Charlie said "that way" the other day for the first time ever. He often says "this way" and points, more or less, in the direction that he wants to go; he also occasionally uses the phrase "this one" to indicate that he'd like some item over and not another. I'm not 100% sure that Charlie understands the difference between "that" and "this." His use of English grammar in his speech is not something that gets worried over muchl Charlie's longer phrases and somewhat-sentences ("I want to eat") tend to be somewhat rotely used by him. Nonetheless, any new word or phrase Charlie says, especially when it's on his own, always sound good to our ears.
And come to think of it, Charlie's been saying more than a few new things of late. He's not only been pointing and telling us to drive "this way" but also telling us which way.
We say "left or right"; Charlie tells us "left."
We say "Parkway South or North"; Charlie tells us "Parkway South."
We say "turn or straight"; Charlie (after a pause) tells us "straight."
Of course, there could be a bit of echolalia going on here and we have had on occasion to tell Charlie that going "this way" means we're going somewhere we're not so sure about. It is the case that Charlie has a very good sense of direction, further strengthened by all those bike rides with Jim. Charlie certainly knows his way on the streets and to stores and playgrounds and many other locales. Sitting in his post in the middle of the back seat, he keeps careful watch out the side and front windows, turning his head and his pupils flitting back and forth to check to see what's out there.
Charlie is very attentive to where he is and where things are here in north and north-central New Jersey where we live and drive around so much. He was over 6 years old when we moved here, having lived previously in central New Jersey (which really does look different, really); three different places in and around St. Louis, Missouri (Charlie was born in the Gateway City); and the upper floor of a duplex in St. Paul, Minnesota. I wonder if there's some deep memories of places we frequented and routes we traveled in Charlie; wondered if sometimes he might be in some place in New Jersey—like the little bridge not too far from where we live—and have some sort of flashback and think, why do I have this image of another place (a certain bridge on Selby Avenue in St. Paul that we used to walk and drive over lots) in my head?
It was at that very bridge that Charlie got so upset on, on Sunday.
Everytime he bikes over the bridge with Jim is he thinking, hoping, that he'll see the vista we once saw in St. Paul? And does he wonder, why am I not seeing it anymore?
We've shown Charlie maps and a globe and tried to explain about the different places we've lived in, and how we've moved around. We're not at all sure what Charlie thinks of this. We do know that his sense of space and place is very much rooted in his experience of going and getting to and being places, whether they're right here or someone over, out there, far far away.
And we do know that Charlie has started saying more words, new words, and just talking more at times of stress and change; at times very much like now.