Deep Jersey. $20 round-trip NJ Transit ticket Jersey.
It was kind of surreal visiting them there. First, they don't live that far from where I grew up (in Rockland County). Second... it's like I could see their entire future there in that house. I met the newest addition to their family and re-encountered their daughter who simply takes these vast leaps in maturity every time I meet her.
This is what it's like being the perennial bachelor amidst a sea of breeders.
I am present irregularly so that I see these peculiar bursts of maturation.
Everyone starts as these crying, wordless critters.
Then the next visit, their eyes begin to focus more. They see you. They recognize you.
Next visit, vocalization. Maybe not words, but experimentation with vocal chords. Attempts at communication.
Next visit, WORDS. Not full sentences, necessarily, but enough to communicate. Enough to begin to form the building blocks of communication.
Next visit, SENTENCES. Demands.
The evolution is so peculiar. It changes the entire dynamic with each visit.
Case in point:
On this particular visit, we're all in the car exiting the parking lot of an establishment when my friend (who's driving) accidentally drives over a curb. The vehicle bumps violently over the obstruction. My friend's wife chastises him. And then their daughter chimes in: "THAT WAS *FUN*!"
We all laugh appropriately. Their daughter is now officially a new character whose voice will be added to every scene she's a part of.
And that's what's really fascinating. Her voice/character is going to change/evolve as she matures. In ways I certainly can't begin to predict (though I hazard to guess she's going to be a corker).