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September 16, 2011
Every child needs a hero. Most of them adopt a favorite cartoon superhero to fill this role, but Wyatt doesn't see broadcast television yet, so he has had to look for his elsewhere: Wyatt's hero is the Statue of Liberty.


"Welcome," he proclaims solemnly, holding his imaginary torch aloft and clutching his imaginary tablet in the other -- I always thought it was a book she held, if I thought of it at all, but no: the Statue of Liberty holds a tablet, upon which the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence is engraved in Roman numerals. A few days of this and all you have to do is raise one hand in the air and look solemn to elicit a happy smile.

He has one of those foam Statue of Liberty hats, in which adults look so silly -- Wyatt's adorable in it, of course.

He has several picture books about the statue, and his parents took him for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry (an even greater New York bargain than it used to be, now that it's free) to get a good look. When he's older, a trip to Ellis Island is certainly in the game plan.

On his aunt's trampoline this summer, he choreographed a special Statue of Liberty jump, bouncing up and down with his imaginary torch held high in one hand and his imaginary tablet in the other.

For his third birthday, we got him a metal coin bank in the shape of his friend.

On the Fourth of July, we made cookies in the shape of the statue and iced them in an appropriate copper oxide green, like her patina. He and his mother took the cookies to the fire station around the corner as an Independence Day gift -- a post-9/11 child with no memory of the attack, Wyatt nonetheless shares the tenderness all New Yorkers feel for firefighters.

First it was airplanes he adored: he lives along the approaches to both JFK and La Guardia, and at eighteen months could spot one before any of the rest of us saw it coming. Then he fell in love with construction equipment: big diggers, he called them, and tall cranes. Also garbage trucks and, of course, fire trucks -- anything on wheels, basically: "We could play with some vehicles, Mamo," he says, and my wordsmith's heart swells with admiration at his use of the term. He went through a baboon stage after seeing some at the zoo, and he still likes them. His father, who works in advertising and understands its power, has deleted the commercials from a few cooking shows so Wyatt can watch people mix, chop and flambé things. He dabbles in dinosaurs, which are sort of like construction equipment: large, slow-moving, powerful -- I believe that devotion to dinosaurs usually peaks at about four, so we'll probably be hearing more about them soon. And Thomas the Tank Engine is the great love of the moment, along with all other trains.

Wyatt doesn't desert his old loves as he moves on to the next delight. He still appreciates a good garbage truck, even as the anthropomorphic trains of Sodor Island line up in increasing number in his imagination. Liking something doesn't have to mean disliking something else. I hope he remembers that. So many people forget, as they get older. So many of us just wear out our welcome.


Want to see Wyatt's latest love on YouTube? "Thomas Comes To Breakfast" is as good an episode to start with as any. Ringo Starr narrates:

To see photos of Wyatt, his friend Liberty, Grandpa Q and others, visit today's Hodgepodge:
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