by jkatejohnston

3 January 2014

Dear Max,

When Enzo woke up this morning he said, “Babies are never thankful. If you give them a present, they just cry. Babies, toddlers, they’re all the same. People are always doing everything for babies. What’s the point?”


Last night I hurt Enzo’s feelings. By shampooing his hair. After his bath he was wrapped in a towel, silent tears running down his face. “I am leaving Sacramento tonight.” He headed out the front door.

“It’s too cold to leave Sacramento in a towel,” said Teresa. “Just get the mail off the porch.”

He did and came in. “I just want to”—and he drew a line across his throat with his finger— “chop off my head. I’m going to quit my diary, quit my science and quit my life.” A few minutes later he got his revenge by hiding under the kitchen table and then just about giving me a heart attack by jumping out and roaring at me. Cheerfulness restored.


About his diary. He wants to write a book about crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gharials. In his mind, books you write yourself are called diaries. So he’s writing the book, which means he talks, I type. Here’s a sample:

American Crocodiles grow to 22 feet long, have a jaw strength of 205 pounds, and they are an extremely endangered species, found in the tip of Florida, throughout all of Central America and the top part—the Northern part—of South America.

Their jaw strength is incredible. It shatters bone. I don’t know if it’s 205 pounds—I just made that up—but it is incredible.

 Like all crocodilians, at night their eyes glow red.

I still don’t give a shit about crocodilians, but as a piece of writing, I find that fascinating. And it is writing. He doesn’t talk like that, though his spoken style does bubble up here and there.

Enzo isn’t gifted—not a bit. But all kids are geniuses at soaking up language, and the written language is part of it. If you don’t read to them, they can’t learn it. If you do, it’s a cinch. They learn the written language before they learn to write, or even read.

The writing that’s in his head has all this ease and complexity and variety. His hands are far behind. Last night he wrote us a note and put it outside his door. I spilled tea all over it, so I can’t read it now (I just pulled in out of the trash and tried), but I think it said: BA—C NG. Translation: put my five dollars in the bank.