So, if you'll indulge me, I'm going to catch you up on a few gems.
When Nathan came home from Haiti, he didn't know HOW to play. We had toys for him. They were pretty meaningless to him. At that point he didn't know what the animals were so he had no concept of what a stuffed elephant or giraffe were supposed to be.
Nate did two things when he came home with toys:
1. He liked to take a toy (like the infamous El Camino) and HOLD IT in his hand. That's mostly what he did. Hold on to it. He'd take it to bed. Take it to the table to eat. Take it outside, upstairs, wherever he was going. Just hold it.
He still does this. He pretty much always has a train or a car in his hand. I think that's pretty reflective of the orphanage lifestyle - if somehow you get something, hold on tightly because you never know when someone else bigger than you will take it away.
2. The one activity that he did do (right from the moment he was home) with his cars was put things in them. It's kind of hard to explain, but if he finds any tiny scrap of something - a bit of string, a rip of paper, some lint off the carpet - he will pick it up and very carefully shove it into whichever car he's holding. That would entertain him for hours. He could sit on the carpet and pick up little threads and just push them in through the windows of whatever he was holding.
When he was first home and before he could really verbalize what he wanted, he'd come to me with a fully stuffed car just bawling. I eventually figured out he wanted me put help him get everything back OUT of the car so he could push it INTO the car again. Pretty soon he'd bring me the car full of strings and things and say, "Hep, peez" and hand it to me to "de-stuff". I'm pretty good at it now (a straightened paperclip is very useful).
I have thought about this behavior and I've thought about what I know of where he lived. Nate was always sick in Haiti. He didn't really run around much. If you can't fight for what you want, you won't get it in an orphanage.
I know how much concrete there was there and how few toys, how little space for those children. In my mind's eye I can see Nate sitting by a crack in the concrete and pushing little bits of dirt into it over and over again to entertain himself.
Here's a closeup of one of his stuffed trucks:
Right after Nate's arrival, my dear cousin, K, sent him two large cars with a note that said, "Because every American boy eventually has to decide - Mustang, or Camaro?" The doors opened on these cars and they were the perfect size for little boy hands to push around. He has LOVED those cars, K. There was a period of time where he figured out he could pull the tires off of them. He picked one at random, named it "Tire" and he carried it with him everywhere. For weeks Tire went EVERYWHERE - he even took "Tire" to bed. Numerous times we'd be most of the way out the door and he'd realize he didn't have Tire and I'd have to go back and find Tire so he could clutch it in his hand. I finally had to put an end to it after the eightyjillionth time of searching for "tire" all over the dark carpet in the back of my car, where he'd dropped it from his carseat and was now sobbing for "Tire!"
Here is one of the cars from K with some string, a carrot and a bit of plastic inside:
I spent many evenings laying on my stomach next to him and showing him how the cars rolled back and forth if you held them just so and making car noises for him. At first he LOOKED at me like I was insane, but he quickly caught on.
Now he likes to go through all his cars and trains and say, "Mama, what color dis? What color dat?" or "What his name?" (mostly used for his Thomas trains). That will entertain him until Mama is so bored she wants to poke her eyes out.
But the best moments are when I can hear him making his cars or trains talk to each other and he's making whistle sounds and engine sounds and just being an American boy.
That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.