping into the ball pit. On the other hand, this lengthy speech could be a stream-of-consciousness style combination of nonsense and echolalia, and Abi might be just as clueless as I am about its meaning. I suspect that was true of this evening's offering, however much it sounded like a conversation:
“Glory, glory, gloooory, God is there 'cause he is everywhere. Jesus is hungry he say.”
“Jesus? He's hungry?”
“Yes, Jesus want a cuddle and he eat a biscuit biscuit.”
“Right. Jesus is eating a breakfast biscuit.”
“God want a biscuit. The crocodile not want a biscuit biscuit.”
“No, I don't expect crocodiles eat breakfast biscuits.”
“There a spider coming.”
“Is there? Do spiders eat biscuits?”
...and on, and on, and on. My replies are futile attempts to shed some light on what actually goes on inside her head, and to prevent myself from going completely crazy. As far as I can tell, the landscape of Abigail's mind looks like a sort of infantile painting by Salvador Dali, where all the eggs are Humpty Dumpty and everybody keeps giving each other cuddles.
No, wait. That's oddly familiar...
...I think I've just worked out why In the Night Garden is such a popular television show for toddlers...