Helen adores giraffes. Last April (2004), we went up to Virginia for Easter weekend, and on the way back, she and Mom and I stopped at the Knoxville Zoo for a break from driving. [Aside: this trip is where the world-famous Helenism, “Finished with car,” came from]

We thought she’d go nuts for the elephants, and she did, but the REAL hit of the day was the giraffes. Oh, my goodness, she went berserk for the giraffes. She was about 22 months old at the time, and when we got home — almost 4 hours later — she spent 45 minutes jabbering to Jerry about all of the animals she had seen in broken Helenspeak English. “And da peng-uns! And da epphunts! And da g’raffes! G’raffes TALL! Vay vay TALL!”

A few months later, a Huntsville fixture went out of business — The Elf Shelf. Mom and I went in there to see what they had at great prices, which was pretty much everything, and there was a fantastic giraffe toy. I bought it for Helen — he’s about 16 inches tall, and I think he’s made by Manhattan Toys. I’d go look, but he’s being gripped by a sleeping Helen at the moment.

Most of her other toys she named creative things like “Duck” or “Froggy” or other names that obviously many many hours to come up with. This giraffe she named “Tall.” I love that.

Tonight as I was tucking her in, after I had finished her bedtime story and we were just snuggling for the requisite song on her nite-nite CD, I picked up Tall and made him start talking to her.

Tall: “Hi, Helen, can I have a kiss?”
Helen: [kiss] “Did you know I saw giraffes JUST LIKE YOU, Tall?”
Tall: “No, I didn’t know that, Helen!”
Helen: “I did. Last night. They were BIIIIG.” (you must understand that when Helen says “big,” she always makes her voice really gravelly. It’s funny. Also, “Last night,” in Helenspeak, means anything that happened in the past.)
Mommy: “What did you do with the giraffes, Helen?” (I was trying to get her to tell Tall that she fed a giraffe, and that giraffes have very long tongues.)
Helen: “Hmm… I played with them.”
Tall: “You did?”
Helen: “Yeah! At the Zoo! At the Burning Hand Zoo!” (for my worldwide readers –right — we went to the Birmingham Zoo on July 2)
At this point, Mommy had to stifle giggles so I was glad that the song ended and I could tuck her in and leave.

You know, if I actually had sold the girls to a band of gypsies as I’ve considered several times this week, I would have missed this interchange. I’m glad I chose to keep them. It’s stuff like this that makes me want to squeeze the stuffing out of my little girls. Hardest job I’ve ever had, but I love being a mommy sometimes.