Over a bottle of Ram’s Gate 2009 Syrrah, they talked about the earliest event in life that each could recall.

The host surprised himself by how far back he could reach, further than the others. He remembered a time when he wanted to match words to things, when he would point at a hassock in the living room and ask his mother, “What’s that?” 

He could remember using those words, though it’s possible that all he could do is point.

“That’s ours,” his mother told him. 

He pointed to a porcelain figurine on a shelf. His mother was fond of porcelain figurines. “Those are ours,” she said. He pointed to the venetian blinds, and she said, “That’s ours, too.”

Could three such different objects all be identified by the same word?

That pattern of communication between him and his mother continued for a lifetime. The rest of hers, at least.

After the guests went home he and his wife loaded the dishwasher and went upstairs. He walked from the shower into the bedroom, still wet and naked. His wife was lying in bed. She looked at him, rolled her eyes, and said, “What’s that?”

“That’s ours,” he said.