Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 05.19.05
Stanstead, Quebec


Frickin' awsome!

I was cleaning leaves out of the pool, usually a solitary, almost Zen-like exercise. Abby, a month away from six years old, sat on the deck. The following is a reconstruction of our conversation:

"Can I help?"


"Can I touch the water?"


"Do we have the boat, the one we put on the pool?"

"No, we got rid of the canoe."

"Do you remember when there was lightning and we were swimming and Mom said that we could swim and it was dark because you couldn't see in the water? Do you remember that?"

"Uh, no, not really."

"But do you remember? It was dark in the water and Mom said we had to get out? You remember that?"

"I don't remember, but I believe you."

"Don't fall in because you'll get wet. If you do this [holds arm outstretched] and fall in you'll get hurt and you'll stay underwater and when we go swimming you'd be on the bottom. See? Watch. If you do this [stretches out arms again]."

"That's right. You shouldn't dive when the water's not deep."

"How tall I am? This tall? Look, I'm up to here."

"Yup, you're tall."

"How many are my feet?"

"What do you mean?"

"How many? Are they big?"

"They're getting big. I think they're size 4. I don't know shoe sizes."

"How big are my hands?"

"About that big."

"Where's the picture I drew of me and Mama? Do you remember? There was Mama in a dress and it was on a piece of paper?"

"I don't know. Wherever you put it."

"But do you remember? Where is it? I put it in my bag."

"Then it's probably in your bag."

"How much is fifty one-hundred?"

"What do you mean?"

"What it looks like?"

"Well, a fifty is a five and a zero."

"Oh. Do you remember when we walked in the woods last night?"

"You mean last week?"

"Yes, last week and we were looking for the kids from your school and there was mud and you gave me a piggyback because the woods were freaking me out?"

"Yes, I remember."

"The woods were freaking me out. 'Frickin awesome!' That was funny in the movie about the guy in the museum when the things came alive. He said 'It was frickin awesome!' That was funny. 'It was frickin awesome!'"

"Yeah, well don't be saying that at school. It's not a nice word."

"Is it a bad word?"

"It's close."

"Can I say 'stupid'? Is 'stupid' a bad word?"

"Well, not really. But it's not nice to call someone stupid."

"Dreyden called me a stupid-head."

"That wasn't very nice."

"Can I say 'poopoo-head'?"

"Umů it depends. If you're just joking around thenů"

"Can you get me a stick? Thank you. When I stir the water it's a potion that turns you into a monster or maybe if you have too much you die. Want a sip?"

"Mmmm, delicious. ACCK!"

"In a long long long long long long long long long long long long time, are you going to die?"

"In a long long time, yes, everybody dies."

"I don't want to die."

"Don't worry about it. You're not going to die until you're an old old old woman."

"I don't want to be old. I'm only little!"

"Let's drop it. Think about something else."

"Do I have school tomorrow?"

"No, tomorrow's Sunday."

"Does Emily have school tomorrow?"






"Does Mama have work?"


"Do you have work?"



And so on.

I remember when we couldn't wait for her to start talking. At times like this, when the words are as numerous as the leaves in my pool, I remind myself that she's just creating some verbal balance for those long teenage periods when she won't say anything at all.