Daily Operation

Babbleon Rising

As sleepless nights measured in hours and minutes become weeks and zombified weeks become months, we’ve discovered some peculiar language development in our sweet little Ellison. With the introduction of prune juice into her diet, we’ve managed to exorcise many of the blood-curdling screams and torturous paint-peeling wail from her system. Sure, there’s still the fussiness and occasional outburst, but generally, la prunes have managed to “push” out most of those haunting nights.

Now, however, we’ve found ourselves moving into a much more confusing stage of language and it’s rapidly onsetting. Enter the babbles. Now, to someone who hasn’t been through this before, the babbles might first seem like she’s in some pain, like her intestines have been tied into a sheep shank. Instead, it’s Ellison discovering her voice. I could only replicate the sound if I was donkey kicked in the stomach. You arrange the donkey and I’ll show you what it sounds like. The “babbles” are marked or defined by three core sounds that we can identify. Whereas with the cries they were an escalation where each stage was separate unto itself and there was very little overlapping except when she was transitioning to the next level, the babbles are fused together into a completely incoherent and unpredictable mess of noises.

On a completely unrelated note, I discovered this week that I’m balding asymmetrically. Most centralized bald spots go straight back from the lightening in the front to the crown of the head, mine is actually going slightly to the left. It might only be a few millimeters off, but it’s noticeable. Is it not bad enough to lose all your hair that you also get to lose it in some bizarrely crooked pattern? Now I know why Agassi just shaved it off as I’ve been doing for the last, uh, 15 or so years.

So, as best as I can determine, the babbles are broken down into three distinct categories. In my analysis, I felt like Father Karras in The Exorcist, listening for the different languages the demons used to deceive. There was French, Latin, English backwards…English backwards would be the illest. There’d be no turning back if I could fluidly speak English in reverse. Listening to Ellison begin to speak is like listening to a zoo animal. It’s entertaining but thoroughly confusing at the same time. The first of the new languages to surface was the SQUEAL |skweel|. The squeal first came around through our baby monitor in the middle of the night. You thought it was a haunting or an intruder had broken into her room. You grab for the baseball bat, but then realize no apparent panic in her voice. In fact, she sounds enchanted by her vocal assertions. Her squeals rapidly change in pitch hitting notes that are ear-piercing, but only holding there for a fraction of a second. The inflections are unpredictable and, might I say, she presents quite a vocal range at an early age. I’m calling an alto with soprano potential. The quality of the squeal sounds like it’s being produced down below the throat. It’s hearty and comes forth rather effortlessly.

There’s also the SHRIEK |shreek|. The shreek is a muddah. This one always feels like a tantrum is coming about only to find out that it’s another one of her languages. When she makes this noise, she looks like she’s pissed. Her eyes, mouth and brow take the shape of a person about to scream hatefully. She belts it out and sometimes it’s lasts only a second and other times for multiple seconds. No longer than about three seconds. Again, no visible pain. Typically, it’s companioned by kicking of her feet and maybe waving of her arms. In that way, the shriek appears to cause a physical transformation to produce. It doesn’t come as effortlessly as the squeal. It takes effort. The shriek is defined by sustained pitches, no inflection. It’s an amused scream or even a shrill with no pain. It’s another of her new voices she speaks with.

The last is the self-defined BABBLE |BA’bul|. Babble is an incoherent series of snarls, snorts, growls, gagas, lalas and utterances that can only be accomplished by enunciating baby jargon with as much of you hand as physically possible lodged in your mouth while your tongue tries to clumsily pronounce sounds despite it. If babble was, in fact, a language, it would be rooted in almost everything. The most prominent of which is that of a caveman or mongoloid. Like jazz, it’s hard to describe but you know it when you get there. It can go without response or stimulation. She can keep it up for up to fifteen minutes without tiring. Sometimes she weaves shrieks and squeals in intermittently. It’s an improvisational tool.

We’re finding, though, that when she goes into babble mode, it’s the most opportune time to hone in on those sounds and try to harness an actual word. That’s why we work with a series of easy sounds like “dada” and “mama.” Peculiarly, I’ve realized that my mother’s name is one that would be easily pronounced when speaking in babble…perhaps by intent. She goes by the name “Nana.” Whose name will be first? Not sure. I usually will sit down with her and go through the consonants of the alphabet starting with “B.” You have “baba” and “caca” (yes, “caca” as in what appears in a diaper after some prune juice). Then, “dada.” Seems that I stand as good a chance as anyone in being first.

Odd how my lovely wife’s alphabet starts at “L.”


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