use your words

Alice looked up at my bed and said, “Ba.”

Sitting in a chair on the other side of the room, I ventured my best guesses.

“Ball? Is there a ball under there?”

“Baa.”

Ba. Ba. “Up? You want to get up? I can lift you up.”

I walked over to where she was standing at the edge of the bed. I had taken off the sheets to wash them, and the mattress label was showing. We have a Serta.

“Oh. Yes! Baaa. That’s right! Baaa.”

She blindsides me.

I am not sure why, but I had expected that each new word – like crawling and walking – would come gradually in slow, halting stages. A syllable at a time maybe. Instead, they just spill, raw but nonetheless complete.

“Wozzzat?” she points.

“That’s a horse. Jiiiiiiii.”

(She stares. Absorbs. But she cannot say horse yet.)

“Wozzzat?” she points at the next one.

“You tell me. What is that?”

“Mooo.”

She found a snapshot of herself at 5 or 6 months old and carried it to me in her fist.

“Buh-beh,” she cooed. “Buh-beh.”

“Alice, yes! That’s you. A bebé!”

Now I exhaust her with thinly veiled pleas that she say it again.

A doll. A picture in a catalog. A child in a stroller.

What’s that? What’s that? What’s that?

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