Last week, my mom was holding Alice as I was getting a bottle together, and I heard her promise, “Your lechita is coming.”
It has been a while since “lechita” became “milk.” But hearing my mom say it reminded me that, for a long time, there was only lechita.
My Spanish is pretty good, if sort of hard-won. We grew up speaking English, except that there were some words I only knew in Spanish. That still come easier to me in Spanish. Like leche/lechita. Like calcetines for socks.
I remember this distinctly: In third grade, an assignment after Christmas break was to write a paragraph about how we had spent the holidays. Mrs. Clark handed mine back to me with all the “tías” and “tíos” circled in red with little question marks drawn over them. And so I learned “aunt” and “uncle.”
I hear myself telling Alice to give me her manita. To listen to the agua.
I hear David, even, calling our cat “gata” or “gatita,” and asking if I know where Alice’s chupy** is. Just because those are my words. I brought them here, and now we are more used to them than their alternatives.
There are Tío Anthony and Tío Mark, Uncle Ryan and Aunt Anne in Alice’s life.
And I kind of love that. Lots of sounds, lots of words. All the parts that are our sum. To her it’ll make sense.
*La lengua means “tongue,” and also, “language.” (get it?) OK, and it’s also an amusing game in which a grownup says “la lengua” over and over to a baby, and the baby sticks out her tongue. Alice is a terrific tongue sticker-outer – especially at her dad. Another such game is the “tope, tope” game in which the grownup says, “tope, tope, tope,” gently bumping foreheads with the baby on the third “tope.” Topar means “to bump.”
**A chupy is a pacifier. “Chupar” means “to suck.”