WESTLAND, Mass. In this high-achieving suburb of Boston parents take care to note any signs of precocious intellectual abilities in their young ones, but Marci Everbeck wasn’t prepared for what she saw when her three-year-old daughter Caitlin rounded the corner of her dining room and interrupted her book group last week.
“Mommy look,” the toddler said. “I cut my bangs all by myself. Which do you like better, the short side or the long side?”
The other women present laugh, except one: Evelyn Flam, a child psychologist, who waits until she’s on the front steps watching the others leave before saying something to the girl’s mother.
“You really ought to have Caitlin checked,” she says in a hushed tone to assure her hostess that the others won’t hear.
“Checked? What for?” Everbeck asks, politely but slightly incredulous.
Getting in the mood to crank out some confessional poems!
“Poetry,” Flam says, her brow furrowed with professional concern. “Self-cutting bangs is a telltale sign that a girl may grow up to be a poetess.”
“I didn’t know that,” Everbeck says evenly, but not without concern. “Thanks, I appreciate it.”
With an M.B.A. and a career in banking behind her, Everbeck isn’t one who becomes alarmed easily, but the next day finds her and Caitlin at the office of their pediatrician, Dr. Mark Russell.
“What do we have here?” the doctor asks pleasantly.
“Repeat after me: I think that I shall never see . . .”
“She got into my sewing basket while I was busy with book group,” Everbeck says with a trace of guilt in her voice.
“May not be much of anything. If we catch it in time,” Russell says, then pauses as he examines the girl’s throat with a tongue depressor, “the disease may advance no further than the greeting card stage.”
“You mean, like Hallmark cards?”
“Yes,” Russell says as he thumps the girl on the back, then turns her around. “Say ‘June.’”
All grown up!
“She’s definitely got something,” Russell says as he takes out a prescription pad. “I don’t think its the more serious confessional strain.”
“How bad is that?”
“You write self-absorbed poems about how much you hate your father,” Russell says with clinical detachment, then turns to the girl and asks ‘You don’t hate your father, do you?’”
“I love Daddy!” Caitlin says emphatically.
“Good, good,” Russell says to the girl, then to her mother, “Have her take one of these twice a day for two weeks. If she starts writing her name without capital letters, give me a call.”