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21 Nov


The other morning I awoke to hear WonderBaby chortling in her crib. I lay, pharm listening, letting the sweet sound fill the room and herald the morning, the warble of our very own songbird.

And then I realized that she wasn’t warbling, or chortling or chirping or babbling. As I lay there, listening through the cottony muffs of sleepiness in my ears, her sounds started to take shape. She was calling. She was calling a name.




Daddy. Daddy, who usually rises and plucks her, giggling, from her crib each morning, was still sleeping, deeply. So I rose and went to her room.



I picked her up and drew her to me and toted her back to our room, to our bed, to Daaah-y, who sat up and sang her name back to her and we fell upon him and tangled ourselves into the blankets and we whispered each other’s names, over and over and over again…

WonderBaby has been fumbling toward speech for some time, and she fumbles still. But it is nonetheless exciting – it is immeasurably exciting – to hear her efforts in such moments, when the word bursts forward with delicious force, when she realizes that she has made herself understood, or when, as with her Daddy-Morning-Song, she plays with the words and gives them rhythm, makes them her own. They’re rudimentary, these words, but they are, still, words; she hesitates, stumbles, drops consonants, but still they come, the words… hi, bye, cah (cat), Daah-y, Ma, all-oh (hello)…

Sometimes, very rarely, the words come with surprising clarity and self-assurance – a ‘hello’ comes out clear as a bell, or a prompted ‘thank you’ bursts forth as a confident tank oo – and I am stunned, speechless. Did she really say that? Did she really speak so clearly? I goggle at her, and she smiles back, and I whisper, urgently, say it again, and she gurgles and giggles and babbles, keeping her words a secret. In these moments, I am convinced that her power of speech is already fully formed but withheld from me, guarded as a secret power, one that she holds in reserve, saving it for moments of maximum impact. I am convinced, in these moments, that one day, I will ask her, rhetorically, what do you have to say today, sweet baby, and she will look me in the eye and solemnly reply, hermeneutics.

The ancient Greek word logos means both reason and speech. Human beings reason through speech, they make meaning through words, use words to give form to meaning, to share meaning. Watching a baby begin to form words, to experiment with speech, to move from the rudimentary attachment of sounds to things – hoot! = ball, hoot! = cat – to a manipulation of sound for the purposes of making simple meaning – Ma! Da! Ba! – to the manipulation of sounds for the purposes of commanding meaning, playing with meaning – Da to Daah-y to Daaah-y DAAAH-Y Daaah-y sung in repetition as a playful, plaintive, lyrical command.

Watching her, listening to her, hearing her voice begin to take shape, hearing her give voice to the meaning that she is making of this strange, wonderful world, my heart pounds with love and pride and panic. For months, now, a year, I have been her voice, I have made voices for her, I have fabricated meaning on her behalf and wrapped it in my own sounds (these sounds, according to my husband, approximating closely the sound of the South Park character Cartman, perhaps made more feminine.) Now, she is beginning to make her own meaning, and to give that meaning shape with her own sound. Her own voice.

Her own, sweet voice.