we are all the time revealing

These grown-ups, they are always talking. TOO MUCH GROWN-UP TALKING! I tell them. And they always want to say two more sentences. They always want to finish their thoughts.

I can tell when my mama is talking to a grown-up and she doesn't want me to hear what they're saying. I can feel the air around her body get really tight like it's trying to hold her in place. I can see the way she's holding her mouth closed and with a little more space in the top of it than usual. I can hear her voice change pitches, sometimes a little bit higher when she's more tired and sometimes a little bit lower when she's not.

Sometimes the grown-ups she's talking to must not notice those things because they don't stop talking about stuff even when she interrupts them to say something to me that's really out of the blue and obviously changing the subject. They just keep going.

These are some of the things they talk about that she doesn't want me to hear too much: stories about people who are really sick or dying, mean things about kids, things they let their kids do that my parents don't let me do.

Sometimes I like to tell my mom a secret in her ear when there are a lot of grown-ups around. I say, "I was listening to everything everyone said."

. . .

She is small,

and still

she can hear you.

She has been able to hear you from the beginning,

and she has been able to understand since long before you could understand her.

Sometimes

at the table with you or with others,

she whispers in my ear.

She says,

"Mama, I'm listening to this whole conversation."

Sometimes

when you're gone or we're gone, and she has me to herself

she says,

"What were you guys talking about?"

I've learned that she doesn't ask because she doesn't know the answer.

She asks because she wants to know if I'll tell her the truth.

Or maybe how much of the truth I'll tell.

Or maybe whether through my answer she can figure out the parts I'm uncomfortable with her having heard.

Sometimes

after her dad and I have a conversation that we think is veiled

or coded

or vague enough

she says,

"Tell me more about that thing you were just talking about."

I have learned to think of this child

of all children

even the very small ones

as having ears.

Because

it turns out

they do have ears.

I have learned to think of this child

of all children

even the very small ones

as being interested in what the grown-ups are saying.

Because

it turns out

they are most interested in what the grown-ups are saying when the grown-ups are saying things that aren't intended for small ears.

I have learned to think of this child

of all children

even the very small ones

as having antennae, actually.

Because it turns out

they know things even when we don't say them out loud.

Yes, that look

Yes, that sigh

Yes, that tone of voice

Yes, the particular way I shut the door.

She knows them all.

She has so much time to watch to listen to learn.

We are all the time revealing.

Especially when we think we're all covered up.

. . .

"It's amazing what they hear," she said in a low voice. "They don't even have to be listening but their ears just pick it up . . . Sometimes I think they can hear the conversations people have about us down the street. If you listened to them talk you'd think they knew everything that was going on. I mean, they don't understand it all but somewhere or other they've heard it and they remember. Do you ever wonder when you stopped being able to hear everything?"

--State of Wonder, Anne Patchett, p. 40